No Need to Know?
The Secret Economy of Carbon
In 2004, the womens self-help group of Powerguda village in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, India was given cash in exchange for the plantation of Pongamia trees. The trees seeds can be used to make a petrolsubstitute.
The women were given a certificate and US$645 as a token of offsetting the emissions produced by a World Bank workshop on climate change held in Washington, DC. The Bank claims that 30 years of biofuel use by government authorities in Andhra Pradesh will compensate climatically for the carbonemissions associated with the workshop.
The women were unaware of the reason they had received the money. They were also unaware of the various benefits to be accrued by the carbon traders, releasers and agencies involved, and of how their activities related toclimate change.
Adivasi villages in Andhra Pradesh visited in 2004 were also unaware that a study had been carried out on their possible participation in a global carbon economy. Adivasi communities tend to be unaware of the climate change debate, of what carbon trading means, and of the significance carbonprojects would have for their livelihoods.
The irony is that northern Andhra Pradesh has recently been hit by one of the most devastating droughts ever, very possibly as a result of global warming. In the summer of 2004, the province's number of suicides offarmers driven to desperation by their crippling debts reached 3,000.
The lack of discussion with affected parties seen in Andhra Pradesh appears to be a common denominator of carbon-saving projects nearly everywhere:
- In Uganda, community members living close to a carbon plantation carried out by the Dutch FACE Foundation with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority near Mount Elgon said in interviews that that they knew nothing about the projects production of carbon credits to be sold on an international market, only that the UWA has received grants. This ignorance extends to diploma or degree holding members of the Bubita sub-county local council and even top district administration officials. Residents wanted to know more about the financial benefits FACE Foundation receives, particularly because the project encumbers their land for a long time, and planned to take this matter with their local member of parliament. An English-language brochure on the project mentions the carbon sequestering role that plantations will play, but remains silent on the money FACE Foundation and others will make from the sequestered carbon. The project coordinator and the UWA warden responsible for FACE activities both refused to provide this information when asked directly. The Ugandan acting deputy commissioner for forestry in the Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment, Ignatius Oluka-Akileng, told an interviewer in 2001 that his forestry directorate knew little or nothing about the carbon trade involving state forest lands, nor how much foreign companies were to gain from it, and begged the interviewer, from the Norwegian NGO, NorWatch, to help provide the information.
- In Thailand, most residents of the community adjacent to the site of a proposed biomass-burning power project in Yala province were unaware in 2003 that it had been seeking carbon finance for years. As of January of that year, even the local Subdistrict Administrative Authority had yet to receive an environmental impact assessment or other documentation from the firms involved.
- In South Africa, public consultation on the proposal for the World Bank Prototype Carbon Fund's Bisasar Road project to extract and burn methane from a landfill site was conducted through the internet, to which only a small minority of the local community have access.
- The owner of Kalpataru Power Transmission Ltd. in Rajasthan, which plans to sell The Netherlands government a total of 313,743 CDM carbon credits over 7-10 years, refused to allow the Indian magazine Down To Earth access to the project site. The Project Design Documents of four different Indian biomass power projects each repeated, word for word, alleged favourable comments made by a village head. All of the projects Rithwick, Perpetual, Indur and Sri Balaji are located in Andhra Pradesh state, but all have different characteristics and are spread over hundreds of kilometres. Even spelling mistakes were repeated in the documents, suggesting that consultation was not genuine. The private consultants who prepared the documents, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst&Young, responded lamely that identical projects in similar geographical locations were likely to have similar Project Design Documents. Ernst & Young National Director Suni Chandiramani told an Indian newspaper, the Business Standard, that the answers were in accordance with a fixed set of questions "and in a similar environment, it is unlikely that responses will be drastically different." The stakeholder comments section of the Project Design Documents prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the HFC-23 reduction projects developed by Gujurat Fluorochemicals and SRF are summarized in exactly the same wording, although arranged differently on the page. The authors claim to have consulted with different villages, but their summarized responses are identical.
for more information: Larry Lohmann at email@example.com
by: ProfMKD @ 10:15 AM