UAE firm gets project rights over 7.5m hectares of Zimbabwean forest in carbon credit deal

(pic: ZBC)

A UAE company is to have conservation rights over 7.5 million of Zimbabwean forest under a carbon-credit deal with the country.

With an area of almost 20% of the country’s land mass, the company, Blue Carbon, will run projects to preserve forests in exchange for carbon credits that it would sell on the global markets. The company is led by Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s royal family and an investor in energy projects across Africa and the Middle East

To meet their climate pledges to reduce pollution, many large global companies and governments are compensating for their carbon emissions by supporting the conservation of forests. For each tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission a project saves, it gets a “carbon credit”. There is now a market globally for these carbon credits, which companies and States buy to offset their emissions so they can reach “net zero”.

Blue Carbon of UAE has emerged as one of the largest carbon credit companies. Al Maktoum signed an MoU with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare on Friday, saying the deal “symbolises a powerful alliance between Zimbabwe and UAE in the face of a shared global challenge”.

Said Al Maktoum: “The project will spread over an area of 7.5 million hectares and bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Zimbabwean government. A large portion of the sale will be spent towards community engagement and on the local population.”

Mnangagwa said under the deal, Blue Carbon will undertake conservation projects and engage in reforestation and forest conservation. He hopes that earnings from the carbon credits sold overseas will raise money for the government.

“The project is anticipated to close the Government of Zimbabwe’s financing gap to the tune of US$200 million while enabling the country to generate high-quality carbon credits for use on the international carbon market,” Mnangagwa said at the signing ceremony.

Africa expansion

This is only the latest in a series of carbon credit deals by Blue Carbon in Africa. So far, the company has secured the right to develop carbon offsetting projects across 24.5m hectares of land across Africa. This includes deals in Tanzania, Liberia and Zambia, where Al Maktoum met President Hakainde Hichilema.

The deal in Liberia – which involves 10% of Liberia’s land area – was roundly criticised by local activists, who said it violated the land rights of local communities.

Blue Carbon says on its website that it was “formed to create environmental assets, nature-based solutions, and register carbon removal projects using modern methodologies.”

Critics say many of the carbon deals do not benefit local communities. In January, the website Follow the Money published a report on abuses concerning the Kariba project in Zimbabwe, one of the largest forest protection projects in the world. Its report found that South Pole, the company running the Kariba project, could not show that the money involved in the sale of CO2 credits actually ended up in Zimbabwe.

Reacting to the report, Zimbabwe promptly cancelled all carbon credit projects in the country and demanded a greater share of earnings from them. It has since softened its position, allowing companies to keep 70% of the income, with the remainder going to locals.

On Friday, Mnangagwa said to Al Maktoum: “The economic infrastructure and social benefits should be visible and tangible for local communities who are key stakeholders.”

UAE hosts this year’s UN Clime Change Conference, COP28, in November.

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