By Chris Lang
On 23 November 2021, a company called SavePlanetEarth sold a “Certified Carbon Credit Smart NFT” for US$67,240.86. The same CCNFT was on sale for about US$261,000. The sale was cancelled and it is currently on sale for about US$85,000. Another was on sale for about US$4.6 million. That sale was also cancelled.
What on earth is going on here?
I have about as much idea as you.
Did you try asking the company?
REDD-Monitor sent a series of questions to SavePlanetEarth two weeks ago. I’ll post the questions in the next few days – hopefully with the responses from the company.
OK. What do we know so far?
SavePlanetEarth’s carbon credit NFTs are minted on the Phantasma blockchain.
SavePlanetEarth auctioned the first ten carbon credit NFTs (CCNFTs) and is selling the rest at somewhere around US$1,000 each. The CCNFTs are for sale on the GhostMarket website:
SavePlanetEarth has not announced from which project it bought the carbon credits. The GhostMarket website includes a note that states, “Project info in Locked Content”. And the Locked Content button explains that the Locked Content “can only be unlocked by current NFT owner.”
Just above that note is the statement that, “These CCs are from the first project in history to be validated as contributing to all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
And in an interview on 24 November 2021, Imran Ali, the director of SavePlanetEarth states that the carbon credits are,
Verified by REDD+, by VCS, CCB. So these are rigorous testing and verification processes under the UNFCCC, which is the United Nations.
This statement is, at best, bending the truth. There is no “REDD+” verification body. VCS and CCB certification is carried out by the standards setting organisation Verra, based in Washington DC. But Verra’s verification process is not “under the UNFCCC”.
So someone handed over nearly US$70,000 for a carbon credit?
Not exactly. They bought one of SavePlanetEarth’s Smart Carbon Credit Non-Fungible Tokens (CCNFTs). And they didn’t use dollars. They paid with 115BNB.
What is a BNB?
BNB is a cryptocurrency. Here’s how the Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange describes BNB:
BNB is the cryptocurrency coin that powers the Binance ecosystem. As one of the world’s most popular utility tokens, not only can you buy or sell BNB like any other cryptocurrency, but BNB comes with a wide range of applications and benefits.
The CEO of Binance, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, has a net worth of US$96 billion according to Bloomberg.
Binance faces regultary investigations in several countries. In the US, the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service are investigating Binance Holdings Ltd for money laundering and tax evasion. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is looking into possible market manipulation and insider trading within Binance. The CFTC is also investigating whether Binance illegally allowed US clients to trade derivatives tied to cryptocurrencies.
In January 2022, Pakistan started a criminal investigation into a scam that involved misleading investors to send funds from Binance wallets to unknown third-party wallets.
Also in January 2022, Offshore Alert reported that Steven Kowalski, a Dubai-based Australian, is suing Binance and other companies and individuals in the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, and the United States. Kowalski alleges that Bitcoin worth US$80 million was stolen from him in “a sophisticated malware attack”. The Bitcoin was subsequently laundered through accounts at Binance and another cryptocurrency exchange called Kraken.
Bloomberg reports that,
Binance is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and has an office in Singapore but says it lacks a single corporate headquarters. Chainalysis Inc., a blockchain forensics firm whose clients include U.S. federal agencies, concluded last year that among transactions that it examined, more funds tied to criminal activity flowed through Binance than any other crypto exchange.
What does Verra have to say about taking one of its carbon credits, minting it as an NFT, and in the process increasing the value of it by approximately US$70,000?
On 25 November 2021, Verra put out a statement about “Crypto Market Activities”. The statement doesn’t mention SavePlanetEarth, but states that:
Verra has recently been made aware of crypto market activities such as transacting in tokens that have been generated, minted, or otherwise facilitated by third parties and that aim to represent canceled or retired verified carbon units (VCUs) that have been issued under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program.
Without expressing an opinion as to the legal nature and environmental integrity associated with these activities and tokens, Verra wishes to emphasize that:
- Verra does not administer these activities and tokens and in any event takes no responsibility for these activities and tokens;
- Entities engaging with these activities and tokens do so at their own risk, are responsible for conducting their own due diligence, and cannot look to Verra for any matters connected with these activities and tokens;
- Tokens that have not been licensed or otherwise authorized by Verra are not verified, endorsed, or recognized by Verra as representing or equating to VCUs or an environmental benefit associated with VCUs.
