By Chris Lang
The Australian carbon trading company Shift2Neutral aims to become “the leading neutraliser of carbon emissions in the world”. The company appeared to come closer realising its aim this week when Reuters reported that Shift2Neutral “signed a deal aimed at protecting tropical forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as boosting renewable energy there”.
If true, this would be by far the biggest REDD-type deal between a private company and a government. But is the deal really what it appears to be? As with other Shift2Neutral announcements, little information about the DR Congo deal is publicly available. REDD-Monitor has asked a series of questions to Brett Goldsworthy, chairman of Shift2Neutral, and looks forward to posting his response.
Until then, we have an article by Reuters journalist David Fogarty, and a press release from Shift2Neutral, dated 24 August 2010 (see below). Fogarty’s only source for his article seems to be an interview with Shift2Neutral’s Brett Goldsworthy. Let’s see what Goldsworthy says about the deal.
According to the Reuters article,
“Shift2Neutral and its partners would help value the carbon storage from forest and land protection, certify carbon related services to communities in the DRC and help sell certified carbon offsets.
“It had signed the deal with the national government as well as state governments and local tribal chiefs and landowners after more than a year of negotiations, the firm’s chairman, Brett Goldsworthy, said.”
Shift2Neutral’s press release states that the contract was signed, not with the “national government” as Reuters reports, but with the “spokesperson of the senate”:
“Shift2Neutral and its partners sign an exclusive environmental contract with the Democratic Republic of the Congo through its Provinces, Tribal Chiefs, Land Owners and the spokesperson of the senate has signed a progressive (step by step) agreement with Shift2Neutral for environment and renewable energy to protect the forests, flora and fauna and improve the standard of living to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
(As an aside, it’s worth noting how badly written this is, particularly given the size of the deal. Part of the press release was cut and pasted from Avoided Deforestation Partners’ website – text coloured blue, below. Surely, at some point during “more than a year of negotiations”, Shift2Neutral had time to work on a well written press release?)
It appears that two separate signings took place:
- Shift2Neutral and its partners (whoever they are) signed an “environmental contract” with the Democratic Republic of the Congo through its Provinces, Tribal Chiefs and Land Owners.
- The spokesperson of the senate signed an agreement with Shift2Neutral. This agreement is “progressive” (step by step) for “environment and renewable energy”.
The agreement, will, according to Shift2Neutral’s press release,
“extend to all the stakeholders of the vast Congolese (Democratic Republic) territory (2,345,000 square km) as progressively through the process and advantages of the project for their urban and rural populations.”
Reuters explains that,
“The deal covers the whole country and is aimed at sourcing carbon offsets from saving forests and reforestation programmes as well as deploying renewable energy such as solar.
“‘It’s the entire nation that we’re working toward but at the moment we’re taking it state by state, piece by piece,’ Goldsworthy told Reuters.
So, a small Australian carbon trading firm, with no experience in managing forest projects (apart from three small REDD-type projects in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, about which details are sketchy, to put it mildly) has signed a deal with as yet unknown people in a country covering an area the size of Western Europe. Road transport from one end of the country to the other is simply impossible. Despite a 2003 peace deal, the UN maintains a US$1.35 billion per year peace keeping mission in DR Congo. On the same day that Shift2Neutral put out its press release, the Guardian reported a horrific story of nearly 200 women and four baby boys who had been gang-raped by Rwandan and Congolese rebels in eastern DR Congo.
“Nothing can ever be guaranteed in a case of a potential war zone,” Goldsworthy told Reuters, with perhaps just a little too much understatement. Reuters reported Goldsworthy as saying that Shift2Neutral “had won the backing of senior government officials and leading figures in the African business community and that this would help mitigate some of the risk of working in a country riddled with violence and corruption.”
No names of anyone from DR Congo appear in either Shift2Neutral’s press release or in the Reuters article. Three days after Shift2Neutral’s press release, the deal has been reported nowhere except the Reuters article. As far as I can tell, no government minister has commented. DR Congo is one of the UN-REDD’s pilot countries, yet there is no mention of Shift2Neutral on the UN-REDD website. DR Congo’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature and Tourism produced a final version of its Readiness Plan for REDD in July 2010 under the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and UN-REDD programme.* Perhaps surprisingly, there is no mention of Shift2Neutral’s “more than a year of negotiations” in that 153-page report. Neither is there any mention of Shift2Neutral.
* UPDATE – 27 August 2010: The original version did not acknowledge that the Readiness Plan for DR Congo was carried out under the FCPF and UN-REDD. Thanks to Wahida for pointing this out.
