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  • Writer's pictureJéssica Cindy Kempfer

Carbon credits: real solution or mere economic agreement?

Jéssica Cindy Kempfer[1]

The phenomenon of climate change, exacerbated by the rise in global temperatures, deeply reflects on the international legal landscape. With environmental disasters affecting both major industrial centers and various global regions, the preservation of ecosystems is in danger, posing crucial challenges to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

To foster environmental conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, numerous international pacts have been established, highlighting the vital importance of biodiversity and quality of life, as directed by the SDGs. These goals are comprehensive and range from poverty eradication to climate action.

The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 recognizes the right to a balanced environment as fundamental. This recognition is expanded upon by the 2030 Agenda, which provides a global guide for sustainable development that includes promoting environmental integrity. However, the mere existence of a constitutional norm does not guarantee its effective implementation, crucial for survival and sustainable development. The question arises: can carbon credits be an effective tool to ensure this essential right in harmony with the SDGs?

The Paris Agreement, successor to the Kyoto Protocol, has significantly advanced by introducing the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) to replace the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This new mechanism preserves the voluntary participation structure of Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol and emphasizes real and measurable benefits for mitigating climate change. Furthermore, the Paris Agreement establishes a supervisory agency to ensure that mitigation and sustainable development goals are effectively achieved.

The encouragement of the carbon credit market by the Paris Agreement (UN, 2015a) is an attempt to harmonize economic needs with environmental protection. However, the practical implementation of these mechanisms raises questions about their effectiveness and suitability. The carbon market, being an economically viable solution, contributes to the development of countries and the maintenance of the planet's ecological integrity (Veiga, 2015). However, it is essential to ensure that the economic growth promoted by these projects does not occur at the expense of sustainability.

Jurisprudence has underscored that economic activity cannot override the need to protect the environment (Bosselman, 2015). Sustainable development seeks to integrate economic progress with environmental protection, but the lack of specific regulation and the uniformity of projects limit the effective applicability of carbon credits, predominantly directing them to meet economic demands without balanced consideration for environmental impact.

On the other hand, the 2030 Agenda highlights the importance of SDG 8, which promotes decent work and economic growth aligned with environmental sustainability (UN, 2015b). The SDM and similar projects offer significant opportunities to foster economic activity in developing countries, promoting growth in a way that respects ecological limits.

Despite these initiatives, criticism persists regarding the mercantilist approach that often prevails, where economic growth and profit generation may overshadow the urgent need for environmental protection. The effectiveness of carbon credits as tools for environmental conservation needs to be evaluated with rigorous criteria, ensuring they genuinely contribute to environmental objectives without sacrificing the need for economic and social progress.

When evaluating the implementation and impacts of carbon credit mechanisms, it becomes evident that while they offer a valuable tool to mitigate the effects of climate change, they also require continuous review and adaptation. Diversification of projects funded by these mechanisms is essential to increase their effectiveness and ensure they contribute balancedly to both economic development and environmental sustainability.

As global recognition of the need to preserve our ecosystems intensifies, a crucial question emerges: are we implementing sufficiently robust and diversified strategies to ensure development that balances economic demands with the urgency of environmental protection? In a world marked by globalization and increasingly significant environmental challenges, revisiting and reinforcing mechanisms such as carbon credits becomes imperative. But are such strategies truly effective in promoting lasting balance between economic progress and environmental conservation, or are we merely postponing an inevitable crisis? The answer to this question will shape the future of our planet and determine the true sustainability of our development practices.


BOSSELMANN, Klaus. The Principle of Sustainability: Transforming Law and Governance. Translated by Phillip Gil França. São Paulo: Revista dos Tribunais, 2015.

UN, United Nations. Paris Agreement. Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Paris: UN. 2015a. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2024.

UN, United Nations. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2015b. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2024.

VEIGA, José Eli da. Understanding Sustainable Development. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2015.

[1] PhD student in Human Rights in the Stricto Sensu Postgraduate Program in Law at UNIJUÍ/RS. CAPES/PROSUC Scholarship Holder. Integrates the CNPq Research Group: Human Rights,

Governance, and Democracy (Mundus). Master of Law from the Stricto Sensu Postgraduate Program at ATITUS/RS. Professor in Law and Management courses at ULBRA/RS. ORCID: Email:

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