By Chris Lang
NIHT Inc is a US-based company with big plans for a series of REDD projects in the provinces of New Ireland and East New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The first of these projects, the NIHT Topaiyo REDD+ Project, is registered with Verra, the Washington DC-based standards setting organisation, and has sold more than 1.3 million carbon offsets.
Since 2 July 2021, the project has not sold any carbon offsets, according to Verra’s VCS registry.
On 12 June 2021, members of the Kamlapar Incorporated Land Group wrote to PNG’s Climate Change and Development Authority demanding that the CCDA orders NIHT Inc, “to halt all its operations on our land”.
The letter was also addressed to David Antonioli, Chief Executive Officer of Verra, with the demand that “Verra stops all credit sales from the project”.
NIHT Inc: The return of the carbon cowboys
REDD-Monitor first wrote about this project in November 2020, highlighting the problems with the way the company was negotiating with local communities to expand its operations in New Ireland province:
“In a country that is rife with rumors and inuendo [sic], your post is both irresponsible and inaccurate,” Steve Strauss, one of the founders of NIHT Inc, wrote in a response.
A series of statements from NGOs in Papua New Guinea have exposed the problems with NIHT Inc’s operations in the country, most recently with the fact that the company is operating in breach of the moratorium on voluntary carbon market REDD projects announced by the PNG government in March 2022.
NIHT Inc: Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard?
NIHT Inc’s REDD project in Papua New Guinea has not been validated under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards system (which is run by Verra).
The VCS registry (which is also run by Verra) makes no mention of CCB on its page about the NIHT project. The most recent Validation and Verification Report, issued on 29 September 2020, states that, “The project plans to seek CCB validation and verification in the future.”
That report, which was carried out by an outfit registered in Spain called Aenor Internacional S.A.U., adds that,
At this point, the project is working directly with the Kamlapar ILG to ensure that the revenue generated by carbon credit sales are distributed to all Clan individuals equitably and based on the benefit distribution mechanisms designed by the clans with their own buy-in and decision making processes.
But in June 2021, the Kamlapar Incorporated Land Group wrote to the Climate Change and Development Authority and Verra complaining about “illegal operations by NIHT Inc” Which, just maybe, explains why NIHT Inc still does not have CCB certification.
NIHT Inc: Forest Stewardship Council certification?
Nevertheless, NIHT Inc’s website gives the misleading impression that it does have CCB certification. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been watching NIHT Inc’s website over the years. An archived copy of NIHT Inc’s website dated June 2020 reveals the following statement from the company:
Our partnership with the clans is providing economic benefit through sustainable logging under the Forest Stewardship Council certification (the only active FSC project in Papua New Guinea) and the creation of carbon credit offsets sold to international corporations to maintain or lower their carbon footprint.
(On 8 February 2022, FSC took its database of certified operations offline after “valid” certificates were listed as “terminated”. According to FSC, this was due to “operator error”. The database is still offline, and the back up version is fiddly, to say the least. If I have mis-read the database, please let me know in the comments section, below.)
Since at least 12 November 2020, NIHT Inc has made the following misleading claim on its website, under the headline “CCB Standards”: “The value of our credits are a direct reflection of the values of our company which in turn naturally align with CCB standards.” The same statement is still on the website today.
Here’s a screenshot:
Meanwhile, Pachama includes NIHT Inc’s Topaiyo project as one of its “quality forest projects”. Pachama explains that,
To expedite the lengthy verification process, the project chose not to apply to VCS’s Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard (CCB) for their pilot issuance; however, the project was built to adhere to CCB’s rigorous standards. The project proponents anticipate CCB verification for the 2021 issuance.
It is now June 2022, and NIHT Inc is still not verified under the CCB system.