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  • Growing ‘carbon sinks’ in Ghana

    2010 - 01.25

    Amid mounting concern about the impact of deforestation on climate change which was the main theme at December’s UN conference in Copenhagen ambitious plans are already underway to grow 24 million trees to soak up carbon dioxide and restore the rainforest in Ghana.

    It is estimated that Ghana has lost four fifths of its rainforest in the past 50 years. Globally tropical deforestation is estimated to contribute to over one fifths of all greenhouse gas emissions.

    The first million seedlings are being planted in a pilot scheme in an area that has been heavily logged in recent years. The trees are all tropical hardwoods, mostly indigenous, and it is believed this project could eventually become the largest of its kind.

    The company behind the reforestation project is ArborCarb, a British firm. They hope that by growing trees and locking up the carbon inside them, they will be able to sell carbon credits.

    The director of ArborCarb Mike Packer was recently quoted as saying that: “There is a huge market of individuals and companies who will pay for this project to be implemented by buying the carbon credits. They need those carbon credits to offset their carbon emissions.” He is optimistic that the scheme is being launched at the right time and could over its lifetime; soak up more than nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

    However this forestry offset scheme and others like it have attracted criticism because the precise amount of carbon absorption is difficult to quantify. In response Mr Packer said the plantations would be audited independently every year and that the plan would take into account the carbon cost of the plantation work and of the trees dying naturally.

    Critics are also worried that this forestry scheme could exclude the local people or even deny them the chance to grow food. Mr Packer reassured them that ArborCarb would not seek to own any land but would work with the local landowners and farmers and offer them a share of the carbon credits.

    However that reassurance wasn’t enough as in the run up to the Copenhagen conference environmental groups objected to the developed world using forestry to reduce emissions. In particular ForestWatch Ghana, a coalition of more than 30 non-governmental organisations, criticises the basic principle of carbon offsetting.

    According to the coalition’s co-ordinator, Kingsley Bekoe Ansah, “it feels fundamentally wrong. The developed world has had the benefits of industrialisation and now wants to shift the burden of responsibility onto the poor communities.”

    Mr Ansah also said that involving the markets in carbon-reduction projects could “lead to massive land grabs and further entrench poverty. Since the markets are volatile and unstable, the prices of carbon would be affected by events in the larger business world and this is not good for developing countries and their rural communities.”

    The ArborCarb plans involve plantations in several different areas of Ghana. The pilot scheme, near the border with Ivory Coast, was set up with one of the country’s largest timber companies, John Bitar.

    The company’s owner, Ghassan Bitar, said attitudes to forests – and their sustainability – were shifting. “During the days of my father they were not aware – there were lots of forests around. Now that the population is encroaching and there is deforestation because of various reasons – agriculture, lumbering and whatever – people are aware and want to change.”

    Suddenly the fate of some of the remotest forests is moving up the international agenda.

    The Timber Investment Blog is sponsored by Greenwood Management. For more information on investing in Forestry please click here

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