Box 1

The Africa Carbon Markets Initiative

The Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) claims to “help shape and harness the potential for carbon markets in Africa”. Its steering committee boasts the who’s who of fossil fuel, big tech and agribusiness supporters—including The Gates Foundation who promote industrial agriculture and GMOs across Africa and The Bezos Earth Fund of Amazon corporation. The ACMI claims that “with carbon credits valued at roughly $2 billion globally and potentially growing 5-50x by 2030, high-integrity carbon markets could provide significant benefits to African people and be a critical source of climate finance for the continent.” Yet they recognise that “there is intense scepticism that credits are used for greenwashing, an excuse to keep polluting” and that “some people are asking whether carbon credits, particularly large land-use projects, are causing Africans to lose their land to facilitate continued pollution by rich countries—driving concerns about a form of recolonisation in Africa.”

Despite these astonishing admissions and no real answers for them, ACMI is pushing ahead with trying to expand and build buy in for carbon markets across the continent. Yet this push is going against the principle of historical responsibility and justice which demands that climate finance should be publicly funded from developed country governments and not reinforce the debt spiral in Africa.

Box 2

Land grabs from green economy

By 2030, Shell intends to offset 120 Megatonnes (Mt) in emissions a year, which represents about 85% of current annual CO2 emissions of all citizens and companies in the Netherlands. As of August 2022, Shell is or had been involved in 30 ‘nature based’ offset projects, in 17 countries. An analysis of Shell’s pathway to 1.5 degrees shows that it is essentially the same as its 2 degree pathway, but with an added plan to “extensive scale-up of nature-based solutions”, specifically planting trees over an “area approaching that of Brazil”. When Shell plants trees, they often just plant one tree species. Usually this is the fast-growing eucalyptus tree, which can actually damage biodiversity in the surrounding area. A lot of land is needed to offset Shell’s emissions. The land they choose is often located in the global South. For this, (agricultural) land belonging to local communities is used, which can lead to human rights violations and food shortages.

More info here and here.

Box 3

What is carbon farming and why is it a false solution? 

Carbon farming is an offset scheme wherein farmers are paid to sequester carbon to offset continued carbon emissions of a company, country, or individual. Carbon farming schemes involve paying farmers to implement ‘climate-smart’ farming practices that supposedly increase the amount of carbon stored in their farms. The change in practices is used to verify the creation of carbon credits which are sold to corporations or governments, through ‘carbon markets’. Though the buyers are still emitting greenhouse gases, they claim to have ‘offset’ these emissions. Demand for offsets is increasing, with 82 countries and 44% of the world’s 2000 largest companies having made ‘net zero’ commitments. Most existing carbon farming schemes rely on carbon stored in trees with agroforestry and tree plantations, but the number of ‘soil carbon farming’ schemes is growing.
Soil carbon offsets are dangerous for climate justice and food sovereignty because…
Soil carbon offsets increase the entrenchment of unsustainable corporate-controlled seeds and agrochemicals. Schemes often encourage or require specific farming practices that rely on proprietary seeds and agrochemicals, like using affiliated pesticides to control weeds instead of tilling. Algorithms and digital farm machinery that are needed to earn carbon credits may require specific crop varieties and practices to function.
Soil carbon offsets are an excuse for data grabbing, increasing the power of the food and technology corporations that control the digital platforms which monitor and market soil carbon credits.
Soil carbon schemes drive farm consolidation and mechanisation, giving an advantage to the largest farmers because large farms can more easily adopt the technology and practises and also generate large quantities of carbon credits.
Carbon farming schemes accelerate the loss of traditional agricultural knowledge by teaching that traditional practices degrade soil and by locking farmers into contracts requiring ‘climate-smart’ practices.
Not all carbon is equal. The “carbon is carbon” assumption behind offsets ignores the violence, health consequences, and economic and socioecological damage created locally around mines, fossil fuel extraction and factory farms. In addition, biological carbon in soil cannot compensate for the release of fossil carbon.
Offset schemes distract from real solutions and shift public subsidies from agroecology to carbon farming.

Box 4

Sinking seaweed to fix the climate: a new wave of false solutions

While the earth is burning, investors keep finding new and ever more unlikely ways to increase profits without reducing carbon emissions. Oceans are now in the line of fire: a new seaweed—or “macroalgae”—industry is invading coasts and seas under the umbrella of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. By mid-2023 there were more than 1,300 companies involved in commercial seaweed, including more than 200 start-ups.

The new big profit-focused promise of the so-called “seaweed revolution” is to sell carbon credits, pretending industrial seaweed captures carbon. Surfing on the “blue carbon” wave, even though there is no formal carbon market for seaweed cultivation yet, industrial players such as Canopy Blue, The Seaweed Company and Running Tide are already selling carbon offsets to corporations on the voluntary market.

However, their promises do not hold. First of all, seaweed does not capture very much carbon. Once the maths is done, it appears that industrial seaweed ecosystems may actually be net emitters of CO2. Increasing industrial seaweed acres could therefore lead to more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less.

Second, the development of marine monocultures and the use of chemical inputs could cause harm to existing ecosystems that naturally capture carbon and provide livelihoods to local communities. The potential risks of seaweed plantations include shading the seabed, seagrasses and natural algae, altering local ocean currents, contaminating genetic diversity, and robbing plankton of vital nutrients, affecting not only marine ecosystems but also coastal livelihoods.

Finally, carbon financiers are attracted to the ocean for its vast size, presented as a huge unexploited gold mine. But the oceans are not empty. Industrial seaweed farms would need to occupy a significant portion of global coastlines, which would deprive local communities of their rights to live and to work in all these coastal areas.

On land, the expansion of monocultures has been destroying forests and its inhabitants for decades. If we don’t put an urgent end to the so-called “seaweed revolution”, industrial algae plantations will follow the same course, destroying marine ecosystems and marginalising coastal communities even more.

To learn more, you can read: “The Seaweed Delusion: Industrial seaweed will not cool the climate or save nature”

Box 5

Nyéléni process, towards a Global Food Sovereignty forum 2025

Voices from our allies

Mariam Mayet,  African Centre for Biodiversity,

From 10 to 11 June 2023, I represented the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), as part of the global food sovereignty movement, at a meeting of social movement activists convened by the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty in Rome Italy.

The main aim of my participation was to contribute towards building new strategies to transform the global system towards economic, social, gender, race, climate, and environmental justice, to inform and co-create the Nyéléni Process. Rich discussions were had regarding the need to address and co-generate discourses at the intersections of the biodiversity, climate change, agriculture, and food systems crises, particularly in the Global South, and strengthen alternatives to capitalism, which is driving us all towards ecocide.

We reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly that it has accelerated the processes of the disintegration of the capitalist project through: the sharp rise in inequality across the globe; economic decay, precarity, and vulnerability; authoritarianism and fascism; racism; femicide; and conflict and social unrest. We committed ourselves to the Nyéléni Process as being pivotal to supporting the active resistance against extractivist/capitalist encroachment, which will build upon continued critical analysis and reflection, and deconstruct and challenge corporate and false narratives on transformation.

We fully understand that capitalism, while in its dying stages, is in fact doubling down on extraction and dispossession – voraciously and constantly seeking new frontiers to exploit – particularly in biologically and mineral resource-rich Africa. The Rome meeting represented an important kick-off point for the Nyéléni Process, which is viewed as an opportunity to strengthen and support democratic and progressive spaces rooted in mass-based, democratic organisations and networks, driving toward the systemic transformation of the global food system.