By Chris Lang
In November 2021, REDD-Monitor posted an article by Simon Counsell about a project in Peru called REDD Project in Brazil Nut concessions in Madre de Dios. The article was based on research carried out into the project for a German NGO, Foodwatch, which exposed the dubious carbon offsets that German supermarket chain Rewe was using to claim that it was selling “climate neutral” chicken breast fillets.
Other buyers of the nearly 10 million carbon offsets sold by the project include German “green energy” supplier Entega, Neutral Flight Inc., Engie Energía Perú, luxury fashion company Giorgio Armani, and British industrial conglomerate Swire.
And in 2021, the project was chosen to offset the production of non-fungible tokens:
Foodwatch’s full report is available here.
In November 2021, Rewe stopped buying offsets from the REDD Project in Brazil Nut concessions.
But the standards setting organisation, Verra, rejected the criticisms in the Foodwatch report.
One of Foodwatch’s concerns raised in the report was that the deforestation “baseline” was grossly exaggerated to create the appearance of reduced deforestation while deforestation actually increased. Meanwhile, loopholes in Verra’s methodology allowed for huge amounts of emissions to go unaccounted for.
Verra dismissed the criticism:
REDD+ projects are designed to reduce deforestation, not to halt it completely. The deforestation rate in the project area was lower than in the “business-as-usual” scenario (baseline). This indicates that the project was successful.
Enter the rating agencies
This sort of debate about the impossibility of determining whether carbon offsets amount to a geniune reduction of emissions or not is becoming more and more common. Recent articles on Bloomberg, for example, have highlighted a series of dubious carbon offsetting projects.
A series of carbon ratings agencies has sprung up including Calyx, Sylvera, Pachama, Compensate, and BeZero, that are supposed to make it easier for buyers make sure they are buying high quality carbon offsets.
Of course the reality is that carbon offsets are a climate scam that exist in order to allow Big Polluters to continue profiting from pollution for as long as possible. In order to address the climate crisis we have to stop burning fossil fuels. That means leaving them in the ground.
Recently, Elias Ayrey, a remote sensing scientist, took a look at one of these ratings agencies, BeZero. One of the projects he looked at was the REDD Project in Brazil Nut concessions.
When he put out his video, BeZero’s rating of the project was AA+. The AA rating means that “the project has a moderate likelihood of achieving 1 tonne of CO2e avoidance or removal”. The + reflects the project’s “comparative standing within the category”.
Here’s what Ayrey has to say about the project:
I want to end by talking about this project, the Brazil Nut Concessions in Peru. Again, AA+ ratings from BeZero. Fantastic, right?
Again, this is one of those projects that I’ve come across that I am just flabbergasted by. Brazil Nuts is an avoided deforestation project, taking place in Peru and there has been intense deforestation inside this project.
You know, this is problematic, right? Like Verra should be notified. We’ve got a reversal on our hands.
Let me tell you about the solution that these guys came up with. Rather than verifying the entire project whenever they want credits, they only verify the bits of the project that weren’t deforested. There are actually bits of this project that were started inside the project, weren’t verified one year because there was deforestation, were verified the next, weren’t verified the next, and then were verified the final time.
So these guys are literally only counting forest conservation when it happens. They don’t count deforestation when they don’t want to. And, this is cheating, obviously BeZero, in case you guys haven’t noticed. And guess what, this isn’t even from the remote sensing imagery, this just by reading the documentation.
So, I mean again, I’m left believing that potentially that these credits are worthless. I don’t know what they’re really worth because one strategy that they’ve used is actually just enroll more land. You know, a lot of these areas, maybe they were deforested. Let’s not count them any more, let’s just enroll them some place next door.
Absolutely ridiculous behaviour from this project. But more ridiculously, behaviour from BeZero.
Shortly after Ayrey put out the video, BeZero changed its rating for the REDD Project in Brazil Nut Concessions. It is currently rated as A. That means, “The credit issued by the project has a low likelihood of achieving 1 tonne of CO2e avoidance or removal.”
REDD Project in Brazil Nut Concessions is still on Pachama’s website
Until September 2021, Ayrey was lead scientist with Pachama. In an interview with REDD-Monitor in February 2020, Diego Saez-Gil, a co-founder of Pachama, explained that “We validate the claims of these projects and are monitoring them via satellite to keep them accountable and give assurance and visibility to all participants in the market about the integrity of the projects.”
In April 2020, Pachama wrote a gushing review of the project and explained that,
While this project is already verified by a third-party carbon protocol body Verra, Pachama provides an additional layer of verification and monitoring using our remote sensing and AI technology.
Rather than rating projects, Pachama states on its website that, “We curate a list of quality forest projects for you.”
Ayrey’s ex-colleagues in Pachama didn’t react to his critique of the REDD Project in Brazil Nut Concessions quite as quickly as BeZero did. Although the project is no longer listed as one of Pachama’s projects, it is still on the Pachama website.
Here’s a screenshot of Pachama’s website (taken today):