By Chris Lang
Nigel Farage, former leader of the Brexit Party, has joined the advisory board of Dutch Green Business Group N.V. In a press release DGB Group states that,
As advisor and general council to the Board of Directors, Nigel’s role is to facilitate introductions to politicians and business leaders in the UK and around the world. Acting as a spokesperson for the business Nigel will help in bringing DGB’s focus on promoting nature conservation utilising innovative carbon offsetting schemes to the attention of the public, investors, governments and other stakeholders.
Carbonballs is an occasional series on REDD-Monitor, featuring the howlers made by carbon cowboys and so-called environmental leaders. Obviously, Nigel Farage, former leader of the Brexit Party, isn’t an environmental leader.
In a 2015 interview with Spiked online he said, “I haven’t got a clue whether climate change is being driven by carbon-dioxide emissions.” He has also criticised Greta Thunberg for “alarmism”.
Farage is fond of tree planting though. Here’s a short clip of him listening with approval to Donald Trump announcing his support for the Trillion Trees Initiative in Davos 2020:
Nigel Farage, carbon offset lobbyist
On 28 March 2021, Farage tweeted a short video of him talking to Selwyn Duijvestijn, Chief Executive of DGB Group. “We need to take back the environmental agenda from the climate extremists,” he wrote:
“Big announcement this week about Sierra Leone,” Farage says. “What does it mean, how’s the market reacting to it?”
Duijvestijn replies as follows:
“Well the market reacted amazingly, because this is the first project we’re undertaking as DGB. The whole business model for DGB is that, one, we do a project where we reforest earth, or we protect existing environments or ecosystems. Step two is the whole verification process. There needs to be transparency in this sector so people can actually verify that trees are planted and ecosystems are protected. Step three would be the selling of the carbon credits.”
Duijvestijn says that DGB will “buy 128,000 tons of carbon offsetting emissions”. He says, “with this first project, we’re planting 3.4 million trees”.
Duijvestijn adds that,
“Our carbon emissions offsets, they are verified. They are verified by the Verified Carbon Standard, so you are very sure as an investor, or as a person who wants to just plant one tree, that it’s verified, everything is checked.”
The share price of DGB Group did increase following the announcement that Farage was joining the company, but it has since fallen:
The Sierra Leone project
On 22 March 2021, DGB Group put out a press release announcing that it was going to buy 128,000 carbon offsets from a company called Miro Forestry. The press release states that,
Dutch Green Business Group N.V. (Euronext: DGB, “DGB” or “the Group”) announces today it has signed a letter of agreement with South Pole, a leading advisor and provider of global climate services, to invest in the Miro Sustainable Plantation project in northern Sierra Leone, West-Africa’s largest sustainable forestry company.
Miro Forestry runs an industrial tree plantation in Sierra Leone. The company has leased more than 21,000 hectares of what it describes as “flat and fertile land” from local communities in the Tonkolili District, about 150 kilometres from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
According to the company’s 2020 Annual Report, by the end of 2021 Miro Forestry will have planted an area of 8,500 hectares, mainly with eucalyptus, but also gmelina, acacia, and teak trees. Miro Forestry sells timber panels, electricity poles, and logs for biomass from the plantations. The company also plans to manufacture and sell plywood.
Miro Forestry Developments Limited has received funding from the UK government through the CDC Group, the Finnish government through Finnfund, the Dutch government through FMO, the Canadian government through FinDev Canada, and the Green Climate Fund through the Arbaro Fund. In addition, a French company called Mirova (the company that took over Althelia in 2017) has also invested in Miro Forestry.
REDD-Monitor wrote about the Arbaro Fund and Miro Forestry in March 2020:
The Green Climate Fund board agreed to hand over US$25 million to the Arbaro Fund at its meeting on 12 March 2020. World Rainforest Movement produced a leaflet about likely impacts of Arbaro’s 75,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations in seven countries. WRM writes that,
[I]ndustrial tree plantations have a long history of failure and have caused countless conflicts – including in the countries listed in the Arbaro Fund proposal. The main beneficiaries from such plantation projects are companies in the plantation business sector, their investors and consultancies involved in the plantation projects.
DGB Group, then, is planning to buy carbon credits from industrial tree plantations in Sierra Leone that will be cut down and sold for wood panels, plywood or biomass.
