The Luangwa River Valley is located in the eastern part of Zambia and until a few years ago it was one of the areas with the highest deforestation rate in the country, mainly due to the expansion of fields cultivated with sustainable agricultural techniques. To try to reduce this environmental threat, the project was called Luangwa Community Forest, Advertised Biocarbon Partners, Which aims to protect the forests of this valley through continued investments: the development of schools, drinking water wells, roads and companies dedicated to eco-friendly agriculture, abandoning more efficient jobs and old farming methods that will allow access to thousands of people living in the area.
For this project, which is defined as “decorbonization”, The The largest in the world Due to the number of beneficiaries (173 thousand), the most important Italian energy company also participates, which compensates for the greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon credits, including the extraction of natural gas from its current and future production.
Tropical forests such as Zambia Carbon dioxide (CO2), The main greenhouse gas, thus helping to remove it from the atmosphere. The idea behind the compensation system is that by funding forest conservation projects, companies actually contribute to the removal of a certain amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere: that is, they can partially “compensate” emissions by their activities, such as the production of aircraft or petroleum derivatives.
The goal is to fund projects that will not cut down trees in developing countries Signed in 2007 by the United Nations. But fourteen years later the system was very weak, mainly due to the lack of international agreements. As a result, “decarbonization” handling schemes are often small and uncontrollable, estimating how many emissions have been absorbed while avoiding the destruction of trees, with the exception of the operation of some special systems. These “negative” emissions are then sold to companies as “carbon credit”.
எனி Confident Will reach 6 million tonnes of CO by 20242 The annual compensation will be 20 million by 2030 and more than 40 million by 2050. Purchased from the project at the end of 2020 Luangwa Community Forest Carbon credits to offset 1.5 million tons (emdon) emissions of carbon dioxide.
Measuring carbon credits is not easy: various estimates can be made, but they are not always reliable. The main problem lies in analyzing the data of the areas around the forest that need to be protected and in estimating how many trees will be cut down if forest conservation initiatives are not funded.
Creating this type of forecast is problematic because the variables are high and the risk of erroneous ratings is high, especially if the reference areas used on a comparative basis have different characteristics than the locations that promoted the project. They proved it Guardian And the ecosystem Greenpeace: In early May Their investigation It was revealed that the carbon credit rating system acquired by six major airlines, including British Airways and EasyJet, was based on incredible estimates.
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The Italian division of Greenspeace, also appointed one, reached the same results Scientific research To evaluate the project Luangwa Community Forest Annie supports. Greenspeace talks about “elevated” data that can lead to exaggeration of emissions reduction generated by the project. The most accurate observations are about population density, deforestation and fire.
Second Documents Of the project Luangwa Community Forest, The main danger to the champion forests is population growth; The risk of deforestation is also calculated based on an estimate of population growth and population density: if the lowest population density is considered, as in the case of the Eni project, there is a risk of exacerbation of deforestation. The difference in population density found by the Greenpeace study – 29.6 people per square kilometer – e That part The reference considered by the project is very clear, 2.75 people per square kilometer. The Luangwa Community Forest It predicts that similar housing densities will increase between 1985 and 2015 between 2015 and 2045, regardless of continuous changes such as income growth, technological evolution, and political and institutional factors. This is why Greenpeace argues that “any calculation to avoid deforestation derived from population density is exaggerated and misleading.”
According to Greenpeace, there is also a significant difference in the annual deforestation rate considered in the plan: this represents about 2.5%, while a Recent FAO review, Manufactured in 2020, is valued at 0.42% for Zambia. Conversely, Greenpeace says the fire risk (therefore protected forest, even if only partially destroyed) is underestimated: the project Luangwa Community Forest He considers it too low, which is also wrong for Greenpeace, because it varies Recent studies They say rising temperatures due to climate change have increased the risk of wildfires in forests like Zambia.
Another competing point is the concern about the carbon storage capacity of the forests included in the project. According to Greenpeace, if you take it into account Average of studies In the woods similar to the project Luangwa Community Forest, The number indicated is approximately 108 tCO2And (less than half a tonne of carbon dioxide per year), less than half of what Eni’s partner (224 tCO) pointed out2And per hectare). “This means that, roughly, the Eni-funded project will consider twice as many carbon credits as indicated by the scientific literature,” the Greenpeace report states. “We underestimate the climate benefits of the project because reducing emissions is” avoided “thanks to the project being exaggerated. Luangwa Community Forest.
But consider the commitment that Greenpeace’s discoveries go further and announce, especially the goal of storing 40 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2050. The ecosystem estimates that it absorbs that amount of CO2 The company will need 12.6 million hectares of forest, equivalent to more than thirteen projects in Zambia. “I need a larger area than the entire Italian forest heritage, or 17 million football fields equivalent,” says Greenpeace.
Beyond the complex issues identified in the project in Zambia, Greenpeace generally believes that compensation programs will not help combat climate emergency because they do not reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and represent the site. Greenwashing, A communication strategy that allows companies (energy and not only) to create an image that is deceptive to environmental issues.
In response, Eni did not enter into the merits of Greenpeace’s allegations about the project in Zambia, but limited it to reviews of the value of compensation plans that would allow to control net greenhouse gas emissions. Eni says, “Deforestation has long been recognized by the scientific community as one of the main reasons for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, and for this reason the private sector can play a key role in mobilizing resources needed for forest conservation, especially in the tropical belt, in the hope that the company has decided to engage in the fight against deforestation. Secondary.
In this context, compensation programs “represent an important opportunity not only to combat climate change, but also to protect biodiversity and ecosystems and contribute to the sustainable development of local communities.”
According to Eni, projects developed after the “prior free and informed approval” of the local communities involved, and agreeing with the federal and local governments, certify not only their contribution to combating climate change but also their positive impact. Regarding the development of ecosystems, biodiversity and local communities, after verification by independent third parties.
“To guarantee the quality of the credits generated, the project activities developed by Eni currently have the highest certification standards such as Verified Carbon Standards (VCS) and Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCP)” Triple Gold “. And the methods for calculating certification criteria are defined in a very conservative way and on solid scientific platforms.Verra (the same voluntary organization at the center of the investigation) Guardian And Greenpeace, et al., Usually submit their methods to scientific research and argue sufficiently about their validity. “
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Support for International Forest Conservation Programs represents a strategic solution to combat climate change and offset a portion of its emission activities that do not allow currently available technologies to reduce, with the awareness of “global emissions” accounting for the whole planet and each subject contributing to it through efforts in every part of the world .