Verra adds that,
REDD-Monitor asked Imran Ali, the director of SavePlanetEarth, whether SavePlanetEarth obtained Verra’s express written consent before minting the NFTs. Ali did not reply.
So is Verra distancing itself from certified carbon credit NFTs?
Sort of. In December 2021, Verra released a “legal due diligence questionnaire for users fo the Verra Registry that create, market, or transact in related instruments”. Related instruments include “cryptocurrency instruments such as tokens and coins”.
(As an aside, it’s ironic that Verra raises a bit of a fuss about buying carbon credits and minting them, but doesn’t say a word when oil corporations buy carbon credits and claim that their fossil fuels are “carbon neutral”.)
OK, enough about CCNFTs, I’m getting a headache. Tell me about the company SavePlanetEarth.
SavePlanetEarth bills itself as “A carbon sequestration crypto project.”
The company’s website announces that,
Founded in early 2021, SavePlanetEarth is a global environmental initiative registered in the U.K. with established government and organization partnerships. SPE is developing the first-ever Gold Standard certified carbon credit NFTs, a green blockchain entirely powered by renewable energy, and a carbon credit exchange that will use $SPE as the exclusive currency.
We’ll have to work our way through each point in this statement will we?
OK. Let’s start with “registered in the UK”.
Save Planet Earth Limited was incorporated in the UK on 12 April 2021.
Both companies also share the same registered office: 412 Great Horton Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire. This is what it looked like on Google Street View in October 2020 – about six months before SavePlanetEarth was incorporated:
Classy. Doesn’t Companies House check this sort of thing before companies are incorporated?
Not really. In September 2021, the Financial Times reported on a company director called Holy Jesus Christ. He gave his address as Heaven, his nationality as Angelic, and his occupation as Creator. The company was dissolved a few years after it was incorporated.
The Financial Times describes the process of setting up a UK company:
All that is needed to set up a company in the UK is £12: not even a passport is required and it can be done online in under 15 minutes. Companies House is a mere repository of information, with no statutory powers to verify information provided to it. It lacks the resources to police even the minimal laws that do exist.
To be fair, 142 Great Horton Road has seen better days. It used to be the Grange Picture House. The cinema closed in 1961. In the 1980s, it was a “U-Save D.I.Y.” hardware shop but it has been derelict since 2019.
REDD-Monitor asked Imran Ali why his company is registered in what appears to be a derelict cinema. He did not reply.
And what about Imran Ali? Who is he?
According to his LinkedIn profile, he completed an MBA at University of Bedfordshire in 2013.
“I’ve been in the environmental industry for over a decade,” he says in a June 2021 interview. Here’s how he describes his career so far:
“I’ve been working on many government tenders around the world, and advising country policy developers on green initiatives, both UK and foreign institutions. I’ve also worked at high growth organisations such as CitiBank in Canary Wharf in London, National Health Service, that’s our hospital service here, that’s just to name a few, I’ve done many other projects, and I’ve got many other experiences.”
He says he’s working on a PhD on carbon capture and storage. And adds that he’s director of a “few waste management companies. Hence I’ve got a vast amount of experience in this industry”.
Ali’s LinkedIn profile lists just two companies: NPG Lanka, where he says he’s been Chief Operating Officer since April 2016; and Reach Technical Limited, where he says he’s been Director since June 2019.
Reach Technical Limited supplies waste machinery, such as incinerators, cremation systems, recycling equipment, and beach cleaners. It has offices in Halifax in West Yorkshire, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The company was incorporated in the UK on 12 September 2019. Its sole director is Christopher Brooke.
Imran Ali is director of a number of other companies (several dissolved):
- UnlessNow Limited, incorporated on 24 January 2019 (environmental consulting activities);
- Perfect Prize Ltd, incorporated on 14 April 2020 and dissolved on 19 October 2021 (agents involved in the sale of a variety of goods);
- OneStopQuote Ltd, incorporated on 8 June 2020 and dissolved on 19 October 2021 (manufacture of doors and windows of metal);
- Exhale Cafe Limited, incorporated on 26 June 2020 and dissolved on 19 October 2021 (unlicensed restaurants and cafes);
- Lounge79 Limited, incorporated on 3 September 2020 (unlicensed restaurants and cafes)
- Bullseye (Yorkshire) Ltd, incorporated on 21 October 2021 (take-away food shops and mobile food stands);
So much for “registered in the UK”. Not particularly reassuring, is it? How about SPE’s “established government and organization partnerships”?
