Environmentalists have questioned the new law on carbon credits saying it is a rushed law, which left out the concerned citizens through lack of inclusivity in drafting the piece of legislation.
Through Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 150 of 2023 named, Carbon Credits Trading (General) Regulations, Zimbabwe ratified the law of carbon credits market as it takes part in trying to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and help the world achieve its low-carbon economy.
A carbon market allows investors and corporations to trade both carbon credits and carbon offsets simultaneously. This mitigates the environmental crisis, while also creating new market opportunities.
New challenges nearly always produce new markets, and the ongoing climate crisis and rising global emissions are no exception.
The renewed interest in carbon markets is relatively new. International carbon trading markets have been around since the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, but the emergence of new regional markets has prompted a surge of investment.
Esteemed corporate lawyer and legal adviser, Farai Dumbura, said the major issue with the carbon credits regulations is that in essence they have no Act to back them up.
“It is acknowledged that as a basis, they relied on the Environmental Management Act’s section 140 but considering how stand-alone the issue of greenhouse gas emissions globally, it would have been more significant if they had drafted and passed an Act. This Act would then have been the base on which to launch the regulations,” he said.
Civil society guru, Dr Timothy Jones, said the goal of policy makers should design and deliver policy which improves outcomes for citizens and society.
“The most effective and successful policies will be the ones that consider how different groups of people will be impacted and adjust to mitigate the negatives. This is how we will tackle the disproportionate impacts that some policies have on certain groups and improve policy overall for all,” he said.
According to Dr Jones, not only is this an obvious way to make effective and efficient policy, it is also a legal requirement placed on every public sector worker and the people of Kariba should have been consulted and put on the committee to deal with the issue.
“It requires all public authorities to pay due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people. Considering equalities in policy design is also important to achieve fairness and remain in accordance with Civil Service values, particularly to act with integrity,” Dr Jones added.
Zimbabwe ranks as the twelfth largest carbon offsets producer globally, and the country generated 4,2 million credits from 30 projects last year. According to reports, the country’s biggest project is partially managed by South Pole and covers 785 000 hectares of forest in northern Kariba.
This project, spread across several Zimbabwean provinces, is community-based and collaborates with locals under the administration of four Rural District Councils: Binga, Nyaminyami, Hurungwe and Mbire.
However, the project promoters are being probed for allegedly generating excessive profits by exaggerating the quantity of carbon credits and disregarding the interests of local communities.
There’s also suspicion of some players profiteering by falsely claiming forest conservation, including in areas managed by the Forestry Commission and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Dumbura said Section 6 regarding the establishment of the carbon credits trading committee left out community representation as part of the members.
“The section lists everyone else who matters and leaves out the major victims of greenhouse gas. It runs the risk of being another South Pole issue where the people of Kariba did not even benefit from the carbon credit trading,” Dumbura said.
In the S.I. 150 of 2023, government introduced a new law for carbon credit trading where project proponents will now receive 70 percent of the revenue, up from the earlier government announcement of 30 percent for foreign investors and 20 percent for locals. The remaining 30 percent will be an Environmental Levy put into the Environment Fund.
“This same issue arises when it is noted that the government will get 50 percent while the communities will get 20 percent of the proceeds from the trading.
“Considering the effects of the emissions on the ground, would sharing equally with the government not have helped? They get the least percentage yet they are the most affected.
This also applies to the sharing of proceeds in the Seventh Schedule, why give a proponent 75 percent of their proceeds when the community is in need of rehabilitation and needs more.
“Again the Kariba incident is there for proof of the flaws from such a kind of distribution.
“ The mandatory application and regulation period is too long, upper top, it can stretch for three years from applying for a certificate of no objection to commencing operations,” Dumbura opined.
In the meantime, emissions continue, he asked and having noted that the period to regularise operations becomes longer for those already operating and this needs to be reduced.
The experts agreed that regulations should be all encompassing with more support needed for renewable energy projects. The regulations and the system so far has taken a substantial focus on land-based projects, maybe that is because they are easy pickings, but there is need to be all encompassing from the get go.
An expansion and a look into renewable energy projects can result in quick wins considering the global shift towards the use of solar.