in Brazil, USA

A strange letter from Brasil Mata Viva to the California Air Resources Board

In September 2018, the California Air Resources Board released a draft California Tropical Forest Standard and a Draft Environmental Analysis. The California Air Resources Board invited comments on the Environmental Analysis by 5 pm on 29 October 2018.

A public meeting took place on 15 November 2018, and the California’s Air Resources Board decided to postpone a decision on the Tropical Forest Standard until April 2019.

A strange letter from Brasil Mata Viva

This post is about two of the comments received by the California Air Resources Board (click on the images to read the pdf files):

Both both appear to come from the state of Amapá in Brazil, one from Antônio Waldez Góes da Silva, the Governor of Amapá, and the other from Eduardo Corrêa Tavares, secretary of state and budget Amapá, and Maria Tereza Umbelino de Souza, CEO of a company called Brasil Mata Viva.

Both of the letters include a two-page standard letter that several states in Brazil and Mexico sent to the California Air Resources Board.

But the second letter also includes 11 pages from the State of Amapá “in partnership with BMTCA Ativos Ambientais S/A, a Brazilian limited liability company (‘Brazil Mata Viva’ or ‘BMV’)”.

Carvier and Brasil Mata Viva: “3 million units available from Brazil”

Brasil Mata Viva previously appeared on REDD-Monitor in June 2012, when a London-based company called Carvier Limited advertised three million “Sustainable Credit Units”.

Carvier’s website boasted that, “At Carvier, we pride ourselves on being one of only 2 companies that have access to the BMV standard. The BMV standard is a brand new methodology to offset emissions.”

In May 2013, the UK Insolvency Service put out a press release under the headline “Dodgy carbon credit company terminated by the Insolvency Service”:

Carvier Limited, a London-based company that marketed carbon credits to the public – and is linked with Tullett Brown Limited and Foxstone Carr Limited, both previously shut down for being rip-off merchants – has been wound up following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

Just because a scam company in London tried to sell BMV’s “sustainable credit units” as investments, does not necessarily mean that BMV is a scam.

In the early 2010s, a large number of boiler room companies were selling carbon credits to retail investors. The companies bought voluntary or compliance credits cheaply and sold them at a hugely inflated price, promising investors that the price was only going to increase.

Although the carbon credits were in many cases genuine, there was no secondary market, and in any case carbon credits are a wasting asset – carbon credits are not suitable for retail investors because the value of individual carbon credits declines over time.

BMV’s letter to the California Air Resources Board

So, let’s take a look at what BMV says in its letter to California’s Air Resources Board about its partnership with the state of Amapá.

The letter mentions the “Programa Tesouro Verde Amapá” (the Amapá Green Treasure Program), which BMV claims is a jurisdictional programme that meets the California Tropical Forest Standard.

The letter also states that,

BMTCA Ativos Ambientas S/A is the intellectual property owner, manager and operator of an electronic exchange platform which provides a secure (blockchain based) system of issuing Forest Credits based on its proprietary methodology for calculating Sustainable Credit Units (“USC”).

BMTCA’s website claims that “The methodology of the Brasil Mata Viva Programme guarantees the protection of 500,000 hectares of native forest, which has already generated 1 billion forest credits.”

That one billion forest credits is from Brasil Mata Viva’s existing projects – before any credits are generated from the state of Amapá.

Brasil Mata Viva’s dubious claims

BMV’s letter to the California Air Resources Board includes an “example of a certificate”:

The issue date on the certificate is 4 September 2017. BMV states the following on the certificate:

THE PRODUCT is quantified in UCS (unit of sustainable credit) and valued through methodologies tested by Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” – UNESP and verified by TÜV Rheinland…

In February 2015, UNESP posted a note on its website stating that, contrary to statements on Brasil Mata Viva’s website, “UNESP does not perform certification actions aimed at environmental, social and economic results”. A methodology was developed by two professors at UNESP that aims to assess and validate the quantification of stored carbon in forests, but added that this, “should not be confused with the quantification of carbon credits”.

REDD-Monitor contacted TÜV Rheinland Group to ask about BMV’s use of TÜV Rheinland’s logo and whether TÜV Rheinland actually carries out verification and certification for BMV (or has done so in the past). A spokesperson for TÜV Rheinland replied,

“TÜV Rheinland has not ceded the use of its logo to BMV, only the use of the Verification Report and Verification Statement. This agreement expired 7 years ago. We are going to notify BMV to stop using our logo immediately.”

Is Julian Turnbull Brasil Mata Viva’s custodian and transaction facilitator?

BMV’s letter to the California Air Resources Board included the graphic below, which was at that time also available on the company’s website:

The “registry process” is described on BMV’s website as follows:

“The role of Custodian and Transaction Facilitator (Escrow Services) is played by Julian Turnbull partner Shakespeare Martineau. This company has the consent of the English Financial System for safe-keeping and harbouring the exchange processes between BMV buyers and financial Partners, through the specialised services that it is authorized to provide, offering what is known as Full Escrow Facilities, under the supervision of Solicitor, Mr. Julian Turnbull.

“Thereinafter, the UCS [Sustainable Credit Unit] securities are under the guardianship of Julian Turnbull partner Shakespeare Martineau, which issues the respective custody documents, making the credits fully fit and ready to be traded within the UK Financial System, both in terms of legal and banking aspects. The function of Julian Turnbull partner Shakespeare Martineau is to ensure the quality, accountability and responsibility of both the values embedded in each UCS Title and the capital required for the mobilization to buy these securities.”

Turnbull is a director at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau. He was previously a partner at Macrae & Co, which merged with Shakespeare Martineau in December 2015.

Turnbull is also director of a UK registered company called BMTCA LLP. Maria Tereza Umbelino de Souza is also a director. She is variously described as the coordinator or the CEO of BMV.

I wrote to Julian Turnbull on 13 November 2018, with the following questions:

  1. Could you please explain what role you and your company plays regarding BMV’s “certificates”.
  2. Please confirm that the statement on BMV’s website about the registry process is an accurate description of your role. If so, please describe what actions you take to “ensure the quality, accountability and responsibility of … the values embedded in each UCS Title”.
  3. How many UCS securities have been transferred so far, and how much money has changed hands?
  4. Has Shakespeare Martineau given permission to BMV for the use of the use of your name and your company’s name, on its website and on the example certificate above?

Turnbull did not reply.

Ten days later, I noticed that the graphic featuring Turnbull and Shakespeare Martineau had been removed from BMV’s website.

I sent the questions again to Turnbull and asked him to confirm whether he had been in touch with BMV to ask for the graphic (and his company name) to be removed from the website.

Turnbull did not reply.

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