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This Timber Company Sold Millions of Dollars of Useless Carbon Offsets

Now Lyme Timber CEO Jim Hourdequin wants to fix a broken system to create a market that actually helps slow climate change.

Hourdequin near the Lyme Timber office in L’Anse, Mich.

Hourdequin near the Lyme Timber office in L’Anse, Mich.

Photographer: Brian Lesteberg for Bloomberg Green

Jim Hourdequin is one of the planet’s biggest sellers of carbon offsets—the widely used instruments that are supposed to act as a balm for the rapidly overheating climate. His company earned $53 million from these environmental transactions over the past two years.

But now the 47-year-old timber executive is calling out the entire system, including some of his own projects, as broken and shortchanging the climate. Although critics for years have revealed how carbon markets fail to deliver their intended climate benefits, Hourdequin is likely the first major industry participant to admonish the market from the inside. By speaking out, he says, he hopes he can help repair the flawed system: “We don’t think that forest carbon markets can survive and grow if they do not deliver real climate value.”