in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Uganda

Evicted for carbon credits: New Oakland Institute report confirms forced evictions for Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda

The Oakland Institute has released a new report about the impact of Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda on local communities: “Evicted for Carbon Credits: Norway, Sweden and Finland displace Ugandan farmers for carbon traders”. The report is the Oakland Institute’s third about Green Resources, exposing the destructive impact the company’s plantations have had on local communities.

Green Resources is a Norwegian plantation and carbon offset company with plantations in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Uganda. On its website, Green Resources claims that,

Green Resource helps to contribute to climate change mitigation through the planting of trees and protection and restoration of native habitat areas. Green Resources’ projects offer premium greenhouse gas offsets. Our projects contribute to sustainable development, socio-economic development and environmental conservation in rural areas of Africa.

These claims are nonsense. Carbon offsets do not mitigate climate change. Instead, carbon offsets allow the continued burning of fossil fuels, thus accelerating climate breakdown. Plantations of exotic pine monocultures do not protect or restore native habitats. And Green Resources’ carbon offsets come at the expense of local communities’ livelihoods.

Thousands evicted

In Uganda, Green Resources has almost 12,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations. Thousands of people were evicted to make way for the plantations. People living near the plantations in Kachung Forest Reserve have lost access to land for farming, grazing, collecting food and firewood. The food security of villagers has deteriorated severely since Green Resources established its plantations.

The Oakland Institute obtained letters from Green Resources to local farmers. One of the letters, dated 23 March 2009 describes subsistence agriculture as “illegal cultivation on forest land”:

We have confirmed that you are still digging in the forest reserve where we have planted trees despite the fact that last year you pledged not to continue cultivating in the reserve.

This is to warn you to STOP the practice immediately. We shall not be held responsible for any damage on your crops during the course of our activities in the forest reserve.

Complicit: Norway, Sweden, and Finland

Green Resources has faced financial problems for many years. A May 2019 article in BistandsAktuelt reports that,

In recent years, the Norwegian financial press has repeatedly referred to Green Resources as the “forest nightmare in Africa”, and has written about “gigantic losses” and “critical lack of liquidity” – a company literally on the verge of bankruptcy.

In July 2018, the Green Resources was rescued from bankruptcy by Norfund and Finnfund (government investment companies of Norway and Finland respectively).

Norfund is now the largest shareholder in Green Resources, with 67% of shares.

Norfund is fully aware of the land grab for Green Resources’ plantations, but continues to finance Green Resources, despite the ongoing impacts on local communities.

The only buyer of Green Resources’ carbon credits from its plantations in Uganda is the Swedish Energy Agency.

The Oakland Institute points out that,

Green Resources could not operation in Kachung without the financial support it receives from the Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish governments – all complicit in this land grab.

Forest Stewardship Council fails to uphold rights

The Oakland Institute’s report also exposes the failure of three international certification bodies to expose Green Resources land grab: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the Climate Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA).

SGS Qualifor carried out the most recent FSC on-site audit of Green Resources’ Uganda plantations over three days in August 2018. Based on this audit, the certificate was renewed in May 2019.

SGS Qualifor reported that there are no “current unresolved disputes over tenure and use rights”, that “effective dispute and grievance procedures” are accepted in the community, that boundary issues have been resolved, and that there is no record of complaints in the period 2011 to 2018.

SGS Qualifor ignores the Oakland Institute’s reports about the impact of Green Resources’ plantations. It also ignores an audit commissioned in 2017 by the Swedish Energy Agency. That audit urged Green Resources to find a solution “as soon as possible” to several ongoing court cases about land ownership disputes.

Since 2008, a group of 300 villagers has been involved in court cases against Green Resources. The villagers are demanding compensation for loss of land.

SGS Qualifor claims that “no person had been displaced or evicted”. The eviction notices and letters that the Oakland Institute has released with its new report make a mockery of these claims.

In a press release, Frédéric Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, comments that,

“Based on flawed audits, the accreditation Green Resources received from the certification agencies calls into question their commitment to social and environmental standards. In the name of fighting climate change, they claim that a large-scale plantation of non-native pine trees, which are to be cut and sold as timber, is preferable to subsistence activities of African farmers. As thousands of Ugandan villagers struggle to survive after the loss of their land and natural resources to the plantation, the institutions and government agencies that enable Green Resources to operate must be held accountable for their wrongdoings and their complicity in this land grab.

“Beyond the need for accountability, that such a flawed project could run with the backing of three European governments, several international bodies, and specialized private auditing firms, raises serious questions around the true motives of these institutions as well as the purpose and the functioning of the whole carbon economy.”

 


PHOTO Credit: Screenshot from “Green at what price?”, Thomson Reuters Foundation, September 2016.
 

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