An investigation by the Financial Times has found that the millions of dollars being spent on “carbon credit” projects yield few if any environmental benefits.

In some cases, companies are paying emission reductions do not even take place. In others the clean-up would have been made anyway.

The burgeoning regulated market for carbon credits is expected to more than double in size to about $68.2bn by 2010, with the unregulated voluntary sector rising to $4bn in the same period. However the FT investigation found:

? Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

? Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

? Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

? A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

? Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.

Francis Sullivan, environment adviser at HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank that went carbon-neutral in 2005, said he found “serious credibility concerns” in the offsetting market after evaluating it for several months. “The police, the fraud squad and trading standards need to be looking into this. Otherwise people will lose faith in it,” he said.