15 Feb 2010

Guatamala under the sway of the carbon gang!

The video above give you some Guatamala background....the article below is about a specific carbon offset project in the country.

It wasn’t until 1989 that the first carbon offset project was launched, conceived by US power company, Applied Energy Services (AES), together with the environmental think-tank World Resources Institute, the official US aid agency USAID, and the big development NGO, CARE. At the time, AES was looking for regulatory approval for a new 183 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Connecticut. It eventually got the go-ahead thanks to its ‘mitigation’ project in the Western Highlands region of Guatemala. The project entailed planting 50 million non-native pine and eucalyptus trees on some 40,000 small farm holdings in this deeply impoverished region, which in theory would ‘soak up’ the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions expected to be generated for the lifetime of the plant.2

According to Hannah Wittman of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, the project was a dismal failure. ‘What it did first and foremost was to take access to the trees out of the hands of ordinary people.’ An external evaluation revealed that subsistence activities undertaken by the largely indigenous population, such as gathering fuelwood for cooking, were now criminalized and conflicts erupted over rights to the trees, excarcerbating existing tensions over access to resources and local decision-making. Initially the tree species used were largely inappropriate for the area and resulted in land degradation. The evaluators, Winrock International, concluded in 1999 – 10 years after the project began – that AES’s offset target was falling far below the expected level. By 2001, farmers were still not receiving direct payments for the trees they planted and looked after and many were not aware that these trees were being used for storing carbon for AES. These problems, however, did not prevent the company from getting approval for its coal-fired power plant.2

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