Africa’s poor cut off carbon market

The market for green logistics, while still nascent, is expanding quickly.  

As Africa prepares to host the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as Conference of the Parties (COP27), attention is being focused on carbon neutrality, net zero and climate positivity.

And there is a growing consensus by governments and the business community on the fundamental role of carbon pricing in the transition to a decarbonised economy.

But as the world is focusing on developing instruments to address the impact of climate change, there is no mention of the guardians of the forest like the Ogiek community who have been custodians of the Mau Forest and Elgon Forest, which is one of the most important water towers in East Africa.

Their main economic activity is beekeeping. They also do more by generating global public goods and services such as wildlife conservation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity. The Pygmies, a nomadic hunter-gatherer community, too, live and maintain forests in the Cong Basin.

What is common among the two communities that are central to decarbonisation of the world is poverty. And while the centre of attention has shifted from arresting the disaster of climate change to carbon credit trading, the discussions on carbon pricing are not looking at their contribution to the carbon cycle.

In the meantime, the forest people do not know where the market is and how to measure their credit assets.

OECD defines these markets as “a trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to meet their national limits on emissions, either under the Kyoto Protocol or under other agreements, such as that among member states of the European Union.”

The problem with the carbon market is that there is no physical marketplace for individuals to buy or sell their credits. Africa, for example, is the least polluter – accounting for just 3.8 percent share of the global greenhouse effect – but these credits never get to benefit the continent’s poor even in cases where they deserve them. Instead, the continent is pressured to further reduce emissions and phase down coal.

Although the wealthy nations in 2009 pledged $100 billion annually to climate financing for developing nations, it was revealed in COP26 that the commitment remains unfulfilled. The entire process of carbon trading seems to be shrouded in secrecy and a web of powerful players including energy companies stands in the way.

In 2020, a World Bank report recommended that carbon credit prices to range between $40 and $80 per ton of carbon dioxide so as to achieve the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. By contrast a multi-agency initiative by a Swedish non-governmental organisation named Vi Agroforestry (VA) implemented Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) with the aid of World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and other donors.

VA worked with KACP to store 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide on 45,000 hectares in Nyanza and Western. The BioCarbon Fund gave the farmers $65,000 or $2.60 per ton of CO2 in exchange for their carbon credits. Each farmer perhaps received less than a dollar. The difference between $2.60 and $80 is said to have gone to several layers of consultants whose exact roles are unknown.

Climate injustice is astounding in Africa. The Congo basin ecosystem for example, offers a carbon absorption service equivalent to 10 years of global emissions. The DRC alone has 10 percent of the world’s tropical forests.

It has the greatest impact on the global emission reduction targets. It should rightfully be collecting billions of dollars in carbon credits. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Instead, it received $500 million in donor money to protect DR Congo’s Forest.

At COP26, Ethiopia’s Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said, “Lack of capacity and the complexity of the process to access the already scarce finance has made it difficult for developing nations.”

The continent must build the necessary capacities to negotiate in the upcoming COP27.

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