Is carbon offsetting a deceptive tool of the construction industry? | News


A reforested patch near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Downtowngal.

Six months after the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, columnist Kunle Barker wrote UK Architects Journal to take a stand against the industry’s dreamlike emphasis on “lofty zero-carbon ideals and sound bites” and towards a more thoughtful system for evaluating new projects, arguing for the “need to develop a viability methodology independent, objective and focused on carbon impact versus social need.

“Let’s get rid of these pretentious phrases and instead focus on the real issues,” he wrote, saying need will always drive architects into costly demolition efforts and away from restoring structures. which may, in many cases, be better suited for adaptive reuse. “Compensation is not sustainable. In fact, it’s not even close to being sustainable, and most worrying of all is allowing everyone to accept lazy, ego-driven designs. We need to find an objective and fair way to assess whether (and how) a building should be built. This is the only way the built environment can be part of the climate solution.

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Environmentalists have warned of misconceptions about the practice for decades now. Planted trees, even in protected rainforest areas like Brazil, typically take up to twenty years to have a negative value for a new construction project, and this particular form of sequestration is generally considered a poor alternative to a initial reduction in carbon footprint. As Barker points out, this could take the unsustainable reforestation of an area five times the size of India to offset the amount of carbon needed to keep the global climate within the 1.5 degree threshold required to avoid ecological collapse by mid-century.

Darcy W. Kerr