Resource Use

UK environment professionals sceptical about carbon offsetting schemes

Waste incinerator smokestackAccording to the National Environmental Services Survey 2024, 80 per cent of UK environmental professionals have expressed concerns about the credibility and transparency of carbon credit offsetting schemes. The survey, which gathered data from 1,498 professionals, also found that 67 per cent believe carbon offsetting is not a viable strategy to achieve net-zero emissions.

Greenwashing remains a significant issue in the UK, with 94 per cent of respondents believing it to be prevalent. This sentiment backs up the findings of the 2023 edition of the survey, where a quarter of respondents stated that greenwashing was the one thing they would change about the environmental sector.

The survey was commissioned by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the ESS Expo, and charity Groundwork.

It also reveals that the largest barriers to achieving net-zero emissions are financial constraints (44 per cent), policy and government support (32 per cent), and infrastructure limitations (31 per cent). Notably, only 3 per cent of the organisations interviewed reported that they are currently at net-zero.

Lee Marshall, Director of Innovation and Technical Services at CIWM, commented: "The concerns about offsetting show that resources and waste professionals want to do the right thing and take meaningful steps to support climate mitigation. The UK has made good progress, but it is no surprise that people feel policies on net zero and circular economy are not strong enough."

Charlotte Rule, Head of Climate and Energy Policy at ESA, said: "Clearly, from these alarming survey results, there remains significant work to be done across the business community to demonstrate credibility and build trust in efforts to reduce carbon emissions, mitigate climate change, and achieve net-zero targets."

The survey also highlighted that achieving net-zero emissions across sectors will require collaboration and partnerships, with 85 per cent of respondents reporting that working together is either essential or very important.

Rob Mowat, Managing Director of ESS Expo, added: "It is alarming to hear that so many sustainability experts believe carbon offsetting schemes are actually failing the environment. While there are some businesses entering into highly certified programmes, there are concerns from many across the industry that these schemes are simply another form of greenwashing and can, in some instances, cause more harm to the environment than good."