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Doha-based carbon credit group signs West Africa deal

Young West African activists demanding action on climate change Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Young West African activists demanding action on climate change: 16 countries in the region have now signed an MOU on carbon credits
  • Help for 16 countries
  • Credits used by polluters
  • Critics question real impact

The Qatar-backed international carbon credit programme Global Carbon Council (GCC) has signed a deal to develop decarbonisation projects in West Africa.

The Doha-based GCC signed the agreement at the UN climate conference Cop28 in Dubai last week with the West African Alliance for Carbon Markets and Climate Finance (WAA), a group of 16 West African countries formed at Cop22 in Marrakech. 

The GCC has recently acquired the Global Carbon Registry from the UK.

Kishor Rajhansa, the GCC’s chief operating officer, told AGBI that the GCC will provide WAA countries with free access to its registry, which will help them obtain climate finance.

“These registries are important for maintaining the validity and transparency of credits, avoiding double counting and facilitating trading,” Rajhansa said.

“Many of these [African] countries are setting their climate funds,” he said. “The registry can also check what are the sustainable development benefits.”

Carbon markets allow trading CO2 emissions between countries or companies. One carbon credit is a tradable certificate that represents removing or avoiding one tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Buying credits is seen by hard polluters such as oil and gas companies and industrialised countries as a fix to slash net emissions.

Leaders from the Global South hope that carbon markets will generate investment flows to finance their green transition. However, critics say that carbon credits are opaque and difficult to monitor.

The credits or offsets can take various forms, such as reforestation, methane capture from landfill sites, renewable energy projects and programmes providing cleaner cooking fuels in developing countries. 

Under the memorandum of understanding signed between the two organisations, the GCC will help the WAA’s 16 member nations develop the necessary infrastructure and policy frameworks to ensure the rollout of both voluntary and compulsory carbon markets.

Several carbon offset registries worldwide certify and issue carbon credits. These include Verra, Gold Standard, and Corsia (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation).

But critics say carbon markets are risky and complex. According to the UN, money from the sale of the credits has been soaked up by brokers and middlemen, “leaving communities and the projects themselves facing an unfair share of the proceeds”.

Independent experts also question whether such deals lead to real emissions reductions, because of doubts about what a good quality carbon credit should look like.

Carbon Market Watch, a Brussels-based nonprofit organisation, said that the GCC has been certifying credits which will not affect greenhouse gas emissions.

Gilles Dufrasne, a policy lead at Carbon Market Watch, said: “Most of the GCC projects are relatively large renewable energy schemes like solar and wind, [and are] highly unlikely to be eligible under the other standards. Many of them are not additional, meaning they don’t need carbon credits to exist.” 

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