Additionality in Carbon offsets: Carbon Cowboy’s role in Africa

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Additionality in Carbon offsets: Carbon Cowboy’s role in Africa

As part of the ongoing large-scale land acquisition or what is known in some quarters as land grabbing, the UAE is recolonizing Africa. Land grabbing is the large-scale acquisition of land through the buying or leasing of large pieces of land by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. It is used broadly throughout history most especially in the 21st century to mean large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007–08 world food price crisis.


The new face of LSLA is the acquisition of forests for carbon sequestration. There are common grounds in the outlook of 2007 and 2024 land grabbing: the use of force, dislocation of indigenous people, army of local rent seekers, corruption, and secrecy in the deals leading to ‘accumulation by dispossession’ hence primitive accumulation.


In the last edition, we saw how 4 African countries have conceded an area the size of the UK to Blue Carbon. Last week, Liberia also conceded 10 percent of its territory to a private Emirati company, extinguishing customary land rights and giving the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pollution rights equivalent to the forest’s carbon sequestration. The deal would give the company blanket control over one million hectares of forest.


In this deal, there is an uneven distribution of profits from the sale of the carbon credits, with Blue Carbon reaping 70 percent of profits, and the Liberian government 30 percent – of which around half will be paid to communities. In effect, the company would then “harvest” carbon credits, supposedly from restoring and protecting the land, which they would then sell to major polluters to offset their emissions.


Can Blue Carbon really protect the land? What are they restoring if the land is pristine forest and who has so far protected the land? what role have the indigenous people played in the past? Is there really any additional value added by Blue Carbon to merit 70% of the profit from the carbon offset scheme?


If signed, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) would violate a number of Liberian laws, including the 2019 land rights law, a legislation that asserts communities’ right to “customary land”. In this article, we ask whether the deal can meet the Article 6 clause of the UNFCCC on Additionality.



The principle of ‘Additionality’ insists additional value is added to a forest compared to its initial state. It assesses whether an activity provides something new or ‘additional’ – whether the activity has an impact when compared to a baseline. The indigenous people have maintained their rainforest and are at the forefront of all efforts to sustain the forest. So, what is the new value that Blue Carbon is adding aside from creating a new army of carbon millionaires?



A carbon project is ‘additional’ in a situation where it has resulted in emission reduction. This means the removal should be above and beyond what would have occurred without the project existing. So can we really say that Blue Carbon is adding value to the forest aside from profiting from the climate crisis? What are the mitigation activities supported by this finance that would not have taken place in the absence of this revenue stream?



Most carbon credits are scams. This is why: If the Blue Carbon Projects are selling credits for creating benefits that do not go above and beyond the ‘business as usual’ baseline, then buying those credits results in no real-world impact. This is because the claimed benefit would have occurred without the project’s existence.


What has emerged is that emissions reductions or removals would have occurred without the project. Effectively, Blue Carbon is rewarded financially for taking actions that were going to happen and are happening in most rainforest communities. Moreover, countries and companies using the purchase of carbon credits to ‘offset’ their own emissions, are actually not compensating for their emissions but rather offshoring their emissions burden thereby replicating poverty.


Liberia, like the rest of other African economies, is ‘cashing out’ on its forests. Profiting from nature is Africa’s undoing. Instead of exhibiting greed in carbon credit scams that end up consuming us, we should ask for compensation for providing and protecting the planet. In our haste to profit from nature, we have taken ant-infested logs to our homestead and unwittingly invited the lizards to feast on them.


We should learn to dine with long spoons with carbon grabbers lest we also become guilty of the same offence. How can our army of politicians drawn by the lure of lucre be made let go without a fight?



This article was written by Prof. Sadiq Igomu Okoh (PhD) and was first published on LinkedIn.

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