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Virgin ‘stops purchases of Oddar Meanchey REDD credits’

A Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-400 aircraft in Las Vegas in 2010. Virgin has said it will no longer buy carbon offsets from a Cambodia-based project that has been deemed a failure. Ethan Miller/Getty/AFP
A Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-400 aircraft in Las Vegas in 2010. Virgin has said it will no longer buy carbon offsets from a Cambodia-based project that has been deemed a failure. Ethan Miller/Getty/AFP

Virgin ‘stops purchases of Oddar Meanchey REDD credits’

A Virgin Atlantic representative yesterday said that the British airline is no longer purchasing carbon credits from an area of Oddar Meanchey province set aside for a UN REDD+ program after a report describing widespread problems.

Meanwhile, the UK-based environmental organisation that published the findings in November defended its research yesterday after criticism. The report found deforestation had actually escalated in the area since the REDD+ scheme had been set up.

Natural Capital Partners – a company that has facilitated credit transfers to Virgin Atlantic – dismissed the research, saying that the information used was outdated.

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.

In response to enquiries from The Post about an investigation commissioned by Natural Capital Partners at the request of Virgin Atlantic, the broker company dismissed the claims, as some of the research was in reference to previous findings in other publications in 2014 and 2016.

Julia Christian, a resresentative of the UK-based organisation Fern, 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She added that is not possible for “that central fact to be outdated, or for anything to have been done since then to rectify it”.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.

Anna Catchpole, a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic, yesterday said Oddar Meanchey’s REDD+ project had been included in Virgin Atlantic’s portfolio “in good faith”, and that Natural Capital Partners had confirmed in 2013 the operation complied with international standards. After Fern’s report, she wrote, the company decided it would no longer purchase credits from the area.

“As a customer, we rely on independent accreditation schemes like this to ensure quality,” she said. “But things can change in the years between verifications, and because of the subsequent concerns raised we asked NCP to remove this project from our portfolio.”

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