In a move deemed controversial by climate activists, Blue Carbon, a Dubai-based decarbonization company, has entered into a framework of collaboration (FOC) with the State Department of Environment and Climate Change of Kenya, which reportedly grants Blue Carbon access to “millions of hectares” of Kenyan territory for carbon credit production.
This deal adds to a series of similar agreements with African nations, including Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, covering a total of 24.5 million hectares, regional news source Middle East Eye (MEE) reported.
However, there are concerns about potential violations of customary land rights and the displacement of local communities in these nations, Greenpeace campaigner Hellen Kahaso Dena was quoted as saying by MEE.
The timing of these contracts is notable, occurring ahead of the UN COP28 Climate Summit scheduled for November in Dubai, where carbon credits are expected to be a key item on the agenda.
With an estimated value of some US$2 billion, the global voluntary carbon offset market allows major polluters to purchase credits from emission-reducing projects, particularly in forest conservation.
According to MEE, Blue Carbon, which was founded just a year ago, lacks experience in managing carbon offset projects.
Furthermore, critics point to the company’s close ties to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), heavily invested in oil and gas, raising concerns that these deals may be an attempt to offset the Emirates’ own emissions.
Fadhel Kaboub, a senior adviser with climate change think tank Power Shift Africa, criticized the approach, stating that these agreements allow major polluters to buy a “licence to pollute” without reducing their emissions.
The UAE positions itself as a leading investor in the African carbon market, pledging $450 million at the Africa Climate Summit held in September towards producing carbon offsets on the continent and acquiring land from African governments.
Despite growing skepticism about the environmental impact of carbon credits, carbon trading is expected to dominate the upcoming UN climate summit.
The lack of climate financing options has led developing countries to turn to carbon markets, as highlighted in a recent UN report pointing out the growing gap between climate adaptation needs and international funding.