'Carbon Cowboys' Selling Fake Credits

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C&C has often described ‘carbon offsets’ as a fraud that allows polluters off the hook. Now there are frauds within the fraud …

By Chris Lang
REDD Monitor, Sept. 28, 2009

A couple of months ago, Kevin Conrad commented that “because Papua New Guinea was advocating a regime shift in forests, we had every carbon cowboy in the world descend upon Papua New Guinea.” Unfortunately, it seems that PNG is not the only country in the world that is facing an influx of “carbon cowboys.” More than a year ago, the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development in Colombia issued a warning about “Oxygen buyers.” Even more unfortunately, the notice seems to have little effect.

Neither does the problem appear to be restricted to a single organisation attempting to “buy oxygen.” In June 2009, Economist journalist Natasha Loder posted a note on her blog from a carbon trader who had recently visited Colombia:

On my last trip to Colombia I was contacted by various “brokers” or “in-betweens” that offered me “500,000 ha of virgin Amazonas forest” or similar areas to “buy oxygen.” Prior to these meetings, they had “secured” the “oxygen sales rights” from native people’s forests. I tried hard to explain them how things work but the carbon bonanza there seems strong. Other carbon companies in Latin America seem to face the same problems. I understand there was even an MP of the Colombian parliament that referred to oxygen credits (instead of CO2 credits) when proposing draft legislation on climate change.

There appear to be close similarities between what is happening in Colombia and what has been more widely discussed in PNG. The PNG government issued a warning against dodgy REDD deals seven months later than the Colombian government, in November 2008.

Here’s an unofficial English translation of the Colombian Notice:

Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development of the Republic of Colombia

How Can Oxygen Be Bought?

The Ministry has received a significant number of complaints and questions about a supposed NGO that says it buys oxygen from the owners of land with forests. In the first place, it raises suspicions that persons who purport to be specialists in climate change and forestry issues do not use the correct terminology since the sale of oxygen does NOT EXIST.

What does exist is the possibility to do REFORESTATION projects in the framework of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. These projects can be done by any person, community or entity that has eligible areas and takes the necessary steps WITHOUT the need of intermediaries or NGOs. This is reforestation for CO2 CAPTURE which is measured and turned into Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) which are exchanged on the international carbon market. The Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development has an Office on Climate Change with specialized personnel to give advice on these kinds of projects and to help persons to evaluate if the offers that are made are real or if they are potential scams. We urge those who are interested to use this service.

As for the areas with natural forests, please be advised that unfortunately international mechanisms that provide incentives for conservation or avoided deforestation still DO NOT EXIST. Colombia is taking the lead in the international negotiations so that in the near future this kind of project is accepted and there is a payment for avoided deforestation; but the negotiations are ongoing and there are still no methodological guides nor parameters that allow for the creation of a market with the characteristics that these supposed oxygen sellers are promoting.


  • To answer your question.
    yes a company called ‘Earth Sky’ tried to sell pre-originated carbon credits to a company in spain.
    Strange one, its, commercilising company was ‘South Pole’.
    The transaction was delivered and then withdrawn.
    No methodology was in plac

  • hello

    Are there documented cases of persons prosecuted for carbon fraud? Have refunds been demanded of those who may have been paid but have been subsequently been deemed to have obtained payments for fraudulent carbon credits?

    Thank you