MUZAFFARABAD, Nov 28: The main opposition PML-N has vowed to give tough time to the AJK government on a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding carbon credits trade in the Legislative Assembly session which begins here on Tuesday.
“We believe that kickbacks, not in rupees but dollars and pounds, are involved in this highly controversial and dubious deal and we will aggressively raise it in the house,” PML-N MLA Barrister Iftikhar Gillani told Dawn .
The MoU was signed early this month between the AJK government and Merlin's Wood, AJK, a company which was registered with AJK Industry Department only last month, though its letterhead claims it is based in Mayfair London.
The approval to the signing of MoU was granted by the government through a notification on October 31 to “sponsor and implement REDD-Readiness and REDD+ Project for protection and conservation of forests to combat global warming in AJK under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) international standards subject to the fulfillment of the provisions of the MoU.”
REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a set of steps designed to use market/financial incentives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Though its original objective is to reduce GHG it can deliver “co-benefits” such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.
The notification also relaxed formal bidding process in this case “because the experts and specialists in REDD+ projects is so narrow and limited that only a handful of international companies are in a position to advise, sponsor huge amounts and implement these projects.”
The MoU envisaged “public private partnership (PPP) to sponsor, launch, and implement a REDD Readiness and REDD+Project by the company/investor over a gross forest area of about 200,000 hectares in whole of AJK for a period of 40 years.”
According to experts, carbon credits are a part of international emission trading norms and incentivise companies or countries that emit less carbon. The total annual emissions are capped and the market allocates a monetary value to any shortfall through trading. Businesses can exchange, buy or sell carbon credits in international markets at the prevailing market price.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 legally binds the signatories (industrialized countries) to reduce their GHG emissions. If a country cannot meet its GHG reduction target, it can buy credits from other countries that have credits in excess.
MLA Gillani said the way AJK government had impetuously signed the MoU left many questions unanswered.
“One wonders why this issue was not discussed in cabinet or assembly particularly when relaxation of competitive bidding was involved in it,” he said.
Interestingly, when this correspondent opened the website of Merlin's Wood it comprised only one page, offering no tangible information about its prior experience and expertise.
According to sources, some cabinet members have also reservations about the MoU which was signed when senior minister Chaudry Yasin was serving as acting premier.
Meanwhile, a forest department spokesman told Dawn that a formal agreement was yet to be signed with Merlin's Wood “which will do investment of Â£10 billion in AJK.”
However, when this correspondent mailed some questions to Ms Surriekha Khan, Director Merlin's Wood, there was no response.