Celestial Green Ventures is a carbon trading company based in Dublin, Ireland. In November 2011, the company claimed to have “the carbon credit rights to an area of land in excess of 20 million hectares of vulnerable rainforest in the Amazon region of Brazil.” That makes it one of the biggest REDD companies in the world. Not bad for a 15-month-old company.
The company plans to get bigger. “Celestial Green Ventures is aiming to become the leading global supplier of REDD carbon credits in the Voluntary Carbon Market,” states a company brochure. In a Celestial Green Ventures promotional video, Conor Barry, Commercial Director at Celestial Green Ventures, explains that as the company expands, it is aiming for an area of 35 million hectares in Brazil. “But also, we will look to expand our operating business model into other economies which are rainforest populated,” he adds. Barry further explains that,
“We’ve managed to produce project design documents across a number of the projects. Now is the crux of the selling period. You are proving to the market that you have the ability, a) to generate and credits, and b) to sell the credits.”
Ciaran Kelly, CEO of Celestial Green Ventures, says that,
“We continuously produce very credible high quality carbon offsets at a reasonable price. Anybody who wants to voluntarily offset their carbon footprint, that they can come to us and know that it’s a very credible transparent and there’s a lot of social and economic benefits coming from that to the people in the project areas.”
But a recent report on the Brazilian not-for-profit investigative journalism website Pública suggests that things may be a little more complicated than the company’s promotional material suggests. Celestial Green Ventures has signed a contract with the Munduruku Indians in Para, under which the company will pay the Indians US$4 million a year for 30 years for the right to trade carbon credits from the Munduruku’s 2.3 million hectares of forest.
A meeting took place between João Borges de Andrade of Celestial Green Ventures and the Munduruku Indians on 12 September 2011. A nun, Sister Isaldete Almeida, wrote an account of the meeting. From her description the meeting didn’t go entirely as Celestial Green Ventures might have hoped. Many of the Indians were dressed in war paint. They banged their bows and arrows on the table. They explained that they did not want this company on their land and if it did come, they would fight it. Although nothing was signed at the meeting, the Indians found out later than four of the Munduruku had signed without getting the agreement of the whole community.
No one from FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s National Indian Foundation, was present at the meeting.
The contract forbids any changes to the forest:
“The owner undertakes not to carry out any works in the contract area, or other activity that might affect the quality of carbon sequestered or contribute in any way to adversely affect the company’s image or the project.”
The Pública article, questions whether the contract is legally binding. “It’s totally illegal,” says João Camerini, a lawyer with the NGO Terra de Direitos. “The company stands as the owner of natural resources and assigns the right to enter, whenever you want to monitor. In some clauses it wants to take over the role of the state.”
Celestial Green Ventures claims on its website to have spent the last three years working in Brazil, where it now has a total of 17 projects. In November 2011, the company’s website listed five people working in Brazil. None of them has a background in forestry. (That part of the company’s website has currently been taken down to be replaced by an “under construction” sign.) The company is also involved in negotiations in Panama, Asia, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea and China.
Celestial Green Ventures was founded by Ciaran Kelly, a former mining executive. According to the most recent Annual Return (26 May 2011), Kelly owns a total of US$5.5 million shares in Celestial Green Ventures. The company is majority owned by Kelly and the company’s chairman, Dieter Huhn. The company is listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, but hasn’t seen any recent trading in its shares. When the company listed in Frankfurt, it produced a prospectus claiming that Celestial Green Ventures could generate profits of more than US$600 million over the next five years.
In June 2011, Celestial Green Ventures forward sold one million uncertified, voluntary carbon credits to a London-based company called Industry RE. Industry RE’s managing director, Ian Hamilton, told Point Carbon News that buyers of the credits include a Coca-Cola subsidiary in the Middle East and a unit of Japanese electronics giant Canon. An Industry RE brochure about Celestial Green Ventures’ carbon credits explains that the minimum investment is “£20,250 for 2,700 VER [voluntary emissions reductions] Carbon Credits”.
The credits come from Celestial Green Ventures’ 1.3 million hectare Borba project in Brazil. In a press release, Industry RE and Celestial Green Ventures claim that,
“The credits sold from the Celestial Green Borba project will meet the highest standards and include conservation, biodiversity and socio-economic benefits, thus ensuring that IndustryRE provides high quality, transparent and ethically acceptable offsets to its clients.”
In fact, the standard that Celestial Green Ventures is planning to use has not yet been developed. According to the company’s brochure, which is dated 7 November 2011, Celestial Green Venture has, “Engaged with the Ecosystem Certification Organisation Natural Forest Standard for the validation and verification of their carbon credit projects.” Ecosystem Certification Organisation is a small company based in Eastbourne, UK and was formed in June 2011.
The “Natural Forest Standard” is being developed in conjunction with Ecometrica. In October 2011, Ecometrica produced a discussion paper about a tool called the Normative Biodiversity Metric (NBM). At the end of the paper, the author, Ecometrica’s David Jarrett, explains that,
“The NBM is being incorporated into a new carbon sequestration project standard – the ECO Natural Forest Standard, being developed by ECO Standard and Celestial Green Ventures for REDD+ compliant carbon sequestration schemes in the Amazon rainforest. The NBM will be used to assess the biodiversity value of the forests from which the carbon credits originate.”
The Natural Forest Standard, it seems, hasn’t got much further than a series of bullet points. Meanwhile, at least one million of Celestial Green Venture’s carbon credits, worth £7.5 million, are already on the market via Industry RE.