REDD+ as an offset mechanism does not reduce emissions, it merely moves them from one place to another. Therefore it cannot help stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations on the scale or at the speed necessary to prevent runaway climate change. Carbon trading was initially designed as an interim measure to aid transition to a ‘low-carbon economy’. As a result the carbon market has a limited lifetime by design: as numerous commentators have observed, if the carbon market continues until mid-century, activities to mitigate climate change will have failed. The ‘sustainability’ of finance from carbon trading is thus structurally reliant on the failure to reduce emissions adequately in industrialised countries.
The scientific data currently available on measuring carbon stocks and fluxes from land-based emissions are anything but rigorous and verifiable, and certainly do not match the level of accuracy needed for carbon to be traded on a compliance market. The use of default values in offset project calculations is widespread and estimates of carbon volumes stored in the various forest areas varies considerably. Error levels of 50 per cent or more are not uncommon, with 30 - 40 per cent being the average range of uncertainty reported from measuring land-use change emissions in EU countries.