Resilient Carbon

June 2023
ELR 10482
Lingxi Chenyang

Carbon offsets allow polluters to pay someone else to reduce, avoid, or remove emissions to counterbalance their own emissions. For some, carbon accounting concerns render offsets a necessary evil to be tightly regulated on the path toward decarbonization. For others, moral and political concerns render offsets a dangerous mistake to be thrown out of the climate law toolbox. This Article defends the critical role of carbon offsets in climate law, reframing the problem as the broader challenge of “climate resilience” and explaining why offsets are uniquely suited to integrate decarbonization and adaptation. It calls attention to overlooked adaptive practices like agroforestry and coastal reforestation; unearths the history of carbon offsets as playing the essential collateral role of securing regulatory buy-in from a large, heterogeneous class of polluters; and argues that focusing on resilient carbon begins to address many of the accounting, moral, and political concerns with offsets. Climate adaptation favors the payment-for-services and market-based approach of offsetting on normative and pragmatic grounds, even if the narrower goal of decarbonization does not.

Lingxi Chenyang is an Associate Law Professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

You must be an ELR-The Environmental Law Reporter subscriber to download the full article.

You are not logged in. To access this content:

Resilient Carbon

SKU: article-53-ELR-10482 Price: $50.00