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Dubai startup to create Africa carbon offset projects

Carbon credits are traded by companies to offset their emissions Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz
Carbon credits are traded by companies to offset their emissions
  • Blue Carbon signs MoUs
  • Deals with Zimbabwe
  • Critics raise concerns

Dubai’s Blue Carbon will deliver environmental and societal benefits from its carbon offset projects in Africa, a senior executive has said, rejecting criticism from independent experts who question whether such schemes lead to real emissions reductions.

In September Blue Carbon, whose chairman is Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al Maktoum of Dubai’s ruling family, signed a memorandum of understanding to create carbon credits based on one-fifth of Zimbabwe’s landmass and signed similar deals with Liberia, Tanzania and Zambia earlier this year.

Carbon credits are tradable certificates which represent the removal or avoidance of one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the atmosphere. The idea is that companies in hard-to-abate industries such as steelmaking or aviation buy credits – also referred to as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes – to offset their own emissions.

But the price of carbon credits has plunged due to growing doubts over their effectiveness, especially those that are nature-based – the kind Blue Carbon will create.

A Blue Carbon spokesperson told AGBI the company also recently signed a conservation agreement with Zimbabwe through which it will develop agriculture, forestry and other land use projects which will provide “environmental and community benefits” and create carbon credits.

The spokesperson said Blue Carbon’s creation of the credits would start with land assessments and would include “rigorous data collection, implementation, monitoring and verification against recognised standards and methodologies”.

According to a report by Belgium’s Fern, endorsed by nearly 30 environmental groups and non-profit organisations, Blue Carbon’s draft agreement with Liberia would have given the rights to more than one million hectares of forest to the Dubai company.

“Blue Carbon will ‘harvest’ carbon credits from emissions supposedly saved by protecting and restoring these forests to sell them to major polluters to offset their own emissions,” the report states.

“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 Blue Carbon spokesperson rejected these criticisms. “Many of these comments are based on misunderstanding of carbon markets or on misrepresentations of our partnerships with countries.”

“We fully recognise the involvement of local communities throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that the affected communities can voice their opinions, concerns and preferences, and that their consent is genuinely sought and respected before any project activities commence.”

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement was approved in 2021 and forms much of the basis for carbon offset trading, although some of its guidelines remain unclear.

Blue Carbon will complete feasibility assessments before submitting project proposals to Zimbabwe’s government, the spokesperson said.

“Potential activities could include conservation efforts, reforestation initiatives, agroforestry practices, and the promotion of sustainable practices to create climate resilience, with the purposes of delivering substantial environmental and community benefits while ensuring tangible emission reductions and removals,” she said.

Blue Carbon will seek expressions of interest from potential buyers of its carbon credits “as early as Cop28”, which the UAE will host from November 30 to December 12.

“We expect a diverse target customer and buyer base, which can include countries and other entities within hard-to-abate industries,” the spokesperson said.

Typically, independent registries such as Verra or Gold Standard will verify carbon offset projects, although their methodologies have come under scrutiny.

The Blue Carbon spokesperson would not confirm which accreditation agency’s methodology her company will use, explaining it would depend on the country. Those chosen will “uphold the highest international standards”, she added.

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