Inhofe demands probe into possible human rights abuses wrought by carbon credit market

Font Size:

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe is pushing for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed abroad by companies looking to tap into the emerging carbon credit market.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week, Inhofe demanded an investigation into crimes allegedly committed Africa and Latin America in the name of mitigating climate change — as sanctioned by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.*

Inhofe’s concern stems in part from a September Oxfam International report that detailed how The New Forest Company, a firm that grows tree plantations in order to sell carbon credits, violently evicted more than 20,000 people from their homes and land in Uganda to make way for one of their forests.

“Thousands of people are suffering because they have been evicted without meaningful consultation or compensation,”  wrote Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.

According Oxfam, the army and police were mustered to push people off the land in Kiboga and Mubende districts. Their removal, the witnesses said, was violent.

“People told Oxfam that the army and police were deployed in the area to enforce the evictions, and that many people were beaten during the process,” according to the Oxfam report. “Some villagers also say that casual labourers, whom they believe were employed by NFC, joined the police and army in burning homes, destroying crops and butchering livestock.”

In a letter to Oxfam dated Sept. 9, 2011, NFC denied that there had been any violence or property destruction. “There were no incidences of injury, physical violence, or destruction of property during the voluntary vacation process that have been brought to the attention of NFC,” the company wrote.

None of the families kicked off their land ever received compensation, according to Oxfam.

Inhofe, who has made more than 150 trips to Africa in the last 15 years, many of them to Uganda, explained to The Daily Caller that the action has been purely a ploy to capitalize on carbon credits, at the expense of the poor.

“We are talking about really poor people here, and not just in Uganda but in all of sub-Sahara Africa, these people are living from day to day burning what ever is there … these people are just trying to stay alive,” Inhofe said.

In Honduras, companies selling carbon credits and their private security forces are allegedly engaged in even more vicious tactics.

An International Fact Finding Mission report presented to the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee found that 23 peasants, a journalist and his partner were murdered between January 2010 and March 2011 in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras over a land dispute with palm oil plantations that sell carbon credits.

“The testimonies and information provided by national human rights bodies, victims and their families, peasant organisations [and others] lead to the conclusion that the murders were perpetrated in the context of agrarian conflict,” the report read. “This information also shows direct involvement of private security guards from some of the local companies.”

If the alleged human rights abuses are not addressed in a timely manner, Inhofe promises to offer an amendment that would cut off U.S. funding to the UNFCCC.

Inhofe also worries that China could gain favor from the U.N. by championing population control policies. The senator pointed to a 2007 report from China on their National Climate Change Program as reason for concern.

“Since the implementation of the family planning program, over 300 million births have been averted nationally by 2005,” said the Chinese report. “According to the average per capita emissions from the IEA statistics, the averted births have resulted in an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by about 1.3 billion tons in 2005. It is a significant contribution that China achieved in the fields of controlling world population and mitigating GHG emissions.”

The Oklahoma senator added that, in addition to demanding an investigation into the alleged crimes in Africa and Latin America, he is also urging the State Department to prevent countries like China from getting “climate credit” for “human lives avoided.”

“They consider human beings as waste. All this idea is about eliminating waste. Well they are eliminating waste and getting carbon credits for it,” Inhofe said. “I have twenty kids and grandkids and I said this physically makes me sick.”

In two weeks the United Nations will hold a global warming conference in Durban, South Africa.

Inhofe declared in a recent Web video that the get-together is largely subsidized by the American taxpayer and that “the brutal irony this year is that while these diplomats enjoy yet another expensive, extravagant trip, the policies implemented at these conferences are having a devastating impact on the world’s poor.”

* Update: In a letter to The Daily Caller, Oxfam America has clarified that the Uganda forest project described in its report was not sanctioned by the Clean Development Mechanism and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Oxfam has also shared its concerns about this characterization with Sen. Inhofe’s office.

Follow Caroline on Twitter