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The Swedish Energy Agency has frozen carbon credits purchases from Norwegian plantation firm Green Resources

November 27, 2015

Chris Lang

Green Resources is a Norwegian company with plantations in Africa. According to the company, its plantation operations follow, “high international practice for sustainable forest management, ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance] responsibilities and carbon sequestration”.

The plantations are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council system and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance Standard.

The Swedish Energy Agency is the sole purchaser of carbon credits from Green Resources‘ Kachung plantation in Uganda. So far the Swedish Energy Agency has paid out US$137,000 to the project for 30,000 carbon credits.

On 3 November 2015, the Swedish Energy Agency announced that it was freezing remaining payments of US$4 million. Swedish Energy Agency has given Green Resources a list of nine items based on concerns raised by the local communities.

The items include allowing cattle grazing in the plantations, producing a socio-economic analysis and development plan, improving communication and setting up a complaints mechanism, respecting land rights, repairing wells, and setting up a programme for energy efficient stoves.

Carbon violence

Last year, the Oakland Institute produced a report about Green Resources‘ plantations in Uganda. The report, titled, “The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda “, exposed the social and environmental impacts of the plantation operations.

In a press release about the freezing of funding, Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, says,

“The claims about corporate environmental and social responsibility simply don‘t match up with the reality on the ground for many thousands of people directly affected by company activities. It is unacceptable for carbon trading schemes to result in forced evictions and increased food insecurity while delivering little to no improvement on access to health, sanitation, and education. Private and public financiers of the project, including the World Bank and other Scandinavian countries should be compelled to follow Sweden and immediately stop their support for this scandalous project.”

The project is financed by international aid agencies, including Sweden, NORFUND, the Norwegian investment fund for developing countries, its Finnish equivalent FINNFUND, and the World Bank‘s International Finance Corporation.

Swedish TV journalist visits Uganda

At the end of September 2015, Camilla Ziedorn, a journalist with Sweden‘s T4 Kalla Fakta programme visited the plantations in Uganda. She spoke to Olungo Moses, of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists. She asked him whether he would say that Sweden has an important role.

He replied:

“Yes, because they finance destruction. If they are not financing these projects, you see less destruction, in the environment.”

Clips from the TV coverage of this issue are available on the Kalla Fakta website (in Swedish).

Mads Asprem, CEO of Green Resources and Teddy N. Nsamba, Senior Plantation Manager and ESG Director, head in the sand responses to Kalla Fakta‘s questions are available here.

Swedish Energy Agency visits Uganda

After being interviewed for the Kalla Fakta programme, the Swedish Energy Agency decided to visit Uganda to take a look at Green Resources operations for itself.

They found that there were “weaknesses” in the way Green Resources was running its plantation operations:

During the visit to Kachung colleagues got information and data from both locals and Green Resources staff that the project did not live up to the agreement between the Swedish Energy Agency and Green Resources or to the pledges made in the project documentation.

Several villagers to the Swedish visitors that they find it difficult to support themselves and need access to more fertile agricultural land. They said that conditions have become worse since their access to the plantation area was restricted. Local people and Green Resources‘ documents showed that there were conflicts between company staff and villagers.

To its credit, the Swedish Energy Agency decided to take action and froze future payments to Green Resources:

It is for us of utmost importance to take immediate measures so that the situation of the local population in Kachung is improved, and that conflicts and land resource issues are handled in a responsible manner, both in the short and long term.

Future payments to Green Resources are conditional on the company meeting the Swedish Energy Agency‘s demands. A brochure that described the land as “previously unused” and that the project was flawlessly prepared has been removed from the Swedish Energy Agency‘s website. “It should be emphasized that these allegations are incorrect,” the Swedish Energy Agency says on its website.

The Swedish Energy Agency will “ensure that a full investigation is carried out on the conditions surrounding the project”. All of which raises some serious questions about the validity of the FSC and CCBA certifications.