Satirist John Oliver takes aim at carbon offsets

Beef Central, 25/08/2022

John Oliver

US SATIRIST John Oliver has taken aim at the global carbon industry, highlighting a series of dodgy schemes, starting his own registry called “Oliver’s Offsets” and vowing to make big claims by doing very little.

Mr Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ program is a popular television show in the United States and has made fun of many topics over the years – including former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce’s threats to euthanise Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dogs Pistol and Boo.

This week he took aim at the carbon industry and the dozens of multi-national companies which have made commitments to lowering emissions, with a large reliance on purchasing offsets. He also spoke about the pressure landholders are facing to generate credits.

But the main criticism Mr Oliver had for the carbon industry was the relatively unregulated nature of many schemes.

“It’s easier to say you are reducing carbon emissions, but it is much harder to prove it – and the truth is there are not many checks and balances in place to prevent abuse,” he said.

“A key criterion for any offset project is called ‘additionality’, the idea that an offset provides an extra reduction of carbon that would not have happened any other way, like planting a tree. But there are many cases where the claim of ‘additionality’ is shaky at best.”

Most carbon schemes, including Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund, have a registry where carbon credits are awarded – and it is the basis for trading. Mr Oliver created his own register called “Oliver’s Offsets” to show how easy it is.

“I will cut down every single one of these (trees), but you can save these trees sending me $1, we are issuing 10,000 carbon credits – each of which will save these trees for five minutes,” he joked while holding a chainsaw.

“We are making big claims, while doing very little, which is reflective of the current system we have.”

It must be said Australia’s system is different to the US, with the main scheme used to generate credits owned and regulated by the Federal Government – it is one of the most heavily regulated in the world. Aside from some states, the US has little legislation for carbon.

The additionality issue has also come to light in the Australian carbon industry, with a review currently looking into a series of methods after allegations many carbon credits were generated using dodgy methodologies. That review is due to finish at the end of the year.

COP26 in Glasgow last year set rules for global trading of carbon credits. A new body called the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has been set up and it will be targeting a practice called “greenwashing” – or companies using misinformation about their environmental footprint to appeal to so-called “ethical investors”
















Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Peter Vincent, 26/08/2022

    At least we can be assured that our carbon credits tied to pine plantations in Siberia are funding the purchase of missiles to lob into Kyiv. The entire process is stamped with Nigerian hallmarks.

  2. Paul+D.+Butler, 26/08/2022

    Satire shows how ridiculous these schemes are.

  3. Peter Dunn, 25/08/2022

    Greenwashing, brainwashing, whitewashing. It is the right thing to call out these activities, because none are acceptable in any fair and honest society. The difficulty lies in recognition. Those who seek to do the ‘washing’ might be the one initially offering some solution/benefit for your business, or they might be the one following, who offers to save you by exposing the flaws of the first offer. The test is simple, and resides only in the longer term. Forget about who wins in the short term, no matter how attractive that my seem. If your win in the longer term will be greater than that of the ‘washer’, then have a close look at the proposition. If not, be untrendy and move on.

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -