By Chris Lang
The Swedish Energy Agency has cancelled its contract to buy carbon credits from Green Resources. The Swedish Energy Agency has finally recognised the impacts that Green Resources’ industrial tree plantations have on local communities in Kachung in Uganda.
The Swedish Energy Agency’s decision followed a field visit to Kachung. According to a report by Development Today, Swedish Energy Agency’s staff found “villagers were deprived of vital resources and experienced threats and violence, and there is a lack of clarity regarding ownership in the reserve.”
Development Today’s editor, Bjørn H Amland writes on Twitter that an “on-going law suit over land in Uganda was a dealbreaker”.
Green Resources is a Norwegian company, founded in 1995. On its website, the company claims to be “a sustainable forestry company aiming at growing plantation forests across East Africa in a sustainable and socially just manner”. The company’s plantations generate carbon credits and timber products.
Two decades of criticism of Green Resources
At the time the company was called Tree Farms. In Uganda, NorWatch found that:
- Tree Farms had leased the land from the Ugandan authorities for a bargain price.
- To make way for Tree Farms’ plantations about 8,000 people, mainly farmers and fishermen, were evicted from the company’s areas and thus deprived of their livelihoods.
- Tree Farms is exploiting farmers by using their unpaid labour to clear and prepare the land that is to be planted.
- Farmers destroyed some of the plantations, and termites attacked the trees. As a result the plantations were poor quality.
- Tree Farms stood to make large profits from the sale of carbon credits from the tree plantations, but Uganda will receive little.
- The amount of CO2 that would be stored by the tree plantations was extremely uncertain.
The Darker Side of Green
In 2014, the Oakland Institute published a report titled, “The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda”. The report exposed Green Resources’ claims of sustainable forestry as a myth.
When Mats Asprem, then-CEO of Green Resources responded to the Oakland Institute’s report claiming that everything was fine, the Oakland Institute replied in detail, countering Asprem’s claims.
In 2015, Sweden’s TV4 Kalla Fakta programme visited the plantations in Uganda. This documentary is well worth watching and highlighted the Swedish Energy Agency’s greenwashing of Green Resources’ destructive plantations.
After the programme was broadcast in Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency announced that is was suspending payments to Green Resources.
In 2016, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Yle, visited Green Resources plantations in Kachung. Also in 2016, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on the impacts of Green Resources’ plantations on local communities’ livelihoods.
The Oakland Institute published two more reports about Green Resources’ plantations. In August 2019, Oakland Institute published a report that included the eviction notices served to farmers in Kachung. Six months later, the Swedish Energy Agency has terminated its agreement with Green Resources.
In a statement, Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, comments that,
“Despite solid evidence and documentation, Green Resources and its financiers, including the SEA, callously, not only turned a blind eye to the victims of their ‘green’ fraud, but also dismissed our findings. If they had paid heed to the concerns raised in 2014 — which should have been obvious to the SEA if due diligence had been done from the get go — Green Resources could not have gotten away with causing hunger, displacement, and distress amongst the population of 17 villages for this long.”
The Oakland Institute is calling for Green Resources and its financial backers to be held responsible. In 2012, the Finnish public investment fund Finnfund gave Green Resources an investment loan of US$10 million. In total Finnfund and Norway’s Norfund have financed the company with more than US$62.5 million.
The Oakland Institute states that,
The protracted misery inflicted on Kachung’s communities can only be rightfully addressed with the immediate end of this devastating project, so that they can reclaim their land and livelihoods.
The Forest Stewardship Council is also complicit
Green Resources’ plantations in Uganda have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council since 2011. Obviously, this should not come as a surprise given two elephants in the room:
- the conflict of interest at the heart of the FSC system (FSC’s assessors are paid by the company looking to get certified); and
- FSC’s appalling record of certifying some of the most destructive industrial tree plantation operations on the planet.
The Oakland Institute’s Mittal concludes that,
“Land grabbing from Ugandan villagers to set up non-native pine plantations is a false climate solution, designed to allow polluters in Northern countries to continue with business as usual.”
PHOTO Credit: Green Resources plantation, Kristen Lyons, 2013.