Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a commission investigate a proposed forest carbon credit deal between the West African nation’s Forest Development Authority (FDA) and UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation, reports Global Witness, an NGO that originally raised concerns about the scheme, which aimed to secure around a fifth of Liberia’s total forest area — 400,000 hectares — in a forest carbon concession. Police in London arrested Mike Foster, CEO of Carbon Harvesting Corporation, last week.
The investigation by Global Witness questioned Carbon Harvesting Corporation’s “relevant inexperience, the lack of consultation, and the inadequate safeguards and monitoring mechanisms.” Global Witness said the project potentially exposed the Liberian government to more than $2 billion in liabilities.
“The investigation into the proposed Carbon Harvesting Corporation deal announced by President Johnson Sirleaf is an important first step,” said Amy Barry of Global Witness in a statement. “Liberia will need to be vigilant against corruption in order to ensure its natural resource wealth is managed sustainably and for the benefit of the wider population. Genuine political will and the space for civil society involvement will be essential to ensure transparency in future carbon-related projects and resource deals in general.”
The unregulated nature of the nascent forest carbon market — whereby landholders are paid for conserving and sustainable managing forests — has sparked concern among environmental and social rights groups over land-grabbing and scams. For example, con-artists in Papua New Guinea are going from village to village asking locals to sign agreements for “sky money”. The contacts bind them to pay in advance for the rights to payments they may or may not receive at some undetermined time in the future.
Many groups are therefore calling for stronger safeguards, greater transparency, and increased participation of forest-dependent peoples in the development and implementation of a framework on carbon conservation projects under the proposed UN REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanism.