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The Human Cost of Carbon Offset Projects

Green developments that aim to be climate-friendly may be hurting some of the world’s most vulnerable people, according to a survey of Ugandan villagers affected by carbon-offset projects.

A study of the impact of Norwegian plantation company Green Resources and its forestry-based carbon offset projects in Uganda by A/Prof Kristen Lyons and Dr Peter Westoby of The University of Queensland dismissed claims that carbon trading – which aims to negate emissions from one development by creating an environmentally friendly development elsewhere – represented a “win-win” for rural communities and the environment.

“Green Resources claims to be the largest operator of ‘green’ forestry plantations on the African continent, including licenses on over 10,000 hectares of land in Uganda alone, with additional landholdings in Mozambique and Tanzania,” Lyons said. “But firs-hand accounts from Uganda reveal that some villagers have experienced forced evictions, restricted access to land and food, in addition to loss of livelihood – all in the name of international ‘green’ investment.

“Green Resources states that its objective is to ‘contribute to mitigating climate change and contribute to sustainable environmental management, community development and poverty alleviation in Uganda’. On the basis of such claims, the company has received investments and loans from international aid and investment development agencies, but there are hidden social costs with these projects. Under the licensed land agreement between Uganda’s government and Green Resources, upwards of 8000 people face significant disruptions to their livelihoods, including many experiencing forced evictions.

“It is unacceptable to expect those already living at the margins of existence – with high levels of poverty, food insecurity, poor access to health, sanitation and education – to carry a disproportionate burden in addressing the global climate crisis,” Lyons said.