Of course, signing a deal isn’t the same as planting trees. We don’t know anything much about what these deals actually represent, where the money will come from, where the trees will be planted, what species will be planted, how the local communities will be consulted and involved, or who will do the actual tree planting. REDD-Monitor asked Ali to provide some concrete evidence that SavePlanetEarth has actually signed agreements with these three governments. Ali did not reply.
On 21 April 2021, Imran Ali announced in a YouTube video that SavePlanetEarth has a partnership with UNICEF in the Maldives. In the video, Ali said that he would be “sending the official communication and correspondence that I received from the UNICEF Maldives division shortly”.
REDD-Monitor has asked Ali for copies of this correspondence. He has not replied. REDD-Monitor also asked why SavePlanetEarth chose the Maldives for its first tree planting operations, particularly given that more than 80% of the Maldives is less than one metre above sea level, and that global sea level is rising at between three and four millimetres per year.
In the case of Sri Lanka, SavePlanetEarth released a letter dated 17 May 2021, from K.P. Welikannage. He’s the Provincial Director for Central Province of Sri Lanka’s Central Envrionmental Authority. The letter lists six organisations (two government estates and four private estates) and states that the Central Environmental Authority will “invite these organizations to enter into a working partnership of MoU with your organization that can then be covered by a master plan”.
In other words, although SavePlanetEarth announced that a 100 million tree-planting initiative was “confirmed”, in reality SPE had started negotiations with a regional government office in Sri Lanka.
On 2 November 2021, SavePlanetEarth tweeted that “We have secured a 1 BILLION TREE DEAL with the Pakistan Government”.
The previous day, Imran Ali had a meeting with Hassan Ali Sukhera, the National Project Director of Pakistan’s Ten Billion Tree Tsumani.
Ali claims that, “SPE itself will be contributing with one billion trees in designated areas as part of this deal with the Pakistani government, with the Ministry of Climate Change and National Forestation Departments. And also we are collaborating with WWF for further expansion on that project.”
REDD-Monitor asked WWF Pakistan about the partnership with WWF and received the following reply on 3 January 2022:
With ref. to your query regarding Save Planet Earth, We are in discussion with them regarding working on areas of mutual interest. However, no contract has been penned down at this point so it will be premature to speak about any details.
REDD-Monitor also asked IUCN (which is part of a team that is monitoring the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme), but has not yet received a reply.
On 5 November 2021, SavePlanetEarth announced that,
These trees conduct the vital task of sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) naturally, which, in turn, lowers the greenhouse gas level in the atmosphere. SPE uses the sequestered carbon as certifiable “carbon credits” — creating a sustainable business model in the emerging cryptocurrency market. Profits from the sales of these credits can be reinvested into even more carbon sequestration efforts.
The obvious problem with this statement is that SavePlanetEarth has not planted very many trees. The company only claims to have made agreements to do so. Towards the end of December 2021, Imran Ali announced on Reddit following a trip to Pakistan that “The signing itself is being scheduled and will be carried out soon.”
Another obvious problem with claiming that SavePlanetEarth’s tree planting in Pakistan can generate carbon credits is that Pakistan’s Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme is up and running. SavePlanetEarth’s one billion trees are supposedly part of that programme. As such it’s impossible to argue that the tree planting is “additional” and would not take place in the absence of SavePlanetEarth’s involvement.
Does SavePlanetEarth claim any other “established government and organization partnerships”?
Imran Ali travels a lot. In August 2021 his schedule included visiting Dubai, China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
There I also attended the rugby tournament, in which SPE were the official climate partner, so we made the whole European Championship carbon neutral and we also sponsored the Turkish rugby team.
The rugby tournament was the Rugby League European D Championship. REDD-Monitor asked David Butler, the General Manager of the European Rugby League, whether SavePlanetEarth was a partner of the Rugby League European D Championship and whether the whole event was “carbon neutral” thanks to SavePlanetEarth’s tree planting. Butler replied that,
SPE were not a partner of European Rugby League but a partner of the Turkish Rugby League Association who hosted the European Championships D event in Bodrum.
Ali says there was a large number of volunteers helping out with the tree planting. “Celebrities as well, actors, and local newspaper, PR, media,” he told 360Trader.
A Turkish journalist called Yilmaz Parlar did write a couple of articles featuring Imran Ali and his tree planting in Turkey. Parlar’s article reveal his fondness for photoshopping – that’s him in the foreground:
(And here’s the original photo – without Parlar).
