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Swedish Energy Agency stops funding carbon offset project in Uganda

The monoculture pine plantation in Kachung. Native species are cleared to make way for large tracts of single species pine and eucalypt.

The Swedish Energy Agency stops purchasing carbon credits from the Norwegian forestry company Green Resources. The carbon offset project consists of large-scale pine plantations in Kachung in Uganda, which have caused environmental degradation and loss of land and livelihoods for local villagers. Over the last years, Protect the Forest and several other NGOs have raised their voices against the project.

Green Resources monoculture pine plantations has led to forced evictions of local villagers from land which previously was used for small-scale subsistence farming and livestock herding. This has led to loss of livelihoods and caused a food security crisis, according to a report from the Oakland Institute. Natural grasslands, open canopy woodlands and small-scale agricultural lands have been converted into plantations with non-native and invasive tree species. This has had devastating impacts on the natural environment and the ecosystem services it provides.

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank made up of researchers, among others. According to the Institute, climate change is being used as an excuse to introduce a new form of colonialism in Africa. Already in 2014, the Oakland Institute revealed abuse and violence against locals in Kachung. The Swedish Energy Agency then temporarily suspended its purchase of carbon credits from Green Resources but did not terminate the agreement.

The Oakland Institute has exposed the devastating impact of the Green Resources pine plantation in several reports, but it is only after the third report (2019), that the Swedish Energy Agency announced its suspension of payments. Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, said in a press release:

“Despite solid evidence and documentation, Green Resources and its financiers, including the Swedish Energy Agency, callously, not only turned a blind eye to the victims of their ‘green’ fraud, but also dismissed our findings. If they had paid heed to the concerns raised in 2014, which should have been obvious to the Swedish Energy Agency if due diligence had been done from the get go, Green Resources could not have gotten away with causing hunger, displacement, and distress amongst the population of 17 villages for this long.”

Sara Sundberg, spokesperson for the Swedish Energy Agency, said in an article in Development Today that one of the reasons for pulling out of the carbon deal is because of unresolved conflicts regarding land use. This includes lack of progress in an on-going legal dispute over land between local communities and the Ugandan government – a civil suit filed in 2008 by 300 people who claim to have lost their due to Kachung.

“Land grabbing from Ugandan villagers to set up non-native pine plantations is a false climate solution, designed to allow polluters in Northern countries to continue with business as usual,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

Green Resources blames the Oakland Institute for the Swedish Energy Agency’s termination of the agreement, while the Agency denies that pressure from NGOs influenced its decision.

The Swedish Energy Agency’s decision is a step towards justice for local communities. The Oakland Institute renews its call for Green Resources and its financial backers to be held responsible. The protracted misery inflicted on Kachung’s communities can only be rightfully addressed with the immediate end of this devastating project, so that they can reclaim their land and livelihoods.

In 2018, Protect the Forest, Oakland Institute and several other organizations sent a joint open letter to the Swedish Energy Agency.