Liberia: ‘Blue Carbon Deal Risky for Liberians’
….Global Environmental Watchdogs
A coalition of 27 global environmental watchdogs has reiterated their opposition to a carbon harvesting deal currently being negotiated between the government of Liberia and Blue Carbon LLC, a private company based in the UAE.
The deal, which is still in the draft stage, has raised concerns among the organizations about the potential risks it poses to millions of Liberians, particularly those in rural areas who will be directly affected.
Once finalized, the deal will entail the Liberian government relinquishing rights to over one million hectares of forests for a period of thirty years to Blue Carbon. This amounts to nearly a tenth of the country's total land area and approximately a quarter of Liberia’s remaining primary forest area.
Under the agreement, Blue Carbon will “harvest” carbon credits from emissions supposedly saved by protecting and restoring these forests. These carbon credits will then be sold to major polluters to offset their own emissions, as revealed in a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UAE company and the Government of Liberia in March of this year.
“This risks the livelihoods of up to a million people. It would also extinguish community land ownership in the selected areas while violating peoples’ legal right to provide Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for any developments on their land,” the watchdogs, which include Friends of the Earth, fern, Forest Peoples Program, and 23 others, said in the statement.
The watchdogs argue that this deal could jeopardize the livelihoods of up to a million people and could potentially violate the communities’ legal right to provide Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for any developments on their land.
Furthermore, the draft contract eliminates the Liberian government's ability to use the carbon credits generated for its own climate targets. Only Blue Carbon will have the authority to decide whether the credits will be sold and at what price.
“If they are sold, Liberia cannot use the carbon credits to meet its own climate targets,” the group alleged.
Critics of the deal also highlight concerns about Liberia relinquishing decision-making powers regarding a substantial portion of its carbon emissions for the next three decades to a UAE company with no track record in carbon trading. This has led to fears of potential “greenwashing” and raises questions about what benefits this agreement would bring to Liberia and its communities.
Blue Carbon LLC is associated with Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al Maktoum, a member of the UAE royal family, and holds a number of companies focused on energy, oil and gas, and infrastructure. The environmental watchdogs caution that the money invested by Blue Carbon may potentially be used to offset the company’s own emissions, exacerbating climate change.
“There’s therefore a considerable danger that the money they intend to invest will be used to offset their own emissions, thereby contributing to more climate change. The revenue model described in this contract generously allows for that,” the organizations said in the statement.
“This contract seems to give Blue Carbon the authority to act on Liberia’s behalf to negotiate UNFCCC Article 6 rules. It is unclear what the benefits for Liberia and its communities will be,” the statement revealed. “The contract is confidential and extremely vague, and the MOU has not been widely discussed. It is unclear how much Blue Carbon will invest and in what; as well as what its plans are to harvest the carbon credits, or how many credits it expects and at what costs.”
The organizations behind the statement also raise concerns about the lack of transparency and proper due diligence in the contract, citing a previous incident in 2009 where Liberia nearly signed a similar agreement with a UK-based corporation that later proved to be in violation of Liberian laws and tainted by corruption and fraud.
Given Liberia’s status as the last forest-rich country in West Africa but also as one of the poorest nations in the world, the watchdogs stress the importance of ensuring that any deal is mutually beneficial and inclusive. They advocate for an inclusive consultation process with community landowners and rights holders, emphasizing the need for transparency and strict monitoring and control mechanisms to protect and restore forests. Ultimately, the coalition urges that the communities directly affected by the deal be informed about its terms and the benefits it entails. They require clear evidence that any financial support provided will indeed safeguard threatened forests and restore degraded ones.