The Mozambican authorities are eager to join the carbon market. Currently Mozambique possesses approximately 45 million carbon credits, ready for trade, as announced by President Filipe Nyusi at the COP28 climate summit. Aiming to capitalize on the carbon market, Mozambique is developing a plan to activate its market presence, with a focus on establishing a regulatory framework, stated Environment Minister Ivete Maibaze. She estimates that the country could earn between $200-500 million annually by producing 10-25 million carbon credits.

The carbon market is essentially a trade in the right to pollute, as it allows large companies to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits generated by emission reduction or carbon capture projects.

For the moment, Mozambique plans to enter the market by selling credits generated by ongoing forest conservation projects, an initiative whose real impact is doubtful due to illegal logging involving the authorities and timber companies, mainly Chinese. In theory there is forest conservation, but in practice unlicensed companies pay people to cut wood in scattered areas, which is then trucked to shipyards, loaded into containers and exported to China.

These situations occur even in protected areas and affect legally protected species. At the beginning of December, for example, the investigative newspaper Carta de Moçambique published an article about logging in the Quirimbas National Park, a protected area in Cabo Delgado. The loggers are operating in collusion with some inspectors and are exploiting large quantities. The wood is then transported in lorries that pass through police and inspection posts under the complicit eyes of the authorities, in a system of corruption. This situation has been going on in Mozambique for years.

Last year, an investigation by Danwatch and Zitamar News revealed that thousands of tons of illegal timber were shipped to China between 2019 and 2021, amid corruption schemes in Mozambique. Scientists quoted in the investigation estimate that deforestation caused by the illegal timber trade has made Mozambique more vulnerable to cyclones.

Mozambique's entry into the carbon market increases the risk of global pollution. Large companies will continue to pollute by relying on carbon credits purchased in Mozambique, which in practice will also harm the environment.

In the province of Zambézia, where a World Bank-funded project to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is underway, people complain that their land, normally used for agriculture, is being usurped for tree planting with promises of local development that do not materialize. As a result of the lack of livelihoods, residents produce and sell charcoal, once again reversing the concept of environmental conservation. The charcoal is loaded onto trucks with the knowledge of the authorities. It is then sold in the cities.

The Mozambican government's argument for entering the carbon market is that it wants to fight climate change, which is paradoxical because the country also continues to invest in fossil fuels, such as the gas exploration project of French giant TotalEnergies. According to a report by Friends of the Earth, this project alone could emit 3.3 to 4.5 billion tons of CO2 equivalent over its life cycle, more than the annual greenhouse gas emissions of all 27 countries of the European Union combined.

This article is part of our current reporting project "Dismantling the Fossil Fuel Industry".