Deal Narrative I: Who benefits from tree-planting in the Global South? The case of two carbon offset projects in Laos

With biological carbon removal projects already receiving large parts of the increasing financial flows towards carbon offsetting, this deal narrative illustrates the ensuing trade-offs and potential benefits using the example of two land deals from the Land Matrix database in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), commonly known as Laos.

To meet the global goals of climate change mitigation, planting trees has become a prominent, and ostensibly easy, approach. A recent report, however, estimates that the equivalent of half of today’s global croplands, 633 million hectares (ha) of land, are required to meet the projected biological carbon removal in national climate pledges and commitments that involve reforestation. In addition, private sector actors are increasingly using this option to offset their own or to sell carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. This will require acquisitions of large tracts of land for interventions that reduce carbon through tree planting – and with little available land in high-income countries, investors often turn to the Global South to address the increasing demand to offset carbon emissions. Still, most of this land is far from idle – as is often claimed to justify deals such as these – and the experiences during the global land rush in the last few decades showcase how land investments from actors in high-income countries often adversely affect local communities. So how can we ensure that we do not perpetuate the failings of the past when it comes to carbon offsetting?

Authors: Daniel Geissel, Chintanaphone Keovichith, Nikka Rivera, Danya-Zee Pedra, Christoph Kubitza

Deal narratives are investigations of specific LSLAs by the Land Matrix regional and global partners that provide an in-depth and detailed analysis of single deals in addition to its global database. This deal narrative focuses on Land Matrix deals #8058 and #10036. By making this information available, the Land Matrix aims to support broad engagement and information exchange, facilitating the continuous improvement of the data. The information on the deals is based on both secondary research and in-depth field research in the region involving the relevant stakeholders.

The Land Matrix would like to acknowledge the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and the Lao Farmer Network (LFN) for their valuable contributions to this publication.

AFA, the Regional Focal Point for the Land Matrix in Asia, is an alliance of 22 national farmer organisations in 16 countries in the region, composed of small-scale women and men family farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, forest users, herders, and pastoralists. AFA’s goal is to strengthen the capacities of the leaders and technical staff of national farmer organisations, leading to the eradication of poverty and hunger and increased resilience and sense of well-being of family farmers. LFN is a member of AFA in Laos PDR.

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