When Duijvestijn claims that DGB Group is planting 3.4 million trees, he’s stretching the truth. DGB Group is planning to buy carbon credits from a company that is planting trees. But it seems that Duijvestijn’s relationship with the truth is pretty flexible.
Miro Forestry is not (yet) certified under the Verified Carbon Standard
In its press release, DGB Group states that,
The project is audited and verified by Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the leading carbon standard
In its 2019 Annual Report, Miro Forestry states that,
Miro has signed a commission agreement with South Pole, one of the largest traders in carbon credits, to certify Miro’s plantations to the voluntary carbon standard (VCS) and then sell the resulting credits. As a result, Miro expects to sell approximately 700,000+ credits in the next 6-12 months followed by over 150,000 per year hereafter. The price of these credits is expected to be between Euro 2-4 or higher, thus delivering notable incremental revenue to the Group.
And in its 2020 Annual Report, Miro Forestry states that,
During the course of 2020 and in early 2021, South Pole, a carbon credit firm, assessed Miro’s tonnes of carbon sequestered to date (under the voluntary carbon scheme). The auditable and applicable tonnes of carbon sequestered has been calculated as just over 300,000 tonnes. These credits are now being audited by Verra (an audit body) and will be available for sale from April this year with an expected price of Euro 4.5 – 8.0 per tonne (thus approximately Euro 1.8 million). Given South Pole have conducted this assessment and paid for auditor costs (thus Miro incurring no direct cost) South Pole will receive a commission just over 20% with Miro retaining the rest of the revenue from this carbon sale.
But when we visit Verra’s project registry, we find that the project status is “Under validation”. It is not yet verified:
On 11 January 2021, Andrew Beauchamp of Verra wrote to Andrew Collins, CEO of Miro Forestry Developments. The carbon project started on 16 May 2016, Beauchamp writes, and Verra’s rules require the project to be validated within five years of the project start date. Beauchamp granted Miro Forestry a two-month extension of the validation deadline for the project – until 15 July 2021. The letter states that,
Based on the information provided to Verra, project development of Project 2401 was impeded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local stakeholder consultation was especially impacted, as the process to acquire and consider community input was extended. These delays have prevented Miro Forestry Developments Ltd. from completing validation within the required time period.
Given that the carbon project has already been running for almost five years (and in fact Miro Forestry leased 20,980 hectares for its plantations as far back as 2011), it’s worrying that local stakeholder consultation was impacted by the pandemic. A meaningful process of free, prior and informed consent would require that the Indigenous Peoples and local communities living in the project area give their consent before the project starts, as opposed to when Verra’s five year validation deadline approaches.
In fact, the Project Description Document, prepared by Swiss Carbon Value and dated 4 January 2021, states that, “The consultation process took place during September and October 2020”.
Swiss Carbon Value, incidentally, shares the same office address as South Pole, and the same website. Its board members work for South Pole.
There is a conflict of interest here. Miro Forestry hired South Pole to assess how many carbon credits the plantations might generate. South Pole will also sell the carbon credits. South Pole will pay for the auditor costs to get Verified Carbon Standard certification. And South Pole will be paid a commission of “just over 20%” on the sale of carbon credits.
It’s clearly in South Pole’s interest to squeeze as many carbon credits as possible out of Miro Forestry’s industrial tree plantations.
Miro Forestry’s monocultures in Sierra Leone
Swiss Carbon Value’s report states that Miro Forestry has planted 5,600.99 hectares. Of this area, 4,020.55 hectares are eligible to generate carbon credits. Swiss Carbon Value writes that “the project estimates to remove 55,173.9 tCO2e each year”.
The consultation process with local communities included this “instructional material”:
Swiss Carbon Value writes that, “Miro Forestry provided a clear explanation of climate change and its causes, the greenhouse gas effect and explained the solutions to climate change, which underline the Carbon Credit project.”
No doubt neither Miro Forestry nor Swiss Carbon Value mentioned any of the problems with tree planting as a climate “solution”. The 10 points listed in this statement signed by 23 researchers and experts give a good overview of the problems:
Before planting its fast-growing tree monocultures, Miro Forestry has to clear the land. Swiss Carbon Value states that, “The project area has limited tree cover. The rest of the area is dominated by wetlands and ‘farm bush’. Charcoal and slash production, and burn agriculture are still very common in the area.”
