Greenpeace Calls Noel Kempff Climate Action Project a Carbon Scam

by | Oct 16, 2009

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NoelKempffemissionsGreenpeace released a new report that calls into question the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project (NKCAP) aimed at saving Bolivia’s rainforests, stating the project did not deliver promised emissions reductions. However, other environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy and Union of Concerned Scientists dispute the report.

The area in dispute is northeast Bolivia’s Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, where project backers American Electric Power, BP America and PacifiCorp, sold half of its first independently audited carbon savings on the voluntary market for $8.25 million in 2006, reports the New York Times. It was one of the largest-scale efforts to measure and verify forest carbon credits, according to the newspaper.

In question is the extent to which similar projects, measured and credited on an individual basis outside of national programs, can reliably reduce carbon emissions, putting at stake billions of dollars of cheap carbon offsets that could be traded for greenhouse gases released from industrial companies in developed countries, according to the New York Times.

Greenpeace says the report findings underscore a need for non-offset funding to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). The report, “Carbon Scam: Noel Kempff Climate Action Project and the Push for Sub-national Forest Offsets (PDF),” concludes that REDD offsets are too unreliable to be included in cap-and-trade systems.

As an example, over the last decade of the project (1997-2009), the estimated emissions reductions of NKCAP fell by more than 90 percent, from about 55 million to 5.8 million metric tons of CO2, according to the report. In addition, the report finds that project sponsors did not produce evidence that carbon leakage — the transfer of carbon emissions to other regions or countries due to avoided deforestation — did not occur.

The Nature Conservancy, NKCAP’s main broker and one of the world’s largest conservation groups, disputes Greenpeace’s findings and is supported by other environmental groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists, reports the New York Times. These groups admit that the project has had “substantial difficulties along the way” but it is a “successful learning process,” according to the article.

The groups don’t dispute many of the specific figures that Greenpeace includes in the report, but rather how they are interpreted the data, reports the New York Times. As an example, initially, scientists estimated that the 30-year project would save 10 times the 5.8 million tons of CO2 that they figure today, which Greenpeace interprets as a sign that emissions savings are difficult if not impossible, reports the newspaper.

Supporters of the project say these adjustments indicate how much the science and on-the-ground measurements have improved over the last decade and how serious efforts are to ensure legitimate credits, reports the New York Times.

According to Greenpeace, if low-quality REDD offsets like those from NKCAP are included in a government cap-and-trade scheme, climate pollution could increase, and if sub-national REDD offsets are traded on a large scale it could undermine the integrity of carbon markets, acting as “sub-prime” carbon credits creating financial implications, according to the report.

Instead, Greenpeace believes REDD should be financed through a large, predictable supply of revenues from pollution permits, allowing the funds to be used more efficiently, and avoiding the use of forest offsets.

Many environmentalists believe that the private capital of the offset market is needed, in addition to government funds, to build developing nations’ capacities to monitor and manage forest carbon programs, reports the New York Times.

The Nature Conservancy, AEP, Duke Energy, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others, agreed that private investment in “sub-national” project-level approaches is critical to help developing countries implement and scale major national programs, reports the New York Times.

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