Campaign Letters

May 2007 Campaign Letter

Direct mail campaign – May 2007
May 25, 2007

Companies in rich countries say they can’t (or won’t) reduce their emissions. Instead, they are allowed to buy carbon credits from projects in poor countries that are deemed to reduce emissions or store carbon. But these Third World projects often gobble up scarce farmland in favour of mega wind farms and hydro dams that don’t generate greenhouse gasses.

May 25, 2007

Dear Probe International supporter,

To stop global warming, Canadians are being told that it is good to buy “carbon credits” or “carbon offsets.” Al Gore buys them, Hollywood environmentalists buy them, even CEOs buy them. David Suzuki recommends them, and now our government is jumping on the bandwagon, saying Canadian companies should buy them to compensate for the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases they emit in Canada.

The idea is deceptively simple. Companies in rich countries say they can’t (or won’t) reduce their emissions. Instead, they are allowed to buy carbon credits from projects in poor countries that are deemed to reduce emissions or store carbon. But these Third World projects often gobble up scarce farmland in favour of mega wind farms and hydro dams that don’t generate greenhouse gasses. Or they destroy tropical forests and the livelihoods of forest peoples in favour of vast monoculture tree plantations. Soon, nuclear power stations may qualify as greenhouse gas reducers, too, if China, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have their way. Nobody knows that carbon credits will improve the global atmosphere. We do know, however, that carbon credits face growing opposition from local Third World communities, because carbon schemes often pit these communities against some of the world’s worst polluters and land-grabbing corporations. Here are a few examples of the damage done so far:

  • In India, the country’s largest steel and power conglomerates are being rewarded with carbon credits for performing trivial energy efficiency upgrades. Meanwhile, they’re continuing to foul the air, water supplies and croplands of neighbouring villages. Jindal Steel and Power, the world’s largest maker of sponge iron, is developing four UN-approved carbon offset projects alongside a new 1000-MW coal-fired plant that will vastly increase its greenhouse gas emissions and displace 3,000 villagers. The company’s expansion is proceeding despite protests from 10,000 people and demands for compensation for years of ill health and ruined crops around the company’s massive industrial complex.
  • In Uganda, the indigenous Benet people were left homeless and hungry after their government expropriated their land for a national park in which a Dutch company has planted “carbon offset” trees. The Benet challenged this expropriation in court and won the right to return to their traditional land, with the right to farm. But the conflict between the Benet and local park officials protecting the “carbon offset” trees continues.
  • In the Brazilian rainforest, the World Bank financed the 23,000-hectare expansion of a eucalyptus plantation as a carbon-saving scheme, despite opposition from thousands of indigenous people displaced by the original plantation. The plantation owner claimed that by fuelling its pig iron foundry with charcoal made from eucalyptus trees instead of coal, it would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project has drawn opposition from more than 50 citizens groups, including churches, trade unions, and indigenous peoples’ organizations.

Today, if carbon credit schemes are expanded on the scale sought by their backers at the United Nations, the World Bank and other Western development agencies, more forest-destroying plantations and massive hydro projects will go ahead and millions of small farmers and indigenous peoples in developing countries will face expropriation and ruin.

In China, where the average farmplot is less than half a hectare, a single British consortium has just acquired 250,000 hectares of land for carbon offset agroforestry. Elsewhere, the world’s largest dam-building companies are preparing for a construction bonanza along
the Brazilian Amazon and Africa’s Congo river provided they qualify for carbon credits and climate-saving aid from Western development agencies, the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods are threatened by these projects be damned.

Grassroots environmentalists, community leaders, farmers groups and indigenous peoples organizations are fighting back, but they need our support. Please help by telling our government to forget carbon credits and concentrate on reducing harmful emissions at home. The only clear beneficiaries of the UN’s carbon credit scheme are the aid bureaucracies that oversee growing fiefdoms, and the corporations that have learned to game the system.


Grainne Ryder

Policy Director


World Bank, Carbon Finance for Sustainable Development, Annual Report 2006.

The World Bank is developing carbon credit schemes in Senegal, Madagascar, Botswana, Nigeria, and Mozambique.
The Bank-managed BioCarbon Fund is financing commercial plantations and
carbon-storing reforestation schemes in the following countries: China
(4,000 hectares); Costa Rica (4,000 hectares); Honduras (3,000
hectares); Nicaruaga (600 hectares); Uganda (2,000 hectares); Columbia
(8,600 hectares); Democratic Republic of Congo (8,000 hectares for
fuelwood and charcoal production); Dominican Republic (6,000 hectares);
Madagascar (5,000 hectares); Mali (15,000 hectares), Niger (8.800
hectares). Carbon Positive (UK)

Carbon Positive, a consortium of UK companies that includes Sun Biofuels (UK), Shell Foundation, and Britain’s Independent Power Corporation, is investing in carbon credit plantations in China’s Yunnan province, and Brazil’s Amazonia region, and is pursuing projects in Ghana, Ethiopia, Colombia, and Indonesia. Carbon Trade Watch (UK) Clean Development Mechanism Watch (Indonesia)

CDM Watch, “The World Bank and the Carbon Market: Rhetoric and Reality,”

