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Sunday, January 04, 2009


EU denounces socialite’s carbon offset project

How unusual. These projects usually received undiluted praise. Some get the Nobel Prize.

A PIONEERING climate change project in Africa run by Robin Birley, the socialite, has been accused by the European commission, its main donor, of making unsubstantiated claims about its environmental impact.

The project has received more than £1m in public grants and money from celebrities in the music and film business. They include Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Brad Pitt, the actor.

The project attempts to offset an individual’s carbon footprint by paying poor farmers in Mozambique to plant trees, which absorb CO2, and to protect existing forests.

The commission’s criticism comes amid increased concern about the worth of these fashionable but largely unregulated carbon offset schemes. Critics say it is almost impossible to guarantee that the trees will survive the length of time needed to offset any significant carbon emissions.
The Sunday Times has obtained a highly critical report from the European commission that says “the quality of the technical work … [is] far below what could reasonably be expected of a pilot project managed by a university”.

Written last May, just before the five-year funding period came to an end, the report noted that the project “continued to make positive claims about its impact that could not be substantiated”.

The commission also warned that the money flowing into the Gorongosa area had attracted hundreds of poor farmers who were now cutting down trees, contrary to the project’s intention.

An official source said: “We also asked for disclosure about carbon trades in the interest of transparency. None of this information was forthcoming. [Envirotrade] are selling products that are not delivering what was promised and the public needs to know.”

Is it possible that the unusually cold weather has affected the brains of the true believers?


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