Africa forest sales a ‘smokescreen’ for fuel-hungry UAE
Publish date: 27 November 2023
Issue Number: 1055
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
In late September, Zimbabwe’s Environment Minister signed away control over almost 20% of the country to a little-known foreign company. Blue Carbon is a small, new outfit, but its chairman is an Emirati royal, flush with oil money. The Dubai-based Blue Carbon has secured forested land nearly equivalent to the size of the UK across five African nations to run projects to conserve forests that might otherwise be logged, preventing huge amounts of planet-heating carbon dioxide, or CO2, from entering the atmosphere. Blue Carbon can then use that conservation to create carbon credits to sell to companies and governments to ‘offset’ the climate pollution they generate while they continue to burn planet-warming fossil fuels. The flurry of forest conservation deals with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Liberia and Tanzania were announced in the months ahead of the annual UN's COP28 climate summit, being hosted this year in December by the UAE. But according to several analysts and climate advocates CNN spoke to, these conservation deals are the latest attempt by the petrostate to use green initiatives as a smokescreen for its plans to continue pumping fossil fuels.
At the same time, the UAE has said it planned to extract its very last barrel of oil 50 years from now, when its reserves are projected to dry up – decades beyond when scientists say society needs to be done with fossil fuel. A spokesperson would not confirm to CNN that the company would sell those credits to the UAE, but given Blue Carbon’s chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, is a relative of Dubai’s royal ruler, the widely held assumption is that these credits will be sold to the UAE to offset its enormous carbon footprint. They could also be sold to other oil-reliant nations and companies in the Gulf and beyond. The UAE has a lot to lose, financially. Oil and gas account for around 30% of its GDP and 13% of its exports as of last year, according to the US Department of Commerce. More than 80 countries support phasing out fossil fuels, and renewable energy, like wind and solar, are now so cost competitive in most parts of the world that market forces will eventually squeeze oil and gas out anyway. That’s unless fossil fuel companies and lobbyists can convince the world at COP28 not to rely too much on wind and solar, and to keep pumping oil and gas.