Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Forest-CO2 scheme will draw organized crime: Interpol

Forest-CO2 scheme will draw organized crime: Interpol

Fri May 29, 2009

By Sunanda Creagh

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Organized crime syndicates are eyeing
the nascent forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative
new opportunity for fraud, an Interpol environmental crime official
said on Friday.

Peter Younger, an environmental crimes specialist at the world's
largest international police agency, was referring to a U.N.-backed
scheme called reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.

REDD aims to unlock potentially billions of dollars for developing
countries that conserve and restore their forests. In return, they
would earn carbon credits that can be sold for profit to developed
nations that need to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

"If you are going to trade any commodity on the open market, you are
creating a profit and loss situation. There will be fraudulent trading
of carbon credits," he told Reuters in an interview at a forestry
conference in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian island of Bali.

"In future, if you are running a factory and you desperately need
credits to offset your emissions, there will be someone who can make
that happen for you. Absolutely, organized crime will be involved."

Younger called on governments, multi-lateral bodies and NGOs to
involve law enforcement agencies more in the development of REDD
policies and in the fight against illegal logging and deforestation,
which are responsible for about 20 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas

"It struck me, as I sit here at this conference, as ironic that I am
the only policeman here. You say you want to strike up partnerships to
address illegal logging -- who with?" he said. "Consider resourcing
law enforcement efforts and not just relying on NGOs and other nice
people to do it for you."


Forests soak up vast amount of carbon dioxide and REDD aims to reward
governments and local communities for every ton of CO2 locked up by a
forest over decades, equating to a potentially very large flow of cash
globally for forest credits.

Local communities are supposed to earn a share of REDD credit sales to
pay for better health, education and alternative livelihoods that
entice them to protect rather than cut down surrounding forests.

But revenue-sharing measures have yet to be fully worked out and will
differ for each country. Some NGOs fear central and provincial
governments might demand control of the money, with very little
filtering down to local communities.

Fraud could include claiming credits for forests that do not exist or
were not protected or by land grabs, Younger said.

"It starts with bribery or intimidation of officials that can impede
your business. Then if there is indigenous people involved, there's
threats and violence against those people. There's forged documents,"
he added. Younger said illegal logging was a significant and growing
problem and that the same networks that are used to smuggle wood could
also be used to traffic women and children, drugs, firearms and
wildlife. There was evidence to suggest revenue from wood smuggling
was funding armed conflict, he said.

Younger, who also specializes in wildlife smuggling, said the illegal
trade of caviar, orchids, tropical fish and ivory was also

"In illegal logging for instance, there are companies that may have a
lawful side of the business and this is the dirty laundry on the
side," he said.

Better transnational sharing of flora and fauna crime data and better
resourcing of policing was needed to address the problem, he said.

Editing by David Fogarty