Tag Archives: carbon credits

Carbon Crooks: A new documentary about carbon trading

Note: Click here for the documentary trailer: http://vimeo.com/73095355

-The GJEP Team

By Chris Lang, 4 September 2013. Source: REDD-Monitor

Four Chimneys and SmokeA new documentary, “Carbon Crooks”, will be broadcast on 9 September 2013 in Denmark. The film is directed by Tom Heinemann and documents the failure of carbon trading to address climate change and investigates some of the fraud in the carbon markets.

A trailer of the film has been released, and it looks great. The first interview in the trailer is with Daniel Butler, who was a carbon trader between 2004 and 2011. He broke the story about the stealing of €10 million worth of European Union emissions allowances (EUAs) from the Czech Republic’s carbon registry in January 2011. “In the early days it was a good business. I could make roughly €50,000 in five minutes,” Butler says.

The documentary team also interviews Ritt Bjerregaard, an EU Commissioner who was in Kyoto in 1997 as part of the EU team negotiating the Kyoto Protocol. The interview is available here (in Danish). Bjerregaard explains that the EU would have preferred a tax on carbon, coupled with guidance on reducing emissions and removing some coal-fired power plants. “It was an attempt to change our way to use our energy,” she says in the interview. Continue reading

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World Future Ltd: A boiler room scam bites the dust

By Chris Lang, April 5, 2013. Source: redd-monitor

2013-04-05-154836_259x242_scrotLast month, three London-based companies were ordered into liquidation by the High Court. The three companies, World Future Ltd, Capital Wealth Ltd and Fourteenforty Ltd were selling carbon credits to the public, credits that “were wholly unsuitable for investment by the public”, according to a press release from the Insolvency Service.

The companies were ordered into liquidation in the public interest, following an investigation by Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service. World Future marketed the credits. Fourteenforty supplied the credits. Payments went to Capital Wealth. James Ward was the sole director of Capital Wealth, and one of the directors of World Future.

The Insolvency Service reports that,

The investigation found that investors received unsolicited phone calls and were misled as to the prospective investment value of the credits; for example they were told to expect returns of at least 25 per cent and in some cases as much as 50 per cent within a year.

The investors were also told that airlines would be buying carbon credits every time a plane took off and that investors would have to get in first to maximise returns. In addition they were told that their investment could be withdrawn at any time. All of these claims were false.

Company Investigations found that before selling carbon credits to the public, World Future jacked up the price by between 150% and nearly 250% of the price paid to its suppliers. World Future was set up in July 2011 and in its first 10 months managed to scam £2.5 million from the public for “near worthless carbon credits”.
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REDD Plus or REDD “Light”? Biodiversity, communities and forest carbon certification

By Chris Lang, February 21, 2013. Source: REDD-Monitor

Until there is an agreement at the UNFCCC level on REDD, carbon credits from REDD projects can only be traded on voluntary markets. Buyers of these carbon credits rely on independent certification schemes to tell the difference between “real” carbon credits and “cowboy” carbon credits.

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) focusses on carbon accounting. VCS “verifies” the project developer’s calculations about how many carbon offsets are created by the project, or how many tons of carbon would have been emitted to the atmosphere in the absence of the project. Or, as Dan Welsh put it, verifying, “an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened”.

A second question is whether the REDD project brings benefits to the communities living in and near the project area. The Climate Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB) focus on environmental and social aspects of forestry offset projects. Continue reading

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Carbon credits row could derail UN climate talks, says Brazil

By Fiona Harvey, December 2 2012. Source: The Guardian

Photo: Osama Faisal/AP

Photo: Osama Faisal/AP

Brazil has said a row over carbon credits could derail the United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Qatar this week.

The row concerns whether countries entering the second round of the Kyoto protocol should be allowed to carry over emissions credits from the first phase. Some countries, including Poland, Ukraine and Russia, have large surpluses of credits, generated because their carbon output collapsed alongside their industrial base after the fall of communism.

These credits are derided as “hot air” by critics because they represent greenhouse gases already reduced many years ago, rather than new efforts. André Corrêa do Lago, head of the Brazilian delegation, told the Guardian: “The second phase has to have environmental integrity, and you will not have that if countries are allowed to carry over [the credits]. The second period will be completely compromised. This is not a way to have effective reductions.” Continue reading

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5,000 Indigenous Peoples Ignored In Grab for Carbon Credits

Cross-posted from International Rivers

By Katy Yan

As far back as the 1970s, civil society groups and the Ngobe indigenous people have been fighting to protect the Tabasara River

A community leader speaks to his people and visiting NGO representatives about Barro Blanco project (ASAMCHI)

and the lands belonging to them from destructive dam projects. The most recent such project is the 29 MW Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project in western Panama.

In late 2010, groups from across Panama and Europe were successful in prompting an investigation by the European Investment Bank (EIB), which forced the dam developer, Generating of Istmo SA (GENISA), to pull out their EIB loan request.

