Carbon offsets: Using the green cloak of 'certification' to sell
Marketing a lumber plantation in Panama, one company uses certified carbon offset claims as a green lure.
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It's not the only conflicting information the company offers. A salesman this month asserted that more than 350 hectares have been planted with tens of thousands of trees. But the company only owns 200 hectares so far, says Martin Rivera, who acquires real estate for Silva Tree. And a Monitor visit to the site in February found just 10 hectares had been planted, with 8,000 seedlings, since the October project launch. Herminio Rodriguez, forestry management contractor for Silva Tree, said 1,200 seedlings died – possibly because they were planted in the dry season, not considered the time to cultivate in Panama.Skip to next paragraph
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Company officials also contradict one another about the way carbon offsets figure in the project. The brochure and salesmen market it as a carbon offset project, but leave vague who actually receives the carbon credits and profit for sales of the credits.
But Ms. Katz says that investors don't receive carbon credits; they would receive profits from the sale of the timber. Credits wouldn't be sold until VCS certification is achieved, she says, adding that the company would use the profits to improve the community near the project.
Some environmentalists criticize timber investment projects that offer carbon offsets because trees sequestering carbon are eventually cut. But Mr. Antonioli says that such projects can be valid, and one is already in the VCS database. "It may seem counterintuitive, but it could work. You can plant trees where no trees were there before."
That's what Silva Tree says it's doing – growing trees on fields of degraded farmland.
But questions and contradictions might not be apparent to any but the savviest investors if consumers believe the company's claims that it is VCS certified, a cloak of legitimacy.
And, say some environmentalists, this is one of the main problems in the voluntary market. "There is no monitoring; they are monitoring themselves," says Ricardo Carrere, the head of the Uruguay-based World Rainforest Movement.
4. Using the green cloak of "certification" to market a plantation in Panama
[Editor's note: The summary on this story was changed slightly for greater clarity and accuracy.]