Part two: COP28 host’s favoured carbon credit climate solution a stitch-up for more fossil fuels

Excavators extract coal from a pit in Thar, Pakistan.
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In part one of this two-part article series, the Canary reported that UAE-based carbon credit company Blue Carbon LLC – under the patronage of sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum – has been amassing land agreements with governments across Africa and the Pacific. The organisation’s latest land-grab amounts to some 7.5m hectares of exclusive land development rights in Zimbabwe.

Now, in part two, in case you were in any doubt that the carbon credit company isn’t a front for maintaining the environmentally-destructive status quo, you can look no further than it’s ties to Oracle Energy – a solar company registered in Plymouth, UK. Blue Carbon LLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the firm at its launch.

So, what does a Plymouth-based solar energy corporation have to do with a UAE-headquartered carbon company? Well, sheikh Ahmed also happens to be the largest shareholder of its parent company, Oracle Power PLC.

Carbon credits: greenwashing for a coal corporation

Oracle Power proclaims itself to be a “natural resource and power project developer” – slick PR jargon for a mining and fossil fuel firm. Significantly, the group’s main business involves gold mining outfits in Australia, alongside coal pits and a coal-fired power plant in Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, these environmentally ruinous projects are jeopardising the health of people and the planet.

Research group the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) found that Oracle’s coal project in Pakistan was vastly understating its air pollution. Specifically, its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has estimated mercury emissions 200-times lower than the actual output. As a result, the coal plant could be causing devastating health impacts for nearby communities.

Meanwhile, Oracle’s coal-fired power plant in Pakistan will generate around 4m tonnes of GHG emissions per year. Over its lifetime, this would amount to approximately 120m tonnes of GHGs.

Read on...

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Blue Carbon will therefore provide offsets as a swanky piece of green-gilded swagger for the company.

As the Canary’s Tracy Keeling has explained, big polluters favour carbon credits as a key climate fix. This is because credits provide a cheap, convenient smokescreen for the ecological destruction and enormous emissions of these climate criminals. Clearly then, Blue Carbon’s credit scheme is not about to break with the norm.

Solar power for fossil fuels

Naturally, the sheikh’s fossil fuel and mining company also boasts another sustainable side hustle in solar power. In April, Oracle signed a cooperation agreement with PowerChina to build a 1GW solar power plant at the site of Oracle’s coal block in Thar, Pakistan.

Of course, the devil is always in the details. The agreement boldly proclaimed that the:

power produced from the solar setup could be integrated with the national grid to meet urgent national demand for renewable energy or be sold to the grid of a private distributor.

Supplying renewable energy to meet domestic demand: so far so good. Better still would be for the company to direct energy to local communities. As the Canary has previously reported, Global South renewable energy projects regularly fail to deliver power to nearby communities facing energy poverty. Invariably, this has also been a concern of the host communities in Thar. The agreement continued:

The same power could also be utilized to reduce the carbon footprint at the Block I and II Thar Coal Power Project.

In other words, operators of adjacent coal blocks could use the energy from the solar project to power their climate-wrecking coal operations. Go figure.

Moreover, a representative for the company has seemed to confirm that this is very much the intention. Speaking to Third Pole, PowerChina spokesperson Cheng Qiang said that the company:

want to generate renewable power in the desert for other mining operations as well as the railway line that is in the pipeline; our solar project will offset carbon emissions from the coal that is being mined and used to fire the two power plants [in Block 2].

History of climate and community harm

In effect, Oracle’s solar project is a greenwashing license to lock in its coal mining business-as-usual. Essentially, Oracle is extending the life of the Thar coal mines; coal mines that, you guessed it, have harmed Indigenous and local communities.

Residents have reported that the Thar I project has degraded land, destroyed local ecology, polluted the air, and fomented a water crisis for the local population. Locals have also lamented loss of livelihood and the limited employment opportunities offered by the project. In classic colonial fossil-fuel fashion, the project dispossessed and displaced local communities from their land.

Now, Blue Carbon’s sordid sustainability scam will further greenwash these extractive, exploitative operations. Evidently, sheikh Ahmed has no qualms propping up land-grabbing projects that decimate marginalised communities. From coal mines to green energy projects and carbon credits, Sheikh Ahmed’s companies have a history of climate and community harm.

All this goes to show that plastering over polluting and planet-wrecking endeavors with a pitiful handful of token solar panels and carbon-storing trees can’t hide the cracks in the COP28 host’s climate credentials.

However, none of this should come as any surprise. Oil-rich states like the UAE were never going to concede their fossil fuel-founded stranglehold on the world economic stage. Neither were the Global North industrialised nations that built their wealth on the backs of colonial oppression and oil. Blue Carbon is but another vehicle for big polluters to uphold the dangerous fossil fuel hegemony.

In this capitalist climate, old habits die hard, but planet Earth dies easy.

Feature image via Al Jazeera/Youtube screengrab.

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