Sweden Postpones Carbon Payment to Uganda Tree Farm where Locals have been Evicted
Ann Danaiya Usher
A planned disbursement of SEK 10 million by the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) for emissions reductions produced by the Kachung plantation in Uganda, owned by the Norwegian company Green Resources, has been delayed due to on-going concerns about the project. Development Today has learned that the Swedes were about to give a green light last week but put on the brakes.
The delay coincides with the publication of the Berkley-based Oakland Institute’s third critical report on the Kachung plantation. Entitled “Evicted for Carbon Trading,” the report was released last Thursday (August 29), and presents evidence that farmers have over the years been evicted by Green Resources and its Ugandan subsidiaries to make room for the plantation. It also raises questions about the validity of certification received by the project from three international bodies, including the Forest Stewardship Council and CDM.
Ola Westberg at the Swedish Energy Agency tells Development Today that the payment delay is not related to Oakland’s report, which the agency rejects out of hand.
“As far as we can see the report contains no new information and the conclusions arrived at by Oakland do not match those of the independent audit that we have implemented,” the agency writes in a statement released one day after the Oakland report was published.
Rather, the delay is related to the Swedish Energy Agency’s own assessment of the project, Westberg says.
The Swedish agency had planned for a transfer last week of certified emissions credits produced by the Kachung plantation in Uganda and approved by the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – equivalent to 192,000 tonnes of CO2.
“The plan was to go through with the transfer last week,” says Ola Westberg at the Swedish Energy Agency to Development Today. Once the credits are transferred, the agency has 30 days to pay SEK 10 million to Green Resources, which owns the plantation. Westberg says the agency is “still reviewing the progress report from Green Resources. [The transfer] could happen any day, but probably not this week ... There will be no transfer of certified emissions credits until the agency is satisfied.”
The plantation, located in Northern Uganda, is surrounded by 17 villages. Though the land being used by Green Resources to plant pine trees is formally owned by the government, thousands of people have used the area for farming and cattle grazing. While the company plans to earn SEK 35 million by selling carbon credits to the Swedish state, the treatment of people in the area has been at the heart of the controversy that has dogged this project for almost a decade.
Back in 2011, the Swedish Energy Agency signed a SEK 35 million agreement with Green Resources for the purchase of 365,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions from the company’s pine plantation in Kachung, Northern Uganda. The payments would be made over a 20-year period, with the first disbursement of SEK 1.2 million taking place in 2013.
According to the agreement’s payment schedule, a second disbursement for emissions reductions achieved during the five-year period (2013-2017) was to be made last year.
But the cooperation was frozen in 2015 when media reports and the energy agency’s own site visits revealed that the situation of affected people was worse than Green Resources had led the agency to believe. The agency stated in a press release at the time that “villagers were deprived of vital resources and experienced threats and violence, and there is a lack of clarity regarding ownership in the reserve.”
Following the freeze in 2016, Green Resources presented a road map detailing how it would improve its dealings with communities affected by the plantation. This included a ten-point action plan on areas like food security, water availability, cattle grazing and roads. The Swedish agency welcomed the move, but warned that future carbon payments were “conditional on the implementation of concrete actions to improve the situation.”
The agency stated: “We believe we can do more for local people by taking responsibility and making demands on Green Resources … than by pulling out of the project.”