Shift2Neutral Press Release, 24 August 2010
Shift2Neutral and its partners sign an exclusive environmental contract with the Democratic Republic of the Congo through its Provinces, Tribal Chiefs, Land Owners and the spokesperson of the senate has signed a progressive (step by step) agreement with Shift2Neutral for environment and renewable energy to protect the forests, flora and fauna and improve the standard of living to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This agreement will extend to all the stakeholders of the vast Congolese (Democratic Republic) territory (2,345,000 square km) as progressively through the process and advantages of the project for their urban and rural populations.
The Democratic Republic Congo is at the heart of the west-central portion of Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country straddles the Equator, and is 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi).
The Democratic Republic of Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation with the annual rainfall upwards of 80 inches (2,000 mm) in some places, and the area sustains the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of jungle covers most of the low-lying central basin of the river. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north with high, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.
The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region and forms the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. The river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a 45 km wide strip of land on its north bank provide the country’s only outlet to the Atlantic.
* Provide a complete study of various financing mechanisms for forest management in DRC.
* Examine and provide systems that compensate the DRC in the area for carbon sequestration and storage resulting from forest Afforestation and reforestation.
* Provide sustainable financing of forest management strategies.
* Value the carbon storage and sequestration attributed to the work of forest and land protection.
* Will certify and verify carbon related services provided by communities in DRC.
* Provide its findings to the regulatory government agencies for endorsement and permitting procedures for carbon sequestration and storage implementation.
* Generate the volume of carbon currently being sequestered and stored in DRC.
* Provide a detailed list of groups wishing to acquire the certified and verified carbon credits.
* Provide the sale of such certified and verified carbon credits on behalf of the DRC:
Key Drivers For the Democratic Republic of the Congo Provinces, Tribal Chiefs, and Land Owners and Shift2Neutral.
The protection of natural land and forests in the DRC, to cease the decline in the environment at local, and national levels. The cutting and burning of trees and the loss of surface soils rich in humus has resulted in the release of carbon into the atmosphere contributing to green house gases and accelerating global warming.
Shift2Neutral believes that linking people’s economic self-interest and the health of ecosystems is one of the most promising ways to garner interest in the conservation challenges facing the DRC society today.
The moment has now come for Governments and the private sector to put their strengths to work in ways that will permanently halt unsustainable deforestation and allow the global society to protect the ecosystems on which we all depend. Shift2Neutral and our partners believe this can be achieved with real benefits to local DRC stakeholders. In achieving these goals we must recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and the local communities involved.
The cutting of forests releases billions of tons of greenhouse gases (from carbon stored in trees, plants and soils) into the atmosphere. Roughly 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation. By comparison, the entire global transportation sector is responsible for roughly 14% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Regardless of the international and national policies in place, deforestation cannot be combated effectively unless local landowners and residents have more reason to protect forest ecosystems than they have to destroy them.
Only by recognizing that the land and forest conservation efforts of the private, public and social sectors all depend on millions of land-use decisions made at the local level, can we craft an international avoided deforestation strategy capable of making the all-important transition from policy to practice. With Avoided Deforestation policies we must pay particular regard to community rights, social and livelihood issues. Local communities must have significant input if policies are to succeed.
The DRC has many areas which have been damaged by the removal of fauna and forests, Shift2Neutral will work with all stakeholders to ensure the success of local projects by restocking of existing forests and woodlands which have been depleted. Reforestation will be used to improve the quality of human life by soaking up pollution and dust from the air, rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems, mitigate global warming since forests facilitate biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In some area of the DRC, the forests need help to reestablish themselves because of environmental factors such as landslides which are causing many issues for local stakeholders.
Shift2Neutral will turn large amounts of waste into energy.
The primary aim of Pyrolysis is to reduce landfill and emissions associated with waste disposal, our latest technology allows the energy created to be reapplied to an towns grid by running generators and being self sufficient on energy required. The energy is created by the waste itself and is therefore perpetual and sustainable.
Shift2Neutral technology focuses on the removal of contaminates from water, via our dedicated filtration systems.
Clean water will reduce the levels of sickness and typical waste water issues in a country such as the DRC.
Solar and Thermal Energy
Solar and Thermal Energy, one of the oldest alternative energies in the world, and will be implemented in various areas through out the DRC. Our solar projects aim to reduce the cost of creating solar panels and re-energise the industry which provide energy to remote areas.
Shift2Neutral Thermal devices capture heat as well as solar energy and have proven to be useful in countries like the DRC to generate efficient, renewable, stored power.
Ultimately August 2010 will see Shift2Neutral and its partners move forward on its exclusive environment contract in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Shift2Neutral will move through the DRC’s Provinces, meeting Government groups, Tribal Chiefs, Land Owners and the spokesperson of the senate who signed the progressive (step by step) agreement with Shift2Neutral for environment and renewable energy and ultimately to protect the forests, flora and fauna and improve the standard of living to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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