in Norway, Sweden, Uganda

NGOs dissatisfied with Swedish Energy Agency response, once again call on the Agency to cancel carbon credit purchase from Green Resources’ monoculture plantations in Uganda

Green ResourcesGreen Resources is a Norwegian company that claims to be “Africa’s largest forestation company.” The company has established a total of 45,000 hectares of industrial plantations in Africa. It also generates carbon credits from its plantations.

A 2014 report by the Oakland Institute coined the term “carbon violence” to describe the impact of Green Resources’ plantations on local communities and their environment in Uganda.

Communities were evicted to make way for Green Resources’ tree monocultures both before and after the company started its operations in Uganda.

Here’s a timeline of the controversy so far:

    November 2014: The Oakland Institute published a report, “The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda”.

    3 November 2014: Mats Asprem, the CEO of Green Resources, responded, dismissing the findings of the Oakland Institute’s report.

    9 November 2014: Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institue replied to Asprem, defending the findings in the report.

    September 2015: Camilla Ziedorn, a journalist with Sweden’s TV4 Kalla Fakta programme visited the plantations in Uganda. If you’ve not yet seen this documentary, I strongly recommend it. You can watch the programme here (in Swedish with English sub-titles):

    3 November 2015: After the Kalla Fakta documentary was broadcast in Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency (the only buyer of carbon credits from Green Resources Kachung plantations) froze remaining payments of US$4 million to Green Resources.

    10 March 2016: 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.

Five days later, the Swedish Energy Agency replied to the NGOs. Yesterday, the NGOs sent another letter to the Swedish Energy Agency. The letters are posted here in full, in reverse chronological order:

Swedish Energy Agency
 
Dear Amanda,
 
Thank you for your e-mail and valuable reflections.
 
You raise some key concerns that we share. At this point we believe that it is better to stay engaged in the project to improve the situation. It is unlikely that a withdrawal from the project would benefit the local population. We have required the project owner to develop an action plan which targets many of the points that you have raised. We will closely monitor the implementation of the action plan and that progress is being made. If we do not see improvements as agreed, we will again assess and may then decide to pull out of the project.
 
Deforestation and other land-use changes is one of the largest sources of global GHG emissions. International cooperation to limit emissions from this sector will be important and can complement needed reductions of fossil energy, as highlighted in IPCC AR5 section 4.3. One purpose of our programme is to contribute to the development of different forms of international cooperation and we appreciate your input in this regard.
 
We trust you understand our considerations and will together with us follow progress carefully. The action plan and developments in the project will be published on our website in due course. We encourage a continued dialog and are available for any questions that you may have.
 
For and on behalf of
 
The General Director
 
Matthias Eriksson
 
Head of Market Development Department
 
Swedish energy Agency

 

Protect the Forest, Timberwatch, GFC
 
Response to the Swedish Energy Agency
10th of May 2016
 
Dear General Director Erik Brandsma and Mattias Eriksson, Head of Market Development Department,
 
We want to express our dissatisfaction with your decision to continue to remain engaged in the Green Resources tree plantation project in Kachung, Uganda. This project is still deeply flawed – socially, ecologically and economically – and must be questioned in nearly all respects.
 
One of a number of critical issues which are being completely ignored by you, the Swedish Energy Agency, and Green Resources, is the fact that non-native trees are being planted in Kachung. These alien trees do not occur naturally in Uganda or in Africa. Besides having the tendency to be invasive, they consume excessively large amounts of water and profoundly alter the soil’s chemistry and micro fauna. This has a tremendous negative impact on the natural environment and the local community, which will most likely, suffer from food and water shortages as a consequence. Indeed, detailed research has already proven the adverse impacts on food security for communities affected by Green Resource’s activities in Uganda.
 
In addition, there is great uncertainty regarding the potential of tree plantations to sequester carbon. Studies show a general pattern of decreasing carbon pools in tree plantations relative to primary and secondary forests (natural forests), independently of biomes, geographic regions or other factors.[1] The tree plantations in Kachung (considering the short anticipated logging rotation periods) are more likely to become net sources of greenhouse gas emissions during the full cycle of habitat destruction, timber production, wood processing, transportation, consumption and disposal. The trees in the plantation area would need to remain in place permanently, in order not to release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, but this would also defeat the other stated object of the exercise.
 
In other words, by supporting the Green Resources tree plantation project, you neither benefit the climate nor the local community in Kachung. The villagers in Kachung sued Green Resources and the National Forest Authority in 2008 based on the poor way in which they were treated. This issue is the matter of an ongoing lawsuit. Furthermore, Green Resources profits from the sale of carbon credits, while Uganda gets very little in return. Green Resources already had a bad reputation under its former name Tree Farms at the end of the 1990s. Tree Farms exploited farmers by using them as free labour to clear and prepare the plantation land. Social conflicts arose and poverty increased. Read more about ‘CO2lonialism’ in the FERN report (2000), p. 46-51:
 
Swedish investor groups also played a key part in land-grabbing for tree plantation projects in Mocambique. Their shares have since been taken over by Green Resources. In addition, Uganda will not be able to use the claimed carbon-offsets for its own carbon emission reduction targets, since the credits are being sold to rich countries such as Sweden. Through its purchase of dubious carbon credits from Green Resources, the Swedish Energy Agency is supporting a system which continues to exploit African nations and their resources for the benefit of ‘colonial’ powers in the form of polluting corporations. This is a guaranteed recipe for future socio-economic problems in Uganda.
 
In the past, Sweden made a great contribution by supporting the struggle for liberation in southern Africa and against apartheid in South Africa. Why is Sweden now so tolerant regarding the actions of Green Resources?
 
Given that you deliberately covered up information related to Green Resources’ poor conduct – by falsely stating that the project land was unused bush-land, when in reality it was utilised by the community – can your responses be considered trustworthy?
 
We ask you to immediately cancel your carbon credit purchase contract with Green Resources.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Amanda Tas, Protect the Forest, Sweden
 
Associate Professor Kristen Lyons, Senior Research Fellow, Oakland Institute
 
Wally Menne, Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa
 
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
 
Frank Muramuzi, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Uganda
 


[1] Liao C, Luo Y, Fang C, Li B (2010). Ecosystem Carbon Stock Influenced by Plantation Practice: Implications for Planting Forests as a Measure of Climate Change Mitigation. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10867.

 


PHOTO Credit: The Oakland Institute.
 

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  1. And here’s the Swedish Energy Agency’s response:

    2016-05-24

    Dear Amanda

    Thank you for your letter. We appreciate your input in this matter, but as we have stated before, we have decided to remain in the project to be able to use our influence to improve the situation for the local communities. I strongly believe that a withdrawal from the project will not improve the situation for the local communities. In response to our requirements, a Community Development Plan has been developed to address negative aspects of the project and to enhance the relations with the affected communities. Green Resources is now obliged to show demonstrable progress in a number of important areas – all to be followed-up and verified by external consultants/auditors. More information can be found on our website.

    We will continue to monitor the social and environmental aspects of the Kachung project and we invite you to take part in this process, for example in bilateral meetings with us and/or the forthcoming audit.

    Best wishes,

    Erik Brandsma,
    Director General
    Swedish Energy Agency