Saturday, June 20, 2009

The unusual 'A' series of Papua carbon credits

Over the past few weeks the government of Papua New Guinea has been embroiled in a scandal about the issuance of irregular carbon credits in a “B” series. So what is the A series?

The Office of Climate Change in Papua New Guinea recently added to the story by issuing a statement about a company called Climate Assist saying:

"This company sought to negotiate Carbon Credits in the market places that were not issued by this Office. This Office has had no dealings with this company in respect of credits issued. We were aware of this some months ago. We have our lawyers pursuing this matter with foreign law enforcement agencies as a matter of fraud. As such we cannot comment further on it." Climate Assist, too, is keeping silent at this stage.

So what is this certificate shown here? Luckily, I managed to ask Gregory Corby of Climate Assist about the A series of credits a few weeks ago. I asked him about the certificate reproduced here and another (which specifies a monetary value of $20m). He said, the credits had changed dramatically over the years, and these early credits were used to start his business. “We couldn't get them into trade or anything like that. And I had to go back to Papua New Guinea, it was 2007 and get others issued, and then I went back in 2008 and we got the last original ones issued.”

The credit shown is signed by a government minister on behalf of the government. On the bottom of the certificate it says it represents “ownership in carbon sinks”. Mr Corby went on, “the Papua New Guinea government gave us the credits and made us the brokers to monetize the credits.” In addition, Mr Corby said he had a long-standing relationship with the Prime Minister. However the PM’s press secretary denied this when I asked her a few weeks ago.

Another document appears to back up Mr Corby's statement that he was empowered to "make and sell" carbon credits on behalf of the government. I've also been given a letter dated 24th October 2005, sent to Climate Assist and signed by the same government minister, says:

“the Prime Minister has accepted that Papua New Guinea (PNG) has carbon credits and they are tradable commodity.

The Prime Minister and I have accepted that Climate Assist (PNG) Ltd acts as Brokers on behalf of the Independent State of PNG to buy and sell carbon credits.

The carbon credits have been assigned to Climate Assist (PNG) Ltd through our certificate and monetization that will finance designated projects within PNG.

Therefore, this letter sets to acknowledge the role of Climate Assist (PNG) Ltd and advise that the Government of the Independent State of PNG unconditionally guarantee all actions undertaken for the monetization of these credits”.

Are all these documents what they purport to be? I think at this stage the arguments are best left to lawyers, and I'd like to edge carefully out of this blog, trying not to knock over any words as I leave.

Updated: 18.8.09 Spelling adjusted.