However, that has not stopped GENISA’s determination to find another funder. GENISA has now set its eyes on carbon credits available through the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). But in order to get credits, it must first receive validation from a Designated Operational Entity, who then submits a validation report to the CDM’s Executive Board and a request for the Board to register the project. GENISA has found a complicit ally in the form of the validator, AENOR.

Existence ignored

In GENISA’s environmental impact statement, no communities would be impacted by the Barro Blanco project – thereby completely ignoring the 5,000 indigenous inhabitants that depend on the Tabasara and would be affected by the dam, such as the community of Nuevo Palomar, home of the region’s official elementary school (which would be flooded).

Razed mountainside for the Barro Blanco, June 2010 (ASAMCHI)

Razed mountainside for the Barro Blanco, June 2010 (ASAMCHI)

AENOR’s validation report and its site visit only considered the opinion of the non-indigenous population. They also ignored letters from civil society detailing the human rights abuses by the company and the lack of adequate consultation with indigenous groups. In this regard, the validation process for Barro Blanco violates the international principle of free, prior and informed consent contained in ILO 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While AENOR acknowledges the receipt of comments on this issue from the group Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarrollo (ACD), it failed to take into account a second submission of comments by ACD and the Asociacion Ambientalista de Chiriqui (or Environmentalist Association of Chiriqui; ASAMCHI). Whether they purposefully ignored them or the comments did not reach them, is unclear. (The CDM comment system is notoriously user-unfriendly – not to mention that they expect affected people to have fast internet access and speak in English, two requirements for submitting comments on CDM projects through their system). What is clear is that AENOR is helping GENISA promote a project that ignores the voices and rights of the Ngobe community, while pretending that they were never informed about the opinions of these stakeholders.

Kept in the dark

Girl recites from a textbook of ancient Ngabere (ASAMCHI)

In a recent field visits by ASAMCHI and Bankwatch, the NGO groups met with the leader of the April 10 Movement to Defend

Girl recites from a textbook of ancient Ngabere (ASAMCHI)

the Tabasara (M10), Italo Jimenez, who described how engineers from the dam tried to bribe him to leave the fight to protect his rights. He also told them how GENISA’s environmental impact study had “interviewed” local residents who had been deceased for 50 years.

Italo declared that his people were not only against the dam, but also against the infamous Cerro Colorado mining project, which would pollute the Tabasara River’s tributary, the Cuvibora River.

According to Oscar Sogandares Guerra of ASAMCHI,

“other speakers, such as Leidis Rodríguez, explained how the communities were kept in the dark, especially when the company held their public consultation. Fliers were sent only to inhabitants in the town of Tole, while the indigenous communities were kept uninformed.”

GENISA’s next move – and ours

Having temporarily lost EIB’s funding, GENISA has cast its hopes with the CDM and its record of approving projects that are both unsustainable and non-additional. At the same time, civil society groups in Panama await the final report from the EIB’s fact-finding mission. Along with International Rivers, CDM Watch, and the Counter Balance coalition, they have also submitted a letter to the CDM Executive Board urging them to reject the project and deny it funding through the form of carbon credits.

In the latest twist, protests in the last five days against the infamous Cerro Colorado mining project, which also directly affects the Ngobe people by polluting one of the Tabasara’s main tributaries, ended in bloodshed. According to ASAMCHI, there have been two unconfirmed deaths (including one of a young girl who died from tear gas fumes) and over a hundred injured. Despite an injunction by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights against the project, the government of Panama continues to ignore the rights of the Ngobe.

The CDM Executive Board should sit up and pay attention.

More information:
  • Read the letter to the CDM Executive Board highlighting the lack of participation, human rights abuses, and weak additionality arguments for the Barro Blanco.
  • Recent news (in Spanish) on the protests against the Cerro Colorado mining project.
  • Videos of the protest by ASAMCHI.
  • “The endangered Tabasara River,” The Panama News, an account of ASAMCHI’s 2010 visit with the Ngobe people.
  • “Tabasara Revisited,” The Panama News, an account of ASAMCHI and Bankwatch’s subsequent visit, with photos of the meeting.

 

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Slow death by carbon credits

Cross-posted from The Boston Globe

Indigenous peoples can suffer from pollution compensation plan

By Dennis Martinez

FORGET ANY spin. In the end, the recent UN gathering on climate change in Cancún repeated Copenhagen’s failure in 2009. Again, the world’s industrial economies refused to set new binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, despite dire warnings by scientists. Instead, delegates again vaguely promised money for climate adaptation and mitigation: this time $30 billion to the developing world by 2012, and $100 billion more by 2020.

Once more, the industrialized countries appear to have pledged much of this money in a salvage measure dubbed “REDD’’ — Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries.

Established by wealthy nations, venture capitalists, the World Bank, and the United Nations, REDD would pay for the carbon absorbed in developing countries, to compensate for pollution caused by industrialized countries.

The initiative would allow polluters to buy carbon credits from companies, communities, non-government organizations, or countries that promise not to destroy forests for a specific period. To polluters, setting aside money for carbon absorption in a REDD forest is far less costly than reducing emissions at tailpipes or smokestacks.

But even if it works — itself a point of contention — this carbon-offsetting simply postpones any weaning off the fossil-fuel economy.

