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The Biggest Crypto Effort to End Useless Carbon Offsets Is Backfiring

A campaign to rid the world of cheap, low-quality carbon credits that don’t actually help the environment ended up generating more of them 

A disused concrete dam in China.

A disused concrete dam in China.

Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

Users of a little-known crypto platform called Toucan now account for purchases of more than a quarter of all carbon credits by the world’s largest verifier of offsets. This newest crossover between crypto and the climate is having unexpected consequences that appear to be backfiring.

Crypto enthusiasts aren't usually among the top buyers of carbon offsets. Airlines, banks, oil companies and other corporate polluters load up on offsets as a way to compensate for creating emissions. A project funded through offsets could, for example, support the building of a renewable energy plant on the logic that the carbon dioxide avoided by burning of extra coal will help cancel out a company’s climate harm.