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“In order to be both effective and equitable, REDD+ will require large areas of land with clear tenure arrangements. Yet many developing countries suffer from conflicts over land ownership and continue to exclude local communities from land use decisions. How will REDD+ impact peace and security in these countries?”

The question is from a new report titled, “Missing the Poorest for the Trees? REDD+ and the Links between Forestry, Resilience and Peacebuilding”, written by four students at the London School of Economics: Tobias Dorr, Adriaan Heskamp, Ian Madison and Katherine Reichel. The report can be downloaded here.

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Forestry for Life was a forest carbon trading company set up in 2009 with the aim of raising US$5 billion by 2013. The plan failed dramatically, and this year the company’s founder and director, Matthew Ames, appeared at the Old Bailey, charged with fraud.

In March 2011, two of Ames’ companies, the Investor Club and Forestry for Life, went into liquidation, owing investors £1.2 million. That figure could have been way higher. The company had offices in the UK, Dubai and Hong Kong, according to its website.

Before it all went pear-shaped, Matthew Ames managed to recruit several high profile people to Forestry for Life. In October 2010 James Middleton, the brother of Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge), was photographed representing Forestry for Life at a carbon trading exhibition in London.

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A report released yesterday by Oxfam International documents how more than 22,000 people in Uganda were evicted to make way for a carbon offset tree plantation established by a London-based firm called New Forests Company. While this is not a REDD project, it provides an early warning of how “standards” and “safeguards” can be willfully ignored.

New Forests Company (NFC) was formed in 2004. The company now has projects covering a total of 90,000 hectares in Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda. Investors in the company include the Agri-Vie Agribusiness Fund, which in turn is backed by the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation and the European Investment Bank. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) owns about 20% of NFC and has a seat on its board. These investors have social and environmental standards to which NFC should comply.

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Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, recently announced that he would allow the destruction of 7,100 hectares of the Mabira Forest to make way for sugarcane plantations. If REDD is to mean anything in Uganda, it has to provide some sort of mechanism for preventing this sort of destruction. So far, there is no sign that this is the case.

Museveni plans to hand over 7,100 hectares of Mabira to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), which is owned by the Ugandan state and Indian private investors. This isn’t the first time Museveni has given the go-ahead for sugar plantations at Mabira. The last time, four years ago, peaceful protests against the president’s plans turned violent. Five people were killed and several arrested. Eventually the plans were dropped.

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