LIBERIA – International Experimental NGOs have called upon the Weah-led government and a private company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Blue Carbon to halt negotiations surrounding the “Carbon Contract” until there is clear evidence that the contract is in line with Liberian law, that affected communities have given their Free Prior and Informed Consent and that there is a credible, financially supported, plan for forest protection and restoration.
According to the International Environmental NGOs statement issued yesterday, the Weah-government is threatening to sign away thirty years of rights to more than one million hectares of forests to Blue Carbon, a private company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which Blue Carbon claim they will protect and restore these forests and will ‘harvest’ carbon credits to sell to major polluters to allow them to offset their own emissions.
But the statement stated that Blue Carbon didn’t mention the devastating effect it will have on the livelihoods of up to a million people.
Stating further, the statement said that the proposed project between the Weah government and Blue Carbon will extinguish community land ownership in the selected areas and violate peoples’ legal right to provide Free, Prior and Informed Consent for any developments on their land. Read the full statement below.
INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT ON THE CARBON DEAL BETWEEN BLUE CARBON AND THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT
Liberia’s Government is threatening to sign away the rights to more than one million hectares of forests1 for thirty-year to Blue Carbon, a private company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Blue Carbon will ‘harvest’ carbon credits from emissions supposedly saved by protecting and restoring these forests to sell them to major polluters to offset their own emissions. This risks the livelihoods of up to a million people.
It would also extinguish community land ownership in the selected areas, while violating peoples’ legal right to provide Free, Prior and Informed Consent4 for any developments on their land.
The draft contract detailing this agreement with Blue Carbon also removes Liberia’s Government’s chance to use the carbon credits generated itself. Only Blue Carbon will have the right to decide whether the carbon credits will be sold, and at what price. If they are sold, Liberia will not be able to use the carbon credits to meet its own climate targets. Liberia is therefore handing over decisions about how a substantial part of its carbon emissions for the next 30 years are to be managed by a UAE firm that has existed for less than a year, and which has no track record in carbon trading.
There is furthermore a clear ‘greenwashing’ risk. Blue Carbon LLC is a company under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al Maktoum, a member of the UAE royal family. The family office holds a number of companies, mainly in Energy, Oil & Gas and Infrastructure. There’s therefore a considerable danger that the money they intend to invest will be used to offset their own emissions, thereby contributing to more climate change. The revenue model described in this contract generously allows for that.
It is noteworthy that the UAE is presiding over the next UNFCCC Climate COP 28 in Dubai, which will discuss which type of carbon credits will be eligible on the compliance and the voluntary carbon markets, under Article 6.2 and 6.4 of the Paris Agreement.6 This contract seems to give Blue Carbon, a private UAE company, the authority to act on Liberia’s behalf to negotiate UNFCCC Article 6 rules.
It is unclear what the benefits for Liberia and its communities will be. The contract is confidential and extremely vague, and a Memorandum of Understanding between the UAE company and the Government of Liberia signed in March this year has not been widely discussed.
It is unclear how much Blue Carbon will invest and in what; as well as what its’ plans are to harvest the carbon credits, or how many credits it expects and at what costs. The contract also does not mention which certification standards will be used, nor what verification methods, nor what the transaction costs will be, nor what the financing mechanism will look like.
There is a clear risk of history repeating itself. In 2009 Liberia nearly signed a contract with the UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation for 400,000 ha of forests. That agreement was later to be found in violation of Liberian laws and many high-level government officials were charged with bribery and corruption.
“The CHC carbon concession was (A) not approved by the FDA based on a proper understanding of its nature and the value it would offer Liberia; (B) Not duly approved by the FDA board, contrary to fraudulent misrepresentation to the contrary; (C) awarded and or negotiated in violation of the PPCC Act7 and (D) could not be enforceable because it was tainted by corruption, fraud and other illegalities8 ”
Given the lack of transparency, including in relation to benefits, and the absence of due process and due diligence, there is a significant risk that this applies to this contract as well. What is clear is that Liberia and its forest communities need to be compensated for protecting and restoring their forests. Liberia is the only forest-rich country left in West Africa and is one of the poorest countries on the planet. This makes it, however, more important that the deal is good for Liberia and specifically its communities.
It must therefore be based on an inclusive deliberative consultation process with community landowners and community rights holders, Free Prior Informed Consent, provide clear and substantial upfront and direct benefits to communities, e.g. in the form of land rental fees and support for community conservation areas, and be transparent. It should also prove that the financial support provided protects threatened forests and restores degraded forests with strict monitoring and control mechanisms in place. The current deal does none of this.
We therefore call upon the Government of Liberia and Blue Carbon to halt these negotiations until there is clear evidence that the contract is in line with Liberian law – specifically the Land Rights Act and the Public Procurement and Concession Act; that affected communities have given their Free Prior and Informed Consent as required under Liberian law and that there is a credible, financially supported, plan for forest protection and restoration.
ARA, Germany – Wolfgang Kuhlmann Blue Dalian, China – Sun Li denkhausbremen, Germany – Peter Gerhard Dogwood Alliance, USA – Scot Quaranda Earthsight, UK – Sam Lawson Environmental Investigation Agency, UK – Faith Doherty Friends of Earth Finland – Noora Ojala Forum Oekologie & Papier, Germany – Evelyn Shoenheit Forest Peoples Programme, UK – Tom Lomax.
Fern, Brussels – Alexandra Benjamin Green Longjiang, China – Lu Yingying Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands – Danielle van Oijen Pro REGENWALD, Germany – Hermann Edelmann Rainforest Foundation UK – Joe Eisen Scholar Tree Alliance, China – Zeng Shengwei Snow Alliance, China – Mao Jing.