A community of indigenous Colombians is disputing a carbon-offsetting project that claims to preserve their rainforest, accusing the project’s developers of environmental damage and cultural appropriation. The Pachamama project is part of a growing global market designed to offset carbon emissions by conserving forests, but the planned project may have large implications for the local community, including 26,000 people who use the forest to farm, fish, and hunt. These tribes have not been consulted and claim that the project conflicts with their beliefs as custodians of the environment. The project’s developers, Mexican Global Consulting and Assessment Services and Colombian SPV Business, are believed to be backed by the Pawa Programme, a sustainable forestry scheme founded by Colombia’s richest family. The Colombian government has approved the project but has not consulted with local communities or conducted a full environmental impact assessment. Critics accuse the government of prioritising carbon credits over human rights and the environment.
One issue raised by the local activists is the lack of transparency in how carbon certification is granted. While most programme approvals are publicly available, the independently audited verification documents for the Pachamama project are not. ColCX, the certification body responsible for verifying the project’s carbon credits, refused journalists’ requests for access to documents, citing client confidentiality. The company said it was unable to share documents as its contracts with developers include a confidentiality clause. The company’s director acknowledged that ColCX’s transparency standards fell below those of its competitors and pledged to remove confidentiality clauses in contracts for new projects. However, for ongoing projects such as Pachamama, documents would only be released gradually.
The dispute over this carbon-offsetting project in Colombia highlights the importance of transparency and consultation with local communities in sustainable forestry projects. The global carbon-offsetting market is expected to reach $200bn by 2030. Still, ethical concerns, environmental considerations, and lack of regulation could lead to a backlash in the form of legal challenges or consumer pushback. Pachamama’s developers may need to provide more transparency and engage in dialogue with local communities to avoid opposition to the project.