Saturday, January 03, 2009

EU denounces socialite's carbon offset program (MLB should be advised but won't because they are weak--Hollywood involved!)

"A PIONEERING climate change project in Africa run by Robin Birley, the socialite, has been accused by the European commission, its main donor, of making unsubstantiated claims about its environmental impact.

The project has received more than £1m in public grants and money from celebrities in the music and film business. They include Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Brad Pitt, the actor.

The project attempts to offset an individual’s carbon footprint by paying poor farmers in Mozambique to plant trees, which absorb CO2, and to protect existing forests.

The commission’s criticism comes amid increased concern about the worth of these fashionable but largely

  • Critics say it is almost impossible to guarantee that the trees will survive the length of time needed to offset any significant carbon emissions.

Birley, the stepbrother of Zac Goldsmith, the environmentalist, set up the N’hambita Community Carbon project five years ago in partnership with Edinburgh University.

His company, Envirotrade, manages it and

The project, based on the edge of the Gorongosa national park, had promised to bring “enormous and positive social, economic and environmental change to the developing world”.

However, The Sunday Times has obtained a highly critical report from the European commission that says

  • “the quality of the technical work … [is] far below what could reasonably be expected of a pilot project managed by a university”.

Written last May, just before the five-year funding period came to an end, the report noted that the project “continued to make positive claims about its impact that

The commission also warned that the money flowing into the Gorongosa area had attracted hundreds of poor farmers who were now cutting down trees,

  • contrary to the project’s intention.

An official source said: “We also asked for disclosure about carbon trades in the interest of transparency.

  • None of this information was forthcoming. [Envirotrade] are selling products that are not delivering what was promised and the public needs to know.”

The commission, which has so far donated Euros 1.13m (£1.07m) to the project, does not suggest there has been any dishonesty. However, it felt that the scientific concerns raised with the project since May 2006 remained unaddressed. Consequently, in October 2007 it suspended payment of the last instalment of the grant, worth Euros 453,000. Both the company and Edinburgh University say they will respond to all the criticism in a report they are writing for the commission.

In a statement, Birley said that all the money raised so far from selling carbon credits — £750,000 — has gone back into the project and he has also invested his own money.

  • He added that the project’s “well intentioned shortcomings” were to be expected with such a challenging idea and Envirotrade had been transparent with all its clients.

However, one of the commission’s main concerns was about the

  • way carbon credits are being sold when it is difficult
  • to verify the amount of emissions actually saved.

Despite this, Envirotrade has sold a further £100,000 worth of carbon credits since it received the report.

A Sunday Times reporter approached the company posing as a businessman who wanted to offset his family’s carbon footprint for Christmas by investing £20,000 in the N’hambita project. The reporter was put in touch with Philip Powell, a South African and the company’s project manager.

  • He boasted that the project had already made massive carbon emission savings of 380,000 tons, but did not mention how public funding had been frozen because the commission felt that after five years the project had limited scientific evidence to verify this claim.

Powell also spoke of a relationship with Hollywood’s powerful Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which represents Brad Pitt.

  • who in turn paid the project £150,000 to become carbon neutral.

However, Powell, 44, who now lives in Wetherby, Yorkshire, was less forthcoming about his past work for the apartheid regime.

In 1998, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which examined apartheid era abuses, found that

  • Powell, a former security branch officer, had been involved in “a conspiracy to

According to the TRC, Powell trained and secretly armed an Inkatha paramilitary unit involved in destabilising South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Powell confirms he is the same man but denies being part of any death squad or having ever incited any of his trainees to kill.

  • In 2000, he left South Africa for the UK, amid calls from the ANC that he should be prosecuted for treason. Two years later, he formed Envirotrade with Birley, who is the majority shareholder.

During the first three years of the N’hambita project, Birley was also running Annabel’s, the

  • uppercrust London nightspot founded by his father in 1963. The club is named after Birley’s mother, who went on to marry
  • billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Goldsmith.

In 2006, Birley, 50, left the club after admitting to his sister that he had paid a private detective to spy on her lover. Since his father’s death in 2007, Birley has been fighting a legal battle with his sister over the estimated £100m estate.

In a statement to The Sunday Times, Professor John Grace of Edinburgh University’s Geosciences department said: “We are working hard on improving the project all the time. The studies have been done. Of course we will provide all the required information in our final report, which we are working on now.”" via the Drudge Report

  • (The carbon scam is filled with billionaires, Hollywood robots, and sick, cruel liars as seen here). sm
UPDATE: Here is link to the 4/12/09 favorable article mentioned in comment to this post by interested party. 9/26/09


At 2:20 AM, Blogger Philip said...

Earlier this year your blog carried a story that was extremely critical of our company and the work that we do in Mozambique. It portrayed our work as a "scam" and described us in less that flattering terms. The story was based on a report carried in the Sunday Times. The Sunday Times have subsequently sent award-winning environmental journalist Richard Girling to the the project and he has written a first-hand account of what he found. I am sure you will agree that the contrast in the manner which these two articles portray the activities of our project is considerable. I hope that in the interests of fairness you will give equal consideration to the recent story. We strongly believe that the original story did not accurately reflect the work we are doing, we are proud of what the Nhambita community has achieved and saddened that opponents of carbon offsetting continue to undervalue the positive impact that community based projects like this can have on forest people's livelihoods.


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