Africa’s land pollution threat from carbon market

United Nation's carbon offset mechanism is rewarding pollution and could cause unsustainable land grabs in Africa, according to an international charity.

The Gaia Foundation says the current market is pushing industrial biofuels, genetically modified crops and biochar regardless of the problems caused to land in the long term.

In its most recent briefing, The CDM in Africa: marketing a new land grab, produced in collaboration with the African Biodiversity Network, Carbon Trade Watch, Timberwatch Coalition and Biofuelwatch, examines the experience of the United Nation’s carbon market, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and looks at emerging threats.

Through the CDM, developed countries claim to offset their emissions, by paying to support developing country projects that are supposed to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or absorb carbon dioxide.

Until now, only 2% of CDM projects have been located in Africa, as the majority of current projects are connected to industrial emissions.

However, increasing numbers of African biofuel and industrial tree plantation projects are entering the CDM pipeline. Further proposals to include other land-use methodologies could lead to an aggressive African land grab.

The briefing attacks what it calls ‘perverse incentives’ for polluting activities, such as in the Niger Delta, where an oil company is currently paid to stop its illegal gas flaring.

And, in Durban, South Africa, where a rubbish dump is gets credits for generating electricity using methane from the dump as fuel.

Gaia Foundation spokeswoman, Teresa Anderson, said: “African countries hoping for development or financial benefits by hosting CDM projects, should be wary of financial, social and environmental problems, impacts on communities, questionable climate benefits, and the likelihood of few or no real financial rewards.”

A spokesman for United Nations defended CDM, he said: “The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2.

“These CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to a meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

“The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction limitation targets.”

The CDM is also the main source of income for the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund, which was established to finance adaptation projects and programmes in developing country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Luke Walsh

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