And here’s Imran Ali photoshopped onto a picture of some Turkish rugby fans illustrating another of Parlar’s articles:
That’s just odd. Let’s get back to SavePlanetEarth. We’ve looked at SavePlanetEarth’s certified carbon credit NFTs. What’s the “green blockchain entirely powered by renewable energy”?
Wishful thinking at this stage. SavePlanetEarth’s White Paper (v4), released in November 2021 states that “The SPE blockchain is still in the early stages of development.”
And the “carbon credit exchange that will use $SPE as the exclusive currency”?
The carbon credit exchange is also wishful thinking. But $SPE is a cryptocurrency. SavePlanetEarth launched $SPE back in April 2021.
Here’s a guy called Mike talking on YouTube about $SPE shortly after it was launched: “I stumbled across something that I think is going to be really, really good.”
Mike bought the $SPE because of a recommedation by Tony Hawk. Tony had this to say:
Hey, what’s up everyone at er SavePlanetEarth, it’s Tony Hawk and I just wanted to say first of all thank you for what you’re doing. I think it’s a great crypto project and congratulations on getting it started and I wish you guys all the best. And I know that what you’re doing is rare and it’s kind of the exception for what’s happening in the crypto world these days. There’s a lot of greed out there but I feel like you guys have got the right mindset, the right approach and I’m trying to help you get the word out. So we only have one planet. Thanks to you guys for doing your part, and good luck in the future. I can’t wait to hear all the good things you guys are doing. See you.
Wow. That’s impressive. But who is Tony Hawk?
Tony used to eat in a restaurant that Mike worked in. Mike saw Tony’s video and thought, “this is good enough for me to kind of look into this, and the more I looked into it the more I decided I would actually go out of bounds and out of my comfort zone.”
SavePlanetEarth issued 1,000 trillion $SPE. Some of these were burned. Mike doesn’t understand why they didn’t just issue fewer $SPE. Neither do I.
Mike bought 140 billion $SPE. “Is this a high risk project?” Mike asks himself. He reckons it’s “medium to high range for risk”. It’s also “high reward,” he adds.
When Mike made his video, the price of $SPE was US$0.00000008 (down -24.8%).
The current price of $SPE is US$0.01786. That looks like an improvement, but at the end of October 2021, SavePlanetEarth set up a token migration from v1 to v2. This migration reduced the supply of $SPE to 1 billion.
Someone who had, say, 12 million $SPE v1 would, after the migration, only have 12 $SPE v2 after migrating. But the migration also involved multiplying the price of each $SPE token by 1 million.
Here’s the price of $SPE since 3 November 2021:
Oh dear. It could be worse though. The exchange could have been hacked, for example.
SavePlanetEarth apparently had no choice other than an automatic migration. No $SPE were lost, according to the company. On 13 December 2021, SavePlanetEarth announced that “Trading of $SPE V3 is LIVE”.
I’m afraid so. Do you remember Phantasma?
Of course. It’s the blockchain on which SavePlanetEarth minted its Carbon Credit NFTs. Why?
On 22 December 2021, Phantasma announced that its blockchain is “certifiably carbon negative”:
Phantasma enables Save Planet Earth to deploy its Carbon Credit NFTs (CCNFTs) on a certified carbon negative blockchain while Phantasma is able to acquire home-grown CCNFTs offsetting its carbon footprint and ensuring that the infrastructure and tooling it provides does not adversely affect the shared planet.
Do we know which project generated these carbon credits?
It’s a Clean Development Mechanism project in Bangladesh aimed at reducing gas leakages within the Titas Gas Distribution Network in Bangladesh.
Phantasma and SavePlanetEarth could hardly have chosen a more ridiculous carbon offsetting project. Titas Gas has an 80% share of natural gas distribution in Bangladesh. The company operates more than 13,100 kilometres of underground pipeline and 12,500 kilometres of distribution or service lines.
Construction started in the 1960s and the company has failed to maintain the system. As a result, according to the CDM project document, “a significant percentage of the natural gas throughput (predominantly methane (CH4)) leaks from components in the system and is released into the atmosphere contributing to global warming”.
Aren’t gas leaks, er, dangerous?
Phantasma and SavePlanetEarth chose a carbon project that absolutely had to go ahead anyway (because if it didn’t people would continue to die in gas explosions) to “offset” Phantasma’s emissions.
Predictably enough, SavePlanetEarth created CCNFTs out of these utterly ridiculous carbon credits.
Is any of this investment advice?
Of course not. It’s for information and entertainment purposes only. DYOR.
Do your own research. Have you been living in a cave for the past decade?