Elsewhere in the report, Swiss Carbon Value states that the grasslands are “a result of agriculture and fire”. Swiss Carbon Value states that there is a “non-significant carbon stock in the baseline scenario and thus, it was considered to be zero”.
Nevertheless, to get rid of the shrubs and small trees on the land, Miro Forestry sprays the land with glyphosate. To prepare the ground before planting, the company also uses large mechanical chopper-rollers, roam disc harrows, tractor and bulldozer-drawn rippers, and ploughs. Swiss Carbon Value makes no estimate in its report of how much carbon is released during this process. Instead, the report states that, “Project does not include the disturbance of organic soils. Thus, emissions are not expected in this compartment.”
Spraying with glyphosate continues after the tree monocultures are planted.
A bit more on DGB Group
DGB solves the very practical and real challenges of man’s symbiosis and relationship with trees to harness free market forces and the access to capital needed to rapidly accelerate the reforestation of earth.
“How will they do this?” asks van Veelen. In response, she quotes from the company’s website:
The idea of investing in nature has been our main goal since our inception. Even before technology was developed to ease up the process, we decided to find different ways and alternatives to improve the planet’s health, by leaning carbon dioxide from the air and with that, reducing emissions.
“Yes me neither,” van Veelen comments.
The company was founded in 1957, and has, according to its website a “rich history”. Here it is, er, in full:
So Van Veelen did some digging. She found two separate companies, DGB Group and VNC (United Dutch Company). “DGB had several subsidiaries, small companies in agriculture and energy,” she writes and links to an article (in Dutch) about Geert Schaaij, the man behind VNC. “VNC was mostly a shell company with a controversial CEO when it acquired DGB in 2016,” van Veelen writes.
In 2017, Mountain Shield Capital Fund, an investment fund, converted a bond loan to VNC into shares. When the bond loan was issued the share price was €3.50. When the loan was converted to shares the share price was €1.29. Mountain Shield lost €750,000 and $60,000 in annual interest payments.
The Dutch website Quote described Mountain Shield’s move as “the worst stock market deal of the year”.
The fund manager of Mountain Shield Capital Fund was Selwyn Duijvestijn.
In August 2017, the Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), the financial services regulatory authority in the Netherlands, ruled that Duijvestijn had disclosed “incorrect and misleading information” about Mountain Shield. Duijvestijn was threatened with a fine of €20,000 for every new misleading statement in the 12 months from August 2017, up to a maximum of €100,000. The AFM did not impose any fine in the end.
In a September 2020 press release, DGB Group announced that Duijvestijn was the new CEO of DGB Group. By this time, DGB Group was little more than a listed shell corporation.
The same press release announced that John Mappin and Irina Kudrenok-Mappin had been appointed as Chairman and director of the Supervisory board. Mappin is quoted as saying that,
“We are all honoured to have the opportunity to be of service to DGB in our respective roles, the scale of global reforestation that needs to be undertaken in the coming years is almost unimaginable but it represents an exciting opportunity for the capital markets and for private individuals.
“Those who solve the very practical and real challenges of man’s symbiosis and relationship with trees and whom additionally harness free market forces and the access to capital needed to rapidly accelerate the reforestation of earth, will not only resolve one of the last remaining barriers to our survival here, restoring balance to continued life on earth, but will act in great service to all life and to the Creator.
This is our endeavour.”
(You’ll recognise part of that quotation from DGB’s website – presumably Mappin said it first…)
John Mappin is a descendant of the family that founded the Mappin and Webb jewellery firm. He’s a fan of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. The Mappins are Scientologists. They own a hotel in Cornwall called Camelot Castle, where they fly a QAnon flag. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, neither guests not staff at Camelot wear masks.
In December 2018, the Mappins launched Turning Point UK, a British version of a US group aimed at promoting far right causes to young people.
The Mappins run an online Camelot Castle TV Network where they promote various conspiracy theories. Their hotel does the same thing.
John Mappin introduced Nigel Farage to DGB Group last year.
Van Veelen sums up:
So, what we have is a firm that emerged out of dealings between people who have raised eyebrows in the Dutch financial world for the better part of a decade. 30% of its shares are owned by QAnon believers. And they’ve brought Nigel Farage on board as a lobbyist.
Just to add to the fun, DGB Group claims that the carbon credits it is buying are certified under the Verified Carbon Standard, when, in fact, they are not.