April 2005. Cornerhouse (UK)

of the carbon offset examples cited by Probe International were
documented by UK-based activist/author Larry Lohman in his book, Carbon Trading, which was published by Dag Hammerskjold Foundation of Sweden
in September 2006 and is available for download from Cornerhouse. Larry
provides an exhaustive critique of CDM using case studies from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda.
Much of the field research is credited to local groups and researchers
including: Marcelo Calazana and Winnie Overbeek of Espirito Santo
(Brazil), Friends of the Earth (Costa Rica) Patricia Granda of Accion
Ecologica (Ecuador), Soumitra Ghosh of North East Society for the
Preservation of Nature (India), the National Forum of Forest Peoples
and Forest Workers (India), and the World Rainforest Movement

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, CDM/JI Office

to David Steuerman, Senior Program Officer, Canadian companies will be
allowed to use CDM credits for meeting up to 10 percent of their
domestic emissions reduction obligations under the federal governments’
new green plan. Steurman reports there are approximately 25 UN-approved
CDM projects worldwide with Canadian involvement. Further details are
available only on the UN CDM web site, not the Canadian CDM site. Development Today (Norway)

Soumitra Ghosh (India), “Aid, CDM and some open questions,” May 2, 2007;

Tornaes (Denmark), “Climate proofing aid, promoting CDM in Africa,”
April 19, 2007; “Danes target grey zone in OECD rules on aid and carbon
credits,” March 27, 2007. Centre for Science and Environment (India)

Down to Earth, “Biodiesel and the expansion of oil palm plantations,” May 2006.

International Atomic Energy Agency, “Nuclear Power for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, Austria, November 2000. International Rivers Network (USA)

Rivers Network and CDM Watch, “CDM large hydro status note for the
World Bank/IETA Carbon Expo,” June 2004. A majority of the hydro
projects funded by the Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund are large scale
hydro (over 10 MW):

  • 39-MW Rio General dam in Costa Rica for 1.4 million credits
  • 78-MW Rio Amoya dam in Colombia for 1.8 million credits
  • 55-MW Hornitos dam in Chile for 1.5 million credits

hopefuls include a series of large-scale hydro dams along Brazil’s
Madeira River, a large Amazon tributary, part of a multi-billion dollar
regional infrastructure plan backed by the taxpayer-funded
Inter-American Development Bank. If completed, the dams will block
migratory fish, and adversely affect the land and livelihoods of
thousands of river bank communities. Brazilian groups fighting the Madeira dams include Brazil’s Dam-Affected Peoples’ Movement and the Rondonia Energy Forum

Panos Institute, Photos and testimonials of people displaced by aid-financed development projects in India, Pakistan, Lesotho, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.

PointCarbon, “UK television report raises questions about CDM in India,”

February 8, 2007. Sinkswatch (UK)

Sinkswatch tracks carbon offset projects, including Brazil’s
Plantar plantations, particularly where forest people’s land rights are
disputed. The group opposes World Bank funding of monoculture tree
plantations and challenges CDM methodology used to verify the amount of
carbon stored in plantations in developing countries.

The Times, “Indians Make Cool 300 Million in Carbon Farce,” April 22, 2007.

Transnational Institute (Netherlands), FASE-ES (Brazil and Carbon Trade Watch, “Where Trees are a Desert,” Amsterdam, 2003. The report and photos describe the devastating effects of plantations on people and the environment in Brazil.

World Energy Council

WESTCOR, the consortium of African power utilities that wants to build Inga 3 (3500 MW) and Grand Inga (39,000 MW) on the Congo River
hopes to raise financing from the sale of carbon credits from both the
dams and the use of super high capacity power transmission lines. See
“WESTCOR and its Action Plan,” Presentation by Thulani Gcabashe, Chief
Executive, Eskom and Member of the Westcor Shareholders Steering
Committee, World Energy Council International Forum on the Grand Inga
Project, Gaborone, Botswana, March 16-17, 2007. World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay and UK)

Lang and Timothy Byakola, “A funny place to store carbon,” December
2006. Case study of the indigenous Benet peoples’ struggle for their
land versus Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Dutch carbon offset
foundation, FACE.

Background Sources

Asia Times Online, Japan’s CDM Rush to BRIC Countries,” March 30, 2007. Clean Development Mechanism Clean Development Mechanism Africa Clean Development Mechanism Brazil Clean Development Mechanism China

Clean Development Mechanism Indo German Energy Programme

Economic Times Online, “India churning out more carbon copies,” May 4, 2007.

Friends of the Earth (UK), Joint statement on offsetting carbon emissions by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and WWF-UK.

ISN Security Watch, “Brazil opens carbon credit market,” September 15, 2005.

Press Service News Agency, “Green Investment to Get Boost from New EU
Fund,” April 25, 2007; “Sale of Carbon Credits Rise, Amid Complaints,”
Keya Acharya, September 8, 2006.

South African Institute for International Affairs, “Carbon Trading – A New Source of African Finance,” September 2005.

World Bank, State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2006: A Focus on Africa

Energy Council, Primer on Clean Development Mechanism, Prepared for
World Energy Council Asia-Pacific Region Members, CRL Energy Ltd., New Zealand.

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