A UK-based environmental organisation, which carried out a study that claimed the military was involved in systematically clearing forest area that was meant to be protected under a carbon credit scheme, has defended its findings following a broker’s dismissal of the claims as outdated.
Julia Christian, with the conservation group Fern, which published its report in November, said claims that the information in the study was based on information two to four years old were a “strange critique”, adding that “it just doesn’t ‘work’ to say that”.
Conservation experts have said Oddar Meanchey’s carbon crediting scheme – Cambodia’s first REDD+ project – has been highly problematic since it first started in 2008 at a time when many settlers in the area were soldiers, who were implicated in clearing the land and especially difficult to curb.
After the report was published, British airline Virgin Atlantic, which had purchased credits from the project to offset its flights, asked Natural Capital Partners – the facilitator of the credit purchase – to investigate the claims. The broker company dismissed the claims as outdated, saying they were taken from other publications in 2014 and 2016.
Fern's Christian, however, defended the report yesterday, saying that a two-year interval was simply not enough for the widespread deforestation to become a nonissue.
“The main thrust of our report/case study is that extensive deforestation has happened in [the] forest the project said it was going to save,” Christian wrote in an email. “This means the carbon credits the project has sold to other parties (including Virgin Airlines) are bogus – they are based on emissions savings that never happened, because the forest was destroyed not protected.”
She continued that is not possible for “that central fact to be outdated, or for anything to have been done since then to rectify it”.
“If the forest was destroyed, it is still destroyed, and the credits sold for protecting it during that period are [and] will always be bogus,” she said.