An oil refinery in Donges, France, in this January 16, 2020 photo.

Oil company will “take care” of forests, a curious way to achieve carbon balance

The Government of Zimbabwe awarded the Australian oil company Invictus three projects for carbon compensation in more than 300 thousand hectares of the tropical forests of Gwayi, Sikumi and Ngamo. Environmental organizations criticize such practices.

Friday August 5, 2022 11:02 p.m.

It will be during this August that the Australian oil company Invictus begins to drill exploratory wells in the north of that country. “Assuming a successful exploration campaign, the Cabora Bassa Project could be one of the first carbon-neutral oil and gas projects in the world,” the company said Thursday in a statement to shareholders.

And technically he is right, because it is estimated that the entire life cycle of the gas plan – dubbed the Cabora Bassa Project – will result in a total emission of less than 15 million tons of carbon. For their part, the compensation projects would generate a total of 30 million carbon credits, given that one credit is equivalent to one ton of that gas.

Carbon offsetting, however, consists of emitting companies developing alternative projects, such as, for example, planting thousands and thousands of trees that reduce carbon emissions by absorbing the gas that has already been emitted by the scans. That would allow them to obtain so-called carbon credits.

But, although the environmental organizations of Zimbabwe have not yet declared themselves regarding the exploratory drilling that will take place in the Muzarabani district, ecologists and those in defense of the environment make a critical analysis | considering that it does not help or mitigate the effects of global warming , nor to actually reduce emissions.

Even so, the company insists through its website that it will not carry out prospecting in places close to “fragile ecosystems, large rivers, national parks and wildlife.” And they argue that the projects awarded to Invictus by the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission fall under the United Nations’ mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). And that these involve a thirty-year contract to contribute to the protection of the Gwayi, Sikumi and Ngamo forests in the western province of North Matabeleland, near the Hwange National Park.

But there is more, as Invictus reported that it has created a division to manage the carbon offset project and the credits it generates, which should begin to be issued within a year and will be certified through the US NGO Verra, which advises the public and private sectors in terms of their climate-ecological action.

Regarding the Cabora Bassa Project, the initial concession to the company by the Zimbabwean government was for 101,000 hectares, but, according to local media reports, it appears to have been expanded to a total of 700,000 hectares. Of course, this information has not yet been confirmed by official sources.

The contract established between the government of Zimbabwe and the oil company Invictus stipulates a term of thirty years to contribute to the protection of the forests of the province of Matabeleland and the vicinity of the Hwange National Park. Due to such a long period of time, the company has been forced to ensure on its website that exploratory drilling will take place only in the Muzarabani district, a small-scale agricultural area that is located near the large cliff located to the south of the Zambezi River Valley, but that, for no reason, will it carry out oil or gas prospecting in places close to fragile ecosystems, large rivers, national parks and wildlife.

It is to be hoped that it will.

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