Carbon offset firm South Pole cuts ties with Zimbabwe forest project

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) – Carbon offset developer South Pole has terminated its involvement in a project in Zimbabwe which has generated millions of carbon credits from efforts to prevent deforestation around Lake Kariba, the Swiss firm said on Friday.

South Pole said it was not confident the Kariba REDD+ project – owned and developed by Carbon Green Investments (CGI) – met the standards it expected from its partners.

The REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project is one of the world’s largest forest conversation schemes.

It has been issued with around 36 million credits since 2011 but has come under scrutiny from green groups after media reports cast doubt over whether the Kariba project preserved as much forest as it claimed and that the communities involved did not benefit as much as expected.

South Pole said the project had followed all guidelines for issued credits from Verra, a leading carbon credit offset issuer, but acknowledged concerns over project management.

“All activities related to carbon certification and carbon credits from the Kariba REDD+ project will now be the responsibility of CGI, and South Pole’s role as the carbon asset developer has ended,” South Pole said in a statement.

“Despite materially complying with the relevant Verra and Climate, Community & Biodiversity standard requirements at all stages of the project, we are disappointed with aspects of how the project was managed on the ground by the project owner,” a South Pole spokesperson said.

Steve Wentzel, director of CGI, rebutted any suggestion of mismanagement.

He said Of the 36 million credits issued, only 21 million had been sold meaning the remaining 15 million could be retracted if over-issuance had occurred.

“The Kariba REDD project will proceed without question, in compliance with Zimbabwe’s laws, Verra’s regulations, and with unwavering commitment to our stakeholders,” he said in a email to Reuters.

Verra last week said it had paused issuance of credits to the project while it carried out an investigation.

Carbon offsets are credits for emissions-reducing activity that can be generated through projects such as tree planting or preventing deforestation, which can then be used by companies to help meet climate targets, and offset emissions they are unable to cut from their operations.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Jonathan Oatis)