Carbon offsets from voluntary avoided-deforestation projects are generated on the basis of performance in relation to ex ante deforestation baselines. We examined the effects of 26 such project sites in six countries on three continents using synthetic control methods for causal inference. We found that most projects have not significantly reduced deforestation. For projects that did, reductions were substantially lower than claimed. This reflects differences between the project ex ante baselines and ex post counterfactuals according to observed deforestation in control areas. Methodologies used to construct deforestation baselines for carbon offset interventions need urgent revisions to correctly attribute reduced deforestation to the projects, thus maintaining both incentives for forest conservation and the integrity of global carbon accounting.
Thales A. P. West, Sven Wunder, Erin O. Sills, Jan Börner, Sami W. Rifai, Alexandra N. Neidermeier, Gabriel Frey, Andreas Kontoleon. (2023). Action needed to make carbon offsets from forest conservation work for climate change mitigation. Science, Vol 381, Issue 6660, pp. 873-877, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.ade3535