Yesterday, a group of NGOs wrote to the Swedish Energy Agency calling for the Agency to cancel its contract to buy carbon credits from Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda.
Green Resources is a Norwegian company with a total of 45,000 hectares of plantations in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. Green Resources’ plantations in Kachung, Uganda are registered under the Clean Development Mechanism and the company sells carbon credits generated from its plantation operations.
On 22 July 2011, the Swedish Energy Agency signed a US$4 million emissions reductions purchase agreement for approximately 365,000 carbon credits from Green Resources’ Kachung Forest [sic] Project in Uganda.
On 3 November 2015, the Swedish Energy Agency announced that it was freezing future payments to Green Resources, following a programme on Sweden’s TV4 Kalla Fakta about the problems that the plantations are causing for local communities. The programme particularly focusses on conflicts over land rights.
The TV4 programme, “The Forbidden Forest” is well worth watching. Here it is with English subtitles:
The Swedish Energy Agency initially told TV4’s journalist Camilla Ziedorn that there were no land conflicts.
In August 2011, Climate Focus produced a Due Diligence Report on the project for the Swedish Energy Agency. But when the Agency sent Ziedorn a copy of the report, they deleted the section on Socio-Economic Risks:
And in a brochure about the project, the Swedish Energy Agency covered up the problems.
Ziedorn interviewed Ulrika Raab, the manager of the Kachung project at the Swedish Energy Agency. Raab tells her the project is in an “extremely poor area and very sparsely populated”.
Ziedorn points out that the Swedish Energy Agency describes the area in its brochure as “unused bushland before the project came in”, but the Climate Focus due diligence report states that the community has used the land for many years. “How does that work?” she asks.
“The one document is a brochure,” Raab replies.
“That’s the information the public gets,” Ziedorn says.
“No matter what land project you look at with people in the vicinity, you have to deal responsibly with issues of land use. That’s not just the right…”
“You’re not answering the question.” Zeidorn interrupts. “You write that forest is being planted in what was unused bushland. But you know that there have been farmers using that land all along. So why do you write that it was unused?”
Raab blinks, tilts her head, looks embarrassed, smiles. But she doesn’t answer the question. So Zeidorn describes the situation in Kachung for her:
“I’ve just been there and met with members of the community. Soldiers and police officers chase them off the land. Those who protest are arrested. They’ve been robbed of their resources. Many can’t afford to send their kids to school, many barely have enough food. They say they’ve los their entire future and their chances of a decent life… The villagers have sued Green Resources over how they’re treated.”
It’s a brilliant interview. Ziedorn refuses to be distracted by Swedish Energy Agency’s greenwashing of a destructive monoculture plantation project.
Here’s the open letter to the Swedish Energy Agency:
To: Swedish Energy Agency 10th of March 2016
Dear Ulrika Raab, Erik Brandsma, and Ola Westberg,
The Swedish Energy Agency has faced criticism for its purchase of ‘carbon credits’ from a large tree plantation (over 2000 hectares) in Kachung in Uganda. The Agency has signed a 20 year contract agreement (year 2012-2032) with the Norwegian company Green Resources. The approximately 6000 farmers which previously used the land for cultivation or grazing, have been evicted. They have lost their source of income, and several of them have been detained, imprisoned or had their animals confiscated.
Since November 2015, the Swedish Energy Agency has frozen its remaining payments to Green Resources. The Agency has demanded that Green Resources develops a plan of action in order to correct its mismanagement. Green Resources has proposed improvement measures within 9 different areas. These include, among other things, allowing cattle grazing in the plantations, producing a socio-economic analysis and development plan, and respecting land rights. The Swedish Energy Agency will only pay Green Resources the rest of the money if Green Resources carries out its plan of action, and if concrete results are achieved.
What the Swedish Energy Agency has neglected to take into account is that Green Resources converts grassland, savanna and small-scale cultivated land into non-native tree plantations. This has a tremendous impact on the local environment and the ecosystem services it provides. Also, uncertainties remain in the potential of tree plantations to sequester carbon. Studies show a general pattern of a decrease in ecosystem carbon pools in tree plantations relative to natural forests. In-depth information based on the recent research can be found in the document “Impacts of Green Resources’ tree plantations at Kachung, Uganda”. Including in the Oakland Institute report “The Darker Side of Green” (2014). Also see Swedwatch’s “Lessons learned from Kachung” (2015).
The most effective form of climate change mitigation is to avoid carbon emissions from all sources. This means that there is no option but to cut fossil fuel emissions deeply at source. Emissions of carbon dioxide can be avoided by protecting high-carbon natural ecosystems from land-use changes which deplete their carbon stocks. However, they cannot offset ongoing emissions from other anthropogenic carbon sources. Their mitigation value lies in the durability of their naturally accumulated carbon.
Therefore, we the undersigned, demand the following actions to be taken by the Swedish Energy Agency and the Government of Sweden:
- The carbon credit purchase contract with Green Resources should be cancelled outright because the Kachung carbon offset plantation project is deeply flawed in nearly all respects.
- The Swedish Energy Agency should also take action to recover all of the money already paid to Green Resources plus legal costs, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the Kachung plantation is de-registered as a CDM activity.
- The local communities displaced and disadvantaged through this project should be compensated for all of their losses and allowed to return to the land after Green Resources has removed all of its ‘fake forests’ and restored the people’s homes, crops and/or the natural vegetation.
- Sweden should cut its greenhouse gas emissions at home by finding ways to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency, as well as increasing carbon storage in Swedish forests by protecting old natural forests and bringing degraded forests back to a more natural state, instead of transferring its guilt and responsibility to poor communities in Africa, and enriching the land-grabbing shareholders of Green Resources AS.
Amanda Tas, Protect the Forest
Wally Menne, Timberwatch
Associate Professor Kristen Lyons
Senior Research Fellow – Oakland Institute
Simone Lovera, Executive Director,
Global Forest Coalition
Dr Adrian Nel, Senior Lecturer,
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Science
University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa