Is carbon trading the answer to climate change?

Have you heard about carbon trading?   Yes, NO? I am going to share with you what I know about carbon trading and how it impacts those at the receiving end of this policy.

I don’t understand the technicalities of carbon trading especially how it is, that it is promoted as a solution to climate change.  It would appear that the influential author Naomi Klein is not convinced either to merits of carbon trading. According to  Jessica Corbett and Ethan Corey , Klein has this to say in her  upcoming book entitled This Changes everything 

carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet.

Carbon Trading in practice

As I said, I don’t really understand the technicalities of carbon trading  but I have come across folks on the ground in Uganda who have to implement this policy.

On one of my visits to Uganda, I had noticed that pine trees had sprung up in most of the country’s rural areas but didn’t know why.  A chance meeting with a woman I should call Jane and whose job  involves negotiating trade deals with the European Union (EU) helped to fill in the gaps. Jane explained that the planting of pine is part of a carbon trade agreement via the EU and some trade agreements came with this as a condition.

Then I came across a coffee  grower whose family have grown coffee for 50 years.  His coffee crop had been affected by a virus called Coffee Wilt. He further explained that coffee trees need shelter from the harsh African sun and this shelter  is provided by the banana trees but the banana trees were infected by the Banana Wilt virus

He told me that, this was a real threat to  his livelihood.

The same land is used to grow vegetables such as beans, carrots and potatoes in a system called inter cropping.  This means that the household has food security and income from coffee.

One morning old man Hassan had a visit from a government official who requested that he gives up part of his land to plant pine trees in order to help the environment. The pine trees would be provided for free and there maybe a cash incentive too! Old Man Hassan said NO and I asked him why?

I have two daughters due to go to university and that has been possible because of coffee and they are about to cost me more in fees and maintenance. How will afford to keep them at University for 4 years if I cut down the coffee trees and plant Pine instead? Furthermore, how will we as a family feed ourselves if we give over the land to Pine growing?

I could see his reasoning, there is no social security pay outs in Uganda to take care of his basic needs, he has  no hope of accessing aid to help him directly with his priorities as he sees them, should he care about planting more trees for the sake of the environment?

So if I were to sum up both these encounters it would be as follows;

It seems to me that, in order to access inward trade with EU based companies, Uganda has to accept carbon trading as part of the deals. Jane and her team then have to go out and find folks like old man Hassan and pay them to plant pine trees.

A win win situation?

I sincerely don’t know. But if the likes of old man Hassan are required to give up their land to grow pine, a practice that would threaten his livelihood and food security, I can’t see how this is a winning situation for him.

What is your take?

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