Perhaps the people least impressed by this half-measure are the ones who most urgently need a solution to climate disruption. From the Amazon basin to the African savannahs, traditional indigenous peoples depend directly on their local environment for sustenance, and so they are the most vulnerable to climate change. At Cancún, indigenous leaders again watched as REDD technocrats tried to “save’’ their territorial forests as global carbon sinks, instead of cutting their own countries’ emissions.

REDD can target the tropical forests exactly because indigenous communities have carefully preserved them for many thousands of years. But the initiative seems to have little use for the forest inhabitants themselves. The UN climate talks relegate indigenous peoples to “observer’’ status. At least eight national REDD plans funded by the World Bank would allow bans on the kind of small-scale, biodiverse farming that is practiced by many indigenous peoples and is misnamed “slash and burn.’’ At the same time, at least 19 of the plans explicitly contain provisions for tree plantations, which displace forest dwellers, degrade biodiversity, and cause high fire risk. Plantations are tolerated under the United Nations’ definition of forests. They satisfy carbon investors who like precise measurement and predictability — not messy, biodiverse forest habitat.

This mentality inspires what critics call “fortress conservation’’: non-government organizations and national authorities cordon off land to protect species and institute carbon-offset projects, driving out of their forests the indigenous stewards, who become “conservation refugees.’’ John Nelson, Africa policy adviser for the Forest Peoples Program, estimates that some 150,000 to 200,000 people in the Congo basin alone have suffered this fate.

“Imagine waking up one day,’’ he says, “to find a boundary outside your village — with armed paramilitary guards telling you that you cannot enter the forest.’’ If people cannot go there, they cannot teach their children how to live in the traditional ways, and these ways, with all they might have to teach the larger world about storing carbon and repairing forest ecosystems, will be lost. “Mitigation policies of the developed world,’’ Ramiro Batzin, a Keqchikel Maya from Guatemala, recently told the World Bank, “will kill us before climate change does!’’

Despite their long residence in the forests, many indigenous peoples have fought for decades to establish legal title to the land. But nothing at Cancún required REDD programs to establish or secure those rights, or to obtain genuine consent for projects in indigenous communities.

This neglect, and the fortress conservation it allows, is not only an injustice but also a missed opportunity. Studies have shown that traditional land management, when title is secured, sinks carbon far more effectively and cheaply than conventional efforts favored by REDD.

The Emberá of Panama, like the Ogiek of Kenya, have been the stewards of the land for millennia. But at best REDD would promise them compensation — and a dubious dependence on a cash economy, which tends to erode traditional culture. Especially in an age of climate chaos, the erosion of such stewardship is unacceptable. And in any case, nobody should mistake the initiative for a real solution to a changing climate. That remains what it was in Kyoto, and what it will be later this year in Durban: cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Dennis Martinez, a Native American forest-restoration specialist, is on the steering committee of the Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative. Laird Townsend of the non-profit media organization Project Word, a project of the Tides Center, contributed to this article.

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Oil palm plantations on peatlands won’t get carbon credits under CDM

Cross posted from Mongabay

September 19, 2010

Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the Clean Development

Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Mechanism (CDM), a framework for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries, reports Wetlands International.

The decision, which came last Friday during the executive board meeting, will bar biofuel plantations established on peatlands from earning carbon credits that could then be sold to industrialized countries to “offset” emissions. The concern is that under the CDM, carbon finance is used to perversely subsidize conversion of carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, a process that generates substantial greenhouse gas emissions, thereby undermining any potential carbon dioxide savings from use of palm oil-based biodiesel.

“We are very relieved that within a year, the CDM Board has decided to revise the existing methodology,” said Marcel Silvius of Wetlands International in a statement. “This decision now ends a perverse incentive for development of plantations on peatlands.”

A Wetlands International statement explains:

  • Last year, the CDM Executive Board approved a methodology that now gave till last week CDM credits to biodiesel plantations on so-called ‘degraded lands’ in developing countries. The CDM allows industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets. This methodology was meant to stimulate sequestration of carbon via replanting of degraded, devegetated land areas with renewable energy crops as alternative for conventional diesel.

    In practice, this methodology gave an additional financial boast to new palm oil plantations on the logged peatswamps in Southeast Asia. These ‘degraded’ lands however still contain large amounts of carbon in the case of water logged organic peat soils. This carbon will be rapidly released upon drainage for plantations.

Research led by Dr. Susan Page University of Leicester found that producing one ton of palm oil on peatland generates 15 to 70 tons of CO2 over 25 years as a result of forest conversion, peat decomposition and emission from fires associated with land clearance. In other words, biodiesel produced under such conditions has a greater climate impact than conventional fossil fuels.
As such, environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on the conversion of peatlands for biofuel production. Already about 33% of all oil palm is on peat, according to Wetlands International.

The decision by the CDM Executive Board now removes one incentive from peatland conversion, although developers-especially in Indonesia-are still targeting peat swamps for expansion. Peat lands tend to be cheaper and more available than other soil types suitable for oil palm cultivation.

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