Making carbon credits work for communities

Zimbabwe, is one of the leading countries regulations wise with a Carbon Credit Framework, which serves as a reference point for all transactions of that nature.

In recent weeks, interested parties in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation converged in Arusha, Tanzania at the invitation of the Wajibu Institute to deliberate on strengthening accountability for climate action.

 I have written on this same page on how the emerging frontier of climate finances can help the development of youth-led businesses that are economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

I am writing again to reiterate that it is possible and to share that in fact, other African nations are already trading carbon and using the proceeds to build better livelihoods for the communities in charge of protecting the carbon sinks.

By definition, carbon credits are measurable, verifiable emission reductions from certified climate action projects.

These projects reduce, remove and avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

My understanding is that carbon credits are a way in which a polluter or greenhouse gas emitter pays an existing individual, community or government to protect and keep intact a specified forested area that will cancel out their industrial emissions by acting as a carbon sink.

It is a simple transaction requiring the interest first of the polluter, the availability of forest and the political will of the authority in charge of the forest area.

The issue then becomes, are communities for example in Zimbabwe aware of the existence, potential and involved in any way in carbon trading or perhaps carbon stocking.

Zimbabwe, is one of the leading countries regulations wise with a Carbon Credit Framework, which serves as a reference point for all transactions of that nature.

This is progressive.

The communities with enough forests around them however are the very rural ones – Mutoko, Marange to name but a few and the core idea behind carbon credits today is to provide a form of climate finance and or support to marginalised communities in the Global South to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change and sustain their livelihoods.

In that respect, the best way forward would be to ensure rural communities have a clear understanding of what is happening and how they can play their role in connecting to global climate financing.

There is a mathematical approach to doing carbon stocktakes in respective forested areas and this, if not being done already, has to be done through perhaps government extension agents and forestry departments in our and other African countries.

Carbon Tanzania, a forward-thinking and youth led company has an interesting project under its belt – The Ntakata Project which they claim has to date generated $349 000, protected an estimate 216 994 endangered chimpanzees, availed $70 553 for infrastructure development, provided medical cover for 25 080 rural folks, employed 63 people, built additional classrooms and is managed by a 37% female staff.

One cannot resist the temptation to ask how other countries compare to these statistics.

The Zimbabwean carbon market is taking off slowly and quietly with little buy-in from the communities and only recently have regulations been relaxed to enable an arrangement where government retains 30% of all proceedings and the investment entity takes 70% and be compelled to invest a quarter of their earnings in the form of community projects with a 10-year lifeline open to renegotiations in the eleventh year.

This is a sweet deal, which can help improve environmental protection, wildlife conservation and improve livelihoods if the following steps are taken.

  • Raise adequate community awareness and buy-in to protect and preserve forest land.
  • Create and open platform for auction and sale of carbon credits to local and foreign buyers.
  • Engage youth-led opinion and innovation on building a marketable carbon brand for the country.
  • Thorough policy and regulation consistency and innovation in line with global trends and patterns.
  • Transparent and accountable use of proceeds to stimulate community buy-in and investor interest.
  • Creatively designate reserved carbon areas and blend them with a tourist component.

The possibilities of climate finance are exciting for both recovering lost mileage in climate Justice and also as a progressive way to change how we move into the future as the Global South reeling from the adverse effects of admittedly the actions of the industrial actions of the Global North.

At the International Transparency and Accountability Conference, one of the questions raised was on the standards and international regulations for pricing and valuing carbon.

An interesting point is that like most climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives, Africa is a taker and not a giver of for example prices for the credits.

 Standards used in the valuation of the credits are made not from within Africa but from without.

Pan African sentiment, which is pessimistic of the existing schemes, argued that we ought also as African countries, determine and set benchmarks and prices on our own and improve our bargaining chances.

 In my opinion, this is only possible if we develop a bottom-up interest in the initiative and connect the grassroot voice to the conversation to say; rural community X’s livelihoods needs in connection with their natural environment and existing climate change stresses is valued at this much.

Transparency and accountability can help in the discussion on a global scale to have honest and mutually beneficial parameters drawn around climate financing and open up avenues for collaboration and innovation sharing.

 Some radical pan – Africanist views, would argue that carbon credits, climate financing in Africa by the Global North are mere ‘’ Greenwashing ‘’ and an answer to that in my view would be found in how we structure our carbon credits and financial systems emanating from global climate finances as African countries and how they benefit and or improve our communities’ chances against food, income and environmental and social challenges exacerbated by the effects of climate change. If our systems and institutions commit wholeheartedly to making the proceeds of any carbon scheme or climate financing extension work to address the needs of the community as argued by the Ntakata Project, there would be minimum concerns.

In addition to that is the concern on whether it’s better to keep the trade of carbon public or private to achieve better deals and generate more interest.

The conference agreed that a public – private structure would better the interests of both communities and their countries and Carbon Tanzania and respectable plenaries encouraged private innovation, collaboration and enterprise as also useful given the rate of globalization only subject to existing rules and frameworks to protect the interests of communities and the respective countries’ interests.

  • Darlington Mafa  is an agricultural economist, co – founder Rima Afrika Trust Zimbabwe and climate technology and finance Lead at Food Justice Network. Email  : [email protected]

These weekly articles published are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent Consultant, managing Consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe Email- [email protected] or mobile No. +263 772 382 852.

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