In early September 2023, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), host of this year’s Climate Conference of Parties (COP28) announced that it would dedicate USD 450 million towards, “producing carbon offsets on the continent and buying land off African governments.” The news broke at the first African Climate Summit in Kenya, an event to leverage global climate finance for “green growth and transitions in Africa”.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke at the Summit, encouraging African countries to establish an African Carbon Market, although such markets have been shown repeatedly (FW 282; FW 283) to achieve nothing for the climate.
More than 500 African NGOs have denounced this rush to establish an African Carbon Market and highlighted that concepts such as carbon markets and carbon offsetting are false solutions “led by Western interests while being marketed as African priorities. In truth, though, these approaches will embolden wealthy nations and large corporations to continue polluting the world, much to Africa’s detriment”.
In addition, Blue Carbon Ltd, a company led by a UAE royal family member, has, over the last year, rushed to sign contracts to buy up millions of hectares of land across several African countries, including Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These deals would give the company exclusive forest management rights for decades.
The deals would also mute the countries’ voices and undermine their national sovereignty by allowing UAE to negotiate on their behalf at COP28 and at future COPs. When all of these countries have something important in common – i.e., insecure land rights and a history of human rights violations – many are wondering why the UAE appears to be grabbing land in areas where communities’ livelihoods are at stake.
The most notable outcry has been from civil society and communities over a proposed deal in Liberia, which 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) have signed a statement against, saying it “risks the livelihoods of up to a million people […] by extinguishing existing community land ownership and violating peoples’ legal right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.”
Liberian CSOs are outraged, and the affected communities are demanding free, prior and informed consent before any deal is concluded. In a video produced by Liberian CSO Daylight, the communities insist they are unaware of the deal, and have not given their consent. For Blue Carbon and the Liberian Government to sign over this land to Blue Carbon would be a violation of Liberia’s land laws.
Liberian concerns are echoed by a growing number of academics, communities and NGOs who challenge offsetting and highlight the use of carbon market to greenwash European emissions. Yet despite the evidence unearthed by in-depth investigations led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Guardian, that more than 90 per cent of certified carbon credits “have no benefit to climate,” politicians such as von der Leyen want to work with oil executives and the COP28 President to promote carbon markets and hail them as a win-win.
Caption: The 30-year deal would authorise Blue Carbon to manage more than a million hectares of Liberia’s forestland in River Cess, Margibi, Sinoe and Lofa in Liberia. Credit: Daylight – James Harding Giahyue