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Verra suspends carbon credit projects following police raid in Brazil

Verra's decision comes after the Greenwashing Operation, which arrested five people in early June. Image courtesy of the Federal Police.

  • Verra, the largest registry of the voluntary carbon market, suspended projects targeted by the Federal Police in the Brazilian Amazon following an investigation by Mongabay.
  • The “extraordinary action” prevents the selling of new credits, the organization stated.
  • The raid occurred two weeks after Mongabay showed the links between the REDD+ projects and a suspected logging scam.
  • Verra certified projects that had credits bought by top brands such as the carbon credit broker Moss, the Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL Airlines, the food delivery app iFood, Itaú, one of the country’s leading banks, and the international companies Toshiba, Spotify and Boeing.

Three carbon credit projects were suspended in the Brazilian Amazon after the Federal Police’s Greenwashing Operation targeted the leaders of supposedly “green” initiatives with suspected links to a land-grabbing and illegal logging scam.

Verra, one of the world’s largest voluntary carbon market registries and the project’s certifier, announced the decision June 10. “An account suspension is an extraordinary action that means no transactions can happen on the account at all, including on credits held in the account, until any identified issues or uncertainties have been resolved,” Verra stated.

According to the organization, the action is a preventative measure and does not indicate any judgment of those involved (read the complete statement here).

In a new statement released on Jun. 13, Verra said it will launch an internal investigation on Stoppe’s projects, which will be put “on hold” on Verra’s Registry.

“I believe that Verra is doing the certification incorrectly,” federal deputy Thiago Marrese Scarpellini, chief Greenwashing Operation investigator, told Mongabay after the raid. “But I don’t know if it’s their fault because it’s based in the United States, and I don’t know if there’s land-grabbing in the United States. But we have it here. And if we are a promising market [for carbon credits] they will have to adjust to certain circumstances here.”

The Greenwashing Operation was triggered June 5, two weeks after Mongabay published an investigation connecting the projects’ owners to a suspected timber laundering scam.

According to the investigators, the carbon credit areas were also used to launder timber taken from illegally deforested areas. Image © Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace.

Projects Unitor, Fortaleza Ituxi and Evergreen were developed by the Brazilian company Carbonext and occupy an area more than three times the size of New York City in the south of Amazonas state. Among the buyers of their credits are companies such as the carbon credit broker Moss, the Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL Airlines, the food delivery app iFood, Itaú, one of the country’s leading banks, and the international companies Toshiba, Spotify and Boeing.

“When I see the headlines in the newspaper, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and now the Federal Police entering the field, what they are doing is signaling what quality criteria we need from projects in Brazil,” Shigueo Watanabe Junior said to Mongabay. He is a senior climate policy specialist at the Talanoa Institute, a Brazilian think tank dedicated to climate policy,

Five people were arrested in the operation, including Ricardo Stoppe, the leader of the group. The Federal Police seized 1.6 billion reais ($300 million) in assets, besides two airplanes, luxury cars and several pieces of jewelry.

According to the investigators, the grabbed public areas are valued at 820 million reais ($155 million), and the group is behind the illegal extraction of more than 1 million cubic meters of wood, the equivalent of almost 5,000 truckloads.

 

UPDATE (06-13-2024): The story was update with a new statement by Verra.

Banner image: Verra’s decision comes after the Greenwashing Operation, which arrested five people in early June. Image courtesy of the Federal Police.

Top brands buy Amazon carbon credits from suspected timber laundering scam

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