Vast swathes of land across Australia’s desert Outback have been earmarked for native forest regeneration, which is meant to offset emissions as new trees suck up carbon. But researchers have found that across almost 80 percent of these plantations forest growth was either stagnant – or that woodlands were shrinking.

Despite this, Australia had used these projects to bank millions of tonnes in questionable carbon credits, scientists said, which are used to supposedly offset polluting industries.

“I think it can only be described, and I’m using generous words here, as a gross failure,”

“It’s a catastrophe,” he said, adding that it would “stain” Australia’s reputation.