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Carbon Offsets: No Sure Bet to Prevent Climate Change

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Publication Date: February 2009

Publisher(s): National Center for Policy Analysis (U.S.)

Author(s): H. Sterling Burnett

Funder(s): National Center for Policy Analysis (U.S.)

Funder(s): National Center for Policy Analysis (U.S.)

Topic: Environment (Weather and climate)
Environment (Environmental policy)

Keywords: greenhouse gases; emissions; climate change; carbon

Type: Brief

Coverage: United States


The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. In 2005, the European Union implemented a "cap-and-trade" scheme based on an arguably successful U.S. program to lower sulfur dioxide emissions. These programs have not lowered overall emissions in developed countries. In the European Union (EU), emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have gone up, not down. By contrast, CO2 emissions in the United States, which did not ratify the Kyoto treaty, have grown much more slowly than in the EU. U.S. emissions even declined in 2006.