In June 2013, two potential buyers of carbon credits from the Oddar Meanchey REDD project walked away after the government failed to meet a deadline to sign off on the carbon credit deal. Earlier this month, Voice of America reported that the project is “up and running”.
Without sales of carbon credits, the project is running out of funding. Since 2009, the NGO Pact has been the implementing partner for the project, but in its April-June 2013 Oddar Meanchey Quarterly, Pact announced that,
Future newsletters from Pact will be contingent on continued funding. Pact hopes the FA [Forestry Administration] will take the necessary and urgent action to allow the continuation of the OM CF [Oddar Meanchey Community Forestry] REDD+ project into the future, with Pact as Implementing Partner, welcoming the first REDD+ credit funds into Cambodia and setting a precedent for other REDD+ projects.
Funding for Pact’s involvement in the project ended last year. “We’ve not been able to do much to support the project since then, while the needs of the community forests are critical,” Sarah Sitts, country manager for Pact Cambodia, told Voice of America.
It’s not exactly clear what has changed to merit Voice of America’s statement that the project is now “up and running”. Voice of America reports Sitts as saying that,
the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry administration has so far not agreed to any sales “in a timely manner,” which means the project has not been able to take advantage of its potential… However, the administration has agreed to future sales, at a certain price threshold.
Leslie Durschinger is the managing director for Terra Global Capital, the US-based company that is marketing carbon credits from Oddar Meanchey. She told Voice of America that the project has 600,000 carbon credits, available for sale at between US$7 to US$9 each. The Oddar Meanchey project aims to help protect 13 community forests covering a total area of 68,000 hectares, by selling carbon credits. But so far, Terra Global Capital has not sold any credits from the Oddar Meanchey project.
In April 2013, Microsoft announced that it was “investing in” the Oddar Meanchey project. It’s difficult to tell whether this is an announcement of future funding or existing funding (not least because of the grammatical mistakes):
Projects we’re investing in like the Oddar Meanchey forest protection project in Cambodia works with local communities to halt deforestation and protect an area of 56,000 hectares of tropical forest.
In June 2013, the Cambodia Daily reported that two “private buyers” of carbon credits had walked away from the project. Microsoft was presumably one of these companies.
Deforestation continues in and around the community forests in Oddar Meanchey province. Threats include people moving into the area, large scale economic land concessions and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Last week, the Cambodia Daily reported that villagers from Banteay Ampil district found five armed Cambodian soldiers bulldozing their community forest. The community forest is part of the Oddar Meanchey REDD project.
The army is bulldozing forest near the border with Thailand to make way for a series of new outposts. Lieutenant Colonel Khat Sokha, a deputy commander with RCAF’s Engineering Brigade 716, told the Cambodia Daily, that,
“I came here to work for the sake of the country. My superiors gave me this job [to clear the forest] so that we will be ready for battle.”
It’s perhaps surprising that the Cambodian army is preparing for a battle on the border with Thailand when the two countries are not at war. (In recent years a long running dispute about the Preah Vihear Temple flared up again – Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey are neighbouring provinces. But the dispute was resolved in November 2013, by an International Court of Justice ruling in the Hague which said that Cambodia had sovereignty over the temple and that Thailand had to withdraw troops. Meanwhile Thailand is facing yet another of its regular political meltdowns and Cambodia has its own political problems.)
The ongoing deforestation in Oddar Meanchey province is illustrated in the maps below. The top map is from a global forest mapping study by the University of Maryland showing deforestation in 2012 in red and since 2000 in yellow. The bottom map is from a project brochure and shows the community forest areas in red:
I’ve sent the following questions about the project to Pact, Terra Global Capital, and Microsoft. The answers will be posted on REDD-Monitor in due course:
- With hindsight, wouldn’t it have been better not to rely on sales of carbon credits to fund this project?
- Have you attempted to raise long-term funding for the Oddar Meanchey project other than through sales of carbon credits?
- Have villagers received any income from the project?
- If Pact is successful in raising funding for this project (whether it comes from carbon credits or elsewhere) how do you intend to stop the Cambodian military from continuing to bulldoze the community forests?
- Wouldn’t the project have been cheaper (and perhaps more successful) if it had focussed from the beginning on addressing the threats to the forest, rather than focussing on the carbon stored in the forest in order to generate carbon credits?
Terra Global Capital:
- How can you sell carbon credits from a project where the Cambodian army is destroying the forest?
- How do you address leakage – the fact that deforestation in the province of Oddar Meanchey is continuing, outside the REDD project in community forest areas?
UPDATE – 28 January 2014: Terra Global Capital’s response is here.
- In May 2013, Microsoft announced that it was “investing in” projects like the Oddar Meanchey project. It seems that this “investment” was based on buying carbon credits from the project but, according to the Cambodia Daily, no carbon credits have so far been sold from the project. Rather than buying carbon credits, why doesn’t Microsoft just provide (much needed) funding for the project?
PHOTO Credit: Code REDD. (Predictably, Code REDD’s page about Oddar Meanchey makes no mention of any of the problems the project faces, instead informing us that “Terra’s in-house, multidisciplinary team provides an end-to-end solution for the development of land use carbon projects of the highest quality.”)