in Indonesia, Republic of Congo

Some questions for Dorjee Sun about the Ulu Masen REDD project

Last year I wrote a series of posts about the Ulu Masen REDD project, based on interviews with NGOs and indigenous leaders in Aceh. Missing from the story is Dorjee Sun’s version of events.

Dorjee Sun is the CEO of Carbon Conservation, the company that was supposed to be implementing the Ulu Masen REDD project. When I visited Aceh, with Down to Earth and Jaringan Komunitas Masyarakat Adat Aceh (Network of Indigenous Communities in Aceh – JKMA), there was little to been seen of any REDD project. “We’ve never seen anything from REDD. It’s like the wind. We can’t see it, can’t touch it,” Anwar Ibrahim, an indigenous leader told us.

In December 2013, I sent some questions to Dorjee Sun in an attempt to find out what happened to the money that Carbon Conservation raised to implement the Ulu Masen project and whether the project has in fact now been abandoned.

Sun talks about the Ulu Masen REDD project as one of his success stories. Here he is speaking at the Nexus Global Youth Summit in New York, in July 2013:

I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started eight companies, done three exits. We would then facilitate at the time the biggest rainforest transaction. We managed to get US$9 million to US$432 million from Merrill Lynch to protect a forest in Indonesia, that was 2008.
We managed to get Rio Tinto, the biggest mining company in the world, to invest US$4 million to protect a forest in Australia, it’s six years, seventh year this year, every year we have satellites taking photos, protecting the forest it’s a 99-year product, project, so my grandchildren, with luck, will hopefully still see these forests that we were able to enact.
And we also have a project in Congo, which has five thousand gorillas, and this is with a US$5 billion commodities trading company out of Singapore, where we will protect it for 30 years and we will be selling carbon credits which will be protecting forest with gorillas in it.
And so this entire journey, the last six years in the ups and the downs, the carbon market has collapsed, they found US$4 billion of gold under our rainforest in Indonesia, there’s just been a crazy cavalcade, including we made front cover of Time magazine, front cover of the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine hero of the environment, all of these awards…

(The project in the Republic of Congo that Sun mentions is with Olam International, a company that Greenpeace has described as a “Congo-trashing company”.)

Sun has, so far, not replied to my questions. I’ve re-sent them today. If Sun were to reply, REDD-Monitor would, of course, be happy to post his response in full.

From: Chris Lang
Date: 18 December 2013 18:19
Subject: Some questions about Ulu Masen
To: Dorjee Sun

Dear Dorjee,

My name is Chris Lang and run a website called At the end of last year I visited Aceh to take a look at the Ulu Masen REDD project. While I was there, I spoke to several NGOs, community representatives and indigenous peoples’ representatives.

I would be grateful if you could answer some questions about the project. I’ll post the interview in full on REDD-Monitor and will send you a final draft for any edits to your answers before posting the interview.

1. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in May 2013, you spoke as if the Ulu Masen project was still on-going. “In the forests that we were working to conserve, we are working to conserve …”, you said. What is the current status of the Ulu Masen project? Has the Ulu Masen REDD project in fact been abandoned?

2. Could you please describe briefly the history of the project and where things went wrong.

3. In 2008, Merrill Lynch promised to buy US$9 million worth of carbon credits from Ulu Masen. My understanding is that five years later, no carbon credits have been generated from Ulu Masen. Did Merrill Lynch pay any money towards the project? What is the current status of the deal with Merrill Lynch?

4. Why has the project not been able to generate any carbon credits?

5. In June 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “Jeff Carmichael, a businessman and foundation chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, has a ‘seven-figure sum’ invested in Sun’s project.” What happened to this money? Did you spend the money in Aceh, and if so, on what?

6. In 2011, East Asia Minerals bought 50% of your company, Carbon Conservation. Was the money your company made from this deal spent in Aceh, and if so, on what? Does East Asia Minerals still own 50% of Carbon Conservation?

7. In the May 2013 interview you say you have “no regrets” about getting in bed with East Asia Minerals. You were paid partly with 2,584,210 shares in East Asia Minerals – at the time these were worth around Canadian $5 each, but the share price is currently $0.035. You therefore have an interest in East Asia Mineral’s mining project going ahead (assuming this would increase the share price). If the mining project went ahead, would the Ulu Masen REDD project be restarted?

8. East Asia Minerals has a new CEO, Ed Rochette, since the deal with Carbon Conservation. What guarantee do you have that Rochette will comply with your plan to save 99% of the forest? Is there a project design document for this plan and/or a contract with East Asia Minerals?

9. Please describe the process of free, prior and informed consent carried out during the development of the project. Did Fauna and Flora International carry out this work, or Carbon Conservation?

10. What do you think are the lessons to be learned from the Ulu Masen project?

11. What do you see in the future for the Ulu Masen REDD project, and for the people and forests of Ulu Masen?

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards, Chris Lang

Leave a Reply

  1. Dear Chris Lang,
    I would be very much interested in replies from Carbon Conservation, i.e. Dorjee Sun on the first 4 questions mentioned above. I was a programme director for FFI’s part of the WB funded AFEP programme from the beginnning of 2008 to mid 2009. FFI was very proud in those days to be involved in the Ulu Masen REDD project when Dorjee Sun with his company showed keen interest to broker promising deals on carbon credits. Merrill Lynch came in the picture and promised to buy US$9 million worth of carbon credits from Ulu Masen. FFI has made an effort to design mechanisms to make the REDD project work. Since about 2012 it looks to me that there is a mysterious silence about progress and impact if any. The Ulu Masen REDD project seems to have gone up in thin air and I still regret all the efforts we put into it and feel sorry for all those intended beneficiaries who are apparently left with nothing,
    Best wishes,

  2. Does FFI still work in Ula Masen? Any news on the East Asia Minerals mining project or the spatial rezoning plan for Aceh?

  3. Has there been a response to your questions yet. Just saw the doc. The Burning Season and it made wonder of D. Sun did any of his wonderful promises.

  4. @Amir karat – No, I’m afraid Dorjee Sun has not (yet!) replied to my questions. I’ve written several articles about Ulu Masen, collected here. When I visited the area in December 2012, there was no Ulu Masen REDD project.