ESSEN/BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - Numerous natural gas suppliers are said to have relied on dubious offsetting measures when selling allegedly climate-neutral natural gas. This was reported on Tuesday by the research network Correctiv. Hundreds of thousands of customers had been deceived, it said.

In cooperation with scientists, the CO2 credits of 150 German gas suppliers between 2011 and 2024 were examined. The conclusion: 116 gas suppliers had used CO2 credits from climate protection projects that could not plausibly demonstrate an actual reduction or saving of emissions.

Around two thirds of a total of 16 million evaluated credits from this period were affected. According to Correctiv's calculations, a good 10 million tons less CO2 emissions could have been offset over the years than the suppliers claimed to customers. To put this into perspective: according to the Federal Environment Agency, greenhouse gases equivalent to 674 million tons of carbon dioxide were released in Germany in 2023.

In response to the research, the Koln-based utility Rheinenergie announced that it would demand specific project review procedures from the certifiers, Correctiv reported. "Until the results are available, we will pause our offer for business customers and no longer enter into any new compensation agreements," a company spokesperson told the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper. Only two percent of business customers were currently using Rheinenergie's green gas offer. There have been no such offers for private customers for three years.

In connection with the Correctiv research, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) called on 15 gas suppliers across Germany to stop advertising climate-neutral natural gas and to sign corresponding cease-and-desist declarations. The association accused the companies of deceiving consumers.

These suppliers offered tariffs for the purchase of supposedly climate-neutral green gas, the emissions of which were to be offset by payments to climate protection projects. In all cases, however, the projects used for offsetting were unsuitable for achieving the promised climate neutrality. "If forest projects are used for offsetting, the projects do not run for anywhere near as long as is necessary to guarantee climate neutrality," the DUH stated.

Germany's largest energy supplier Eon is among the 15 companies. A spokesperson explained that Eon had not yet received a cease-and-desist declaration from Deutsche Umwelthilfe. On the subject of certificates, he explained that Eon had defined an internal and Group-wide minimum quality standard for the use of offsetting certificates in 2022. "The quality guideline ensures that the certificates used are of high integrity." After a transition phase, Eon will only be allowed to purchase certificates that meet the quality standards of this guideline. "All of the climate protection projects we support are registered and externally certified." This means that Eon is aligning itself with global standards./swe/DP/mis