The model allows polluting companies to offset their emissions by buying credits from projects that reduce or avoid the release of climate-warming CO2 elsewhere, such as mass tree plantings or solar power farms, which could be worth $50 billion by 2030 according to a task force created to scale up the market.
Environmental advocates such as Greenpeace say this is allowing big emitters like oil majors to put off cutting their own emissions and avoid divesting from hydrocarbons, a primary source of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
"There's no time for offsets. We are in a climate emergency and we need phasing out of fossil fuels," Greenpeace's Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said at the Reuters Impact conference.
She said one issue with planting trees as offsets was that it takes 20 years for trees to grow and offset emissions happening right now. In the interim wildfires could destroy the chance of reductions.
"These offsetting schemes ... are pure 'greenwash' so that the companies, oil companies, can continue to do what they've been doing and make a profit," she said.