Carbon concession fever: more land theft and deforestation

This bulletin focuses on a central cause of deforestation and the large-scale dispossession of forest peoples: the imposition of land concessions as a tool to separate, divide and map land for the benefit of economic and political interests. This editorial warns against grabbing large amounts of hectares for carbon concessions.

This bulletin focuses attention on what the WRM Secretariat considers to be a central cause of deforestation and the large-scale dispossession suffered by forest peoples: the imposition of land concessions as a tool to separate, divide and map land (and forests) for the benefit of certain economic and political interests.

It’s not an easy subject. It forces us to reflect deeply on the dominant perceptions around ‘land’, how they attempt to violently isolate it from the rest of ‘nature’, including those who inhabit it, and how colonizers and capitalist elites have organized and used according to their interests.

Select articles in this newsletter explore colonial-era stories of how concessions were enforced and resisted in the Amazon, Southeast Asia, and the Congo Basin. In some cases, such as articles focusing on DR Congo and Thailand, it is possible to fully understand the direct and profound impact these stories have on current violence, discrimination and struggles for land. Focusing on women’s resistance in Brazil, the article warns how the privatization of conservation concessions is a serious threat to the livelihoods and cultures of local people. Another article alerts to the international pressure to create more Protected Areas “without people” and denounces the current tendency to privatize the management of these Parks, particularly on the African continent.

Closely linked to this push for more protected areas is a serious risk of a major expansion of another type of concession to exercise control over tropical forest land: carbon concessions. These concessions aim to control, in particular, the commodified carbon stored in the forest and other so-called “ecosystem” services. Actors such as international conservation NGOs, multinational corporations, securities brokers, banks, traders, certification bodies, governments and others are competing with (and facilitating) the trade in carbon credits and offsets while expanding forms of control of carbon emissions on land.

protected areas, populations, indigenous peoples, carbon, forests, deforestation, climate change, carbon sequestration, REDD

Hundreds of multinational corporations and more than 130 governments have committed to countless net-zero emissions targets, which, combined with the push for so-called nature-based solutions, explains the enthusiasm for carbon concessions. This big wave of climate targets also explains why these concessions tend to be much larger than most forest carbon projects promoted so far.

In this context, for example, at the end of 2021, the company Mayur Renewables PNG (MR), a subsidiary of Mayur Resources (MRL), obtained three carbon concessions from the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG), covering approximately 800,000 hectares of forest. . These concessions have an accreditation term of more than 30 years and, according to the company, are “nature-based carbon offsetting REDD projects”. (a). The company’s goal is to expand to 1.4 million hectares.

PNG-based MRL is aiming to become the region’s leading supplier of “carbon-neutral cement and lime products”, and these carbon allowances are meant to convert its Central Cement and Limestone project, near Port Moresby, into a “carbon neutral” company. (of them)

In December 2021, VT Carbon Partners provided MR with a US$3 million line of credit. VT Carbon Partners is a fund jointly managed by Viridios Capital and Tribeca Investment Partners. It launched in 2021 with an initial portfolio of AU$500 million (over US$360 million) to be applied to Verra-certified “nature-based projects”. With these large carbon quotas and expansion plans, PNG would become one of the largest producers of carbon credits in the world.

During a webinar held in 2021, the CEO of Viridios Capital said that “A whole new industry can be created here and potentially also a new export market for PNG. Just think of the obligation for developed countries to mitigate their emissions (…), in particular neighboring developed countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, which need these offsets. And that would create a whole new industry in PNG, including local communities, which would need to be retrained in good forest management, and science and academia retrained in new technologies.”. (3) (emphasis added)

This CEO must think that managing that suits forest is one in which the use of the forest is solely for the profit-making interests of the investors in the concessions, and for which the local communities need to recycle about how they should behave and live differently from their own way of coexisting and using the forest.

Similarly, albeit with much more controversy in the media, in November 2021, an agreement between the Malaysian government and Hoch Standard Ptd. Ltd., headquartered in Singapore, has granted the company more than two million hectares of rainforest as a carbon allowance in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. The plan was to expand the project to four million hectares. Under the agreement, foreign entities would have rights to these forests for the next 100 to 200 years. International consultancies Tierra Australia and Global Nature Capital also participated in the negotiations of the agreement.

The media as well as civil society organizations and groups in Sabah drew attention to the deal, so much so that in February 2022, the Sabah State Attorney General issued a press release outlining the ”Nature Conservation Agreement’ as ‘legally invalid’. However, ten days later, and despite the numerous technical impossibilities encountered when signing this agreement, Sabah’s deputy chief minister, Jeffrey Kitingan, declared that “all is well” with the agreement. (4)

An indigenous chief from Sabah reflected on this agreement and the complete lack of consideration for the indigenous groups living in these forests, “Does history repeat itself? Are we still not liberated and healed from our colonial and war histories?(5) Actually a very valid question.

Download the full Bulletin: WRM Bulletin 260

(1) Mayur Resources, Mayur Forest Carbon Leases Helped Pave the Way for Net-Zero Projects and the Opportunity to Provide High-Quality Carbon Credits for Global Carbon Markets, 2022.(2) Pacific News Services, Mayur Obtains Carbon Concessions, 2022.(3) Mayur Resources Forest Carbon Concessions Investor Webinar, January 2022.(4) REDD-Monitor, A Question to Jeffrey Kitingan, Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah: To who owns Lionsgate, the British Virgin Islands-registered company that owns all the shares of Hoch Standard?, February 2022. (5) Mongabay, Is colonial history repeating itself with Sabah’s forest carbon deal? , 2021.


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