At the UN Climate Change negotiations in Durban this week, the World Bank and developed countries are claiming that agriculture carbon offsets will bring money for African agriculture.
But civil society groups are worried that carbon offsets in agriculture will threaten African farmers and farming systems. 100+ civil society groups have signed a letter asking African negotiators to reject soil carbon markets. They point to the collapse of the carbon markets and warn that carbon markets can open the door to land grabs and the establishment of industrial agricultural systems which threaten small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.
“But the World Bank is fighting back,” says Helena Paul of EcoNexus. “It seems determined to massively expand carbon markets by linking agriculture with REDD, using what the Bank calls the ‘landscape approach’, under the guise of so-called ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’. This implies putting all land into the carbon markets. The Bank is also launching new investor initiatives in Durban today.”
Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation adds: “Developed country big guns from the US, Canada, Australia & New Zealand are loudly mouthing empty rhetoric about the need to address agriculture in the negotiations for Africa’s sake. But their claims that they are merely passionate about research into agroforestry, and Africa’s agricultural adaptation needs, are highly suspicious. The World Bank’s aggressive push for a ‘mitigation programme of work on agriculture’ at the UN climate negotiations echoes the same rhetoric of saving Africa, but is a Trojan horse to bring in carbon offsets based on farmers’ soils. Soil carbon offsets will promote a new spate of African land grabs, and put farmers under the control of fickle carbon markets.”
Doreen Stabinsky of Institute for Africulture and Trade Policy (IATP) points out that “The World Bank has paid for a series of meetings over the past year, designed to build support for soil carbon markets. They even paid the costs for a meeting of African Agriculture ministers in Johannesburg in September. Observers are left wondering why the Bank is investing so much money merely to get a statement from the COP to create a work programme on agriculture. The Bank’s agenda is clearly an agenda of a carbon broker and trader — who makes his money on volume, not quality. More carbon for markets — including soil carbon — very simply means more money for the Bank and carbon project developers. This is about neither poverty alleviation, nor development.”
The organisation of the late Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, have launched a new report to share their experiences piloting a forest carbon project with the World Bank. Professor Njoroge Karanja , Acting Director of GBM, warns that there are many lessons to be learned for other African projects and local communities considering carbon offsetting. “Poor communities are greatly disadvantaged as the rules for implementation result in high costs for project development. The lack of upfront funding, and the need to wait many years before payment for offsets, shuts out almost all the grassroots communities whose involvement is critical to the long-term sustainability of the projects. If we continue with carbon offsetting – where polluters are able to offset their emissions through buying credits – Africa, Asia and South America will become hewers of wood and drawers of water. We need clear identifiable indicators of reduction of emissions from the major polluters before they can enter the carbon buying market in the south.”