Liberia Contemplates Controversial Land Deal with UAE-Based Firm for Carbon Credits

The Land Deal Unveiled: A Transformational Carbon Credit Agreement

In an unexpected move, Liberia is poised to transfer control of nearly 10% of its territory to a United Arab Emirates-based company, Blue Carbon. This ambitious agreement, covering a vast one million hectares, aims to harness carbon credits as a powerful tool in the global fight against climate change. However, the implications for local land rights and communities are sparking intense debates.

A Potential Threat to Local Land Rights: Leaked Contract Details Emerge

Initial insights into the contract reveal a concerning possibility – the potential erasure of customary land rights for communities residing in Liberia’s extensive forested areas. As discussions continue, the deal would officially designate these forests as protected areas, exclusively dedicated to the generation of carbon credits. The fate of these credits remains a subject of international interest, with the possibility of voluntary market sales or bilateral trades between Liberia and other nations committed to emissions reduction targets.

Advertisement

Blue Carbon Takes Center Stage: A Dubai-Based Player in Carbon Credit Development

Blue Carbon, headquartered in Dubai and founded in October by Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s royal family, is slated to lead the development and marketing of these carbon credits. However, controversy surrounds the reported request by Liberia’s top forestry official to exempt Blue Carbon from the usual competitive bidding process, raising questions about transparency and fairness.

Decades of Control: Blue Carbon’s Prospective Dominance Over Liberia’s Rainforests

If this unprecedented agreement is finalized, Blue Carbon will enjoy an extensive 30-year tenure with near-total control over Liberia’s remaining pristine rainforests. While proponents argue that such a move could provide vital protection for endangered forests, critics vehemently contest that it directly challenges Liberia’s 2018 Land Rights Law, which granted communities ownership of their customary land.

Advertisement

Mixed Reactions: Environmental Groups and Opposition Parties Speak Out

Liberia’s Independent Forest Monitoring Coordinating Mechanism (IFMCM), comprising seven environmental and community rights organizations, has issued a public statement that acknowledges the potential benefits of the deal in terms of forest preservation. However, they emphasize the potential violation of Liberian law, specifically the Land Rights Law of 2018, in the transfer of land rights to Blue Carbon.

A Plea for Consultation: Opposition and International Criticism

The Liberian People’s Party, an opposition party, is calling for a suspension of negotiations between the government and Blue Carbon until consultations are held with the communities directly affected by the agreement. Additionally, a coalition of 14 environmental organizations from Europe, China, and the United States has sharply criticized the deal, expressing concerns about its impact on Liberia and its communities.

Environmental Challenges: Rising Deforestation Rates and Legal Uncertainty

This unfolding land deal takes place against the backdrop of surging deforestation rates in Liberia. According to the World Resources Institute, Liberia ranked 10th in the world for the highest increase in deforestation between 2020 and 2022. Additionally, recent years have witnessed challenges in upholding the rule of law within Liberia’s forestry sector, with officials facing threats of imprisonment for resisting export permits for illegally felled logs and reports of permits issued outside the mandated chain-of-custody tracking system.

A Nation at a Crossroads: Liberia’s Decision and Global Implications

As Liberia stands at a pivotal juncture between environmental preservation and economic development, the impending decision on this contentious land deal holds profound consequences for the nation’s forests, its communities, and its commitment to global climate objectives. The international community closely observes Liberia’s deliberations as it navigates this crucial choice.