On 9 January 2018, Virgin Atlantic told the Phnom Penh Post that it had stopped buying carbon credits from the Oddar Meanchey REDD project in Cambodia. Virgin Atlantic’s decision followed the publication of a report by Fern that highlights the problems of offsetting emissions from the aviation sector. One of the case studies in the report was Oddar Meanchey.
There is no way of avoiding the fact that flying is a disaster for the climate. For individuals, there is no faster way of frying the planet. Nevertheless, international aviation is not included in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The organisation responsible under the UN system, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has so far taken no meaningful action to reduce emissions from aviation.
For the past three years, Timothy Frewer of the University of Sydney has been carrying out his PhD research in Cambodia, looking at the Oddar Meanchey REDD project. REDD-Monitor has written a series of posts about Oddar Meanchey, questioning how the project can sell carbon credits while deforestation continues.
“The Oddar Meanchey REDD project model is centered on local people’s participation in forest management,” said Ty Sokhun, head of Cambodia’s Forestry Administration in 2009. Five years later logging is rampant in the project area. Local people and the project developers are powerless to stop it. The Cambodian government does not seem interested.
Cambodia’s forests face huge threats from illegal logging, mining and land concessions for plantation crops for export like rubber and sugar. Oddar Meanchey province in the country’s northwest has the highest rate of deforestation of any province in the country. Which should make Oddar Meanchey the perfect place for a REDD project.
In November 2011, the US Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provided the world’s first political risk insurance policy for a carbon offset project. A recent report by Pacific Environment, FERN and Focus on the Global South questions who stands to benefit from this insurance.
REDD did not appear from nowhere. Behind the idea are people and institutions who have promoted REDD in different ways over the past decades. Understanding REDD means understanding the players involved and their motivations for promoting a scheme to generate carbon credits from tropical forests instead of finding ways to keep fossil fuels in the ground.