By Chris Lang
In 2014, the Oakland Institute published a report about the Norwegian company Green Resources, and the impact on communities living near the company’s industrial tree plantations in Uganda.
Green Resources sells carbon credits from its plantations in Uganda. The only buyer is the Swedish Energy Agency. In 2015, Camilla Ziedorn, a journalist with Sweden’s TV4 Kalla Fakta programme, visited Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda. On 3 November 2015, the Swedish Energy Agency announced that it was freezing future payments to Green Resources.
All of these media reports from Uganda are critical of Green Resources. But in each case, the response from Mads Asprem, CEO of Green Resources, is to deny that there’s a problem. Asprem’s green denial failed to impress everyone though. In 2016, Phaunos Timber Fund, the largest shareholder in Green Resources, sold its shares in the company.
The Oakland Institute recently published a new report about Green Resources. Written by Kristen Lyons and David Ssemwogerere, the report is titled, “Carbon colonialism: Failure of Green Resources’ carbon offset project in Uganda”. The report is based on research in Uganda between November 2016 and August 2017.
Green Resources audit
After freezing purchases of carbon credits from Green Resources, the Swedish Energy Agency commissioned a South African consulting firm, EOH Coastal and Environmental Services, to carry out an audit of Green Resources’ plantation operations in Kachung, northern Uganda. The audit is supposed to monitor how well Green Resources is implementing the Kachung Community Development Plan, which was developed in 2016 by the Swedish Energy Agency and Green Resources in an attempt to address the impacts of the company’s industrial tree plantations on local communities.
EOH Coastal and Environmental Services’ report was published in March 2017.
This wasn’t the first time the company had worked on Green Resources’ plantations. Both authors of the audit had “prior knowledge” of Green Resources’ operations, “including the Ugandan plantation”, the audit report states.
And in September 2016, EOH Coastal and Environmental Services produced a report for “an external financing party” about Green Resources’ operations in Uganda. A section of that report is cut and pasted into the audit for the Swedish Energy Agency. EOH Coastal and Environmental Services describes the media coverage of the impacts of Green Resources industrial tree plantations as “largely sensationalist and not reflective of then [sic] operational reality of Company policies and procedures in this regard, and largely ignorant of the communities understanding of these historical events”.
EOH Coastal and Environmental Services sides firmly with Green Resources. The audit explains that although the communities had grown crops and grazed livestock on the land before the arrival of Green Resources, these actions are prohibited under Ugandan forestry laws:
while the collection of fuelwood by surrounding communities in accordance with a prescribed management plan or protocol is permissible, the ongoing grazing and cropping practices within the CFR [Central Forest Reserve] is now prohibited.
In its audit, EOH Coastal and Environmental Services found Green Resources to be non-compliant in one project area of the Kachung Community Development Plan, and partially compliant in two other project areas. The Oakland Institute found Green Resources to be non-compliant in six project areas, and partially compliant in one project area.
A biased audit
Frédéric Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, told the Atlanta Black Star that,
“Our report reveals the bias of the auditors who have chosen to overlook the many flaws of the project and the continued failure of Green Resources in addressing the grievances of the communities. The auditors allow Green Resources to shirk its own responsibilities, with outcomes that violate people’s basic human rights, undermine their livelihoods, and threaten their very survival.”
The Oakland Institute’s report includes a table comparing their findings with those of EOH Coastal and Environmental Services (click on the images for larger versions):
In a statement, Kristen Lyons, lead author of the Oakland Institute’s report, and a Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute, says,
“Our field research reveals that communities surrounding the plantation face an on-going hunger crisis resulting from restrictions placed by the project on access to land, water, firewood, along with perilous working conditions for Green Resources’ workers. It is simply unacceptable that a Norwegian company seeks to extract a profit in the face of such dire conditions.”
And the Oakland Institute’s Frédéric Mousseau says,
“The industrial monoculture plantation forestry run by Green Resources at its Kachung site is incompatible with the needs of local people who rely upon the same land for their livelihoods and existence. In the wake of our latest findings, it is imperative that the Swedish Energy Agency suspend all future payments to Green Resources and cancel the deal for purchase of carbon credits. This is the only viable response in the face of the worsening impact of Green Resources on the livelihoods of local villagers in Uganda.”
The Oakland Institute’s report includes five recommendations:
- Swedish Energy Agency suspends future payments to Green Resources and cancels the deal for purchase of carbon credits.
- Development finance institutions – Norfund, the Netherlands Development Finance Company FMO and Finnfund – suspend funding to Green Resources given the company’s detrimental impact on people’s livelihoods and the environment.
- The assessments and audit systems for carbon markets must by critically evaluated and revised so that they actually take into account the livelihood and environmental impacts of forestry plantations.
- Given the role of many governments in facilitating land grabs in their own countries, international bodies and agencies involved in carbon markets must set up higher standards for the recognition of common and customary land rights than just the legality of contracts and land leases.
- Global action to establish sustainable energy futures, including rapid expansion in renewable energy options, must be promoted and supported, thereby reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent reliance on offset initiatives.