TV programme announces that Amazon-based property firms are selling land to Europeans to which they potentially have no entitlement, for a fraction of its real value.

Even the most simple business transactions demand a knowledge of a few key things: what you are buying, why you are buying it, and how much it will cost you. Dutch TV programme Keuringsdienst van Waarde asked just those questions, making a purchase within one of the most complicated markets in the world: carbon offsetting.

The journey begins in the Netherlands as the team make an estimate of the total carbon emissions of their audience. To offset these emissions they decide to buy 43 hectares, or 70 football fields’ worth of forest in Brazil’s Pará state. Arriving in Belén, the team meet with private firm Brazil Property Group, who offer them a “special deal” on primary forest, for a staggering 250 real – or one cent – per square metre.

“The cheap price we were offering was just to get our name out there,” said BPG’s Michael Greene. “People were calling us right after the show asking for the same price, but we only offered them the standard.” Working it out on a calculator, that would be about three cents per square metre, he says.

Having worked with a landowner for more than 3 years, Greene’s firm has a total of 700,000 hectares in the Brazilian Amazon. Around 1,000 are already a part of the carbon credits scheme, but if things keep going as they are, he explains, the whole lot will eventually get sucked in.

In most of these places indigenous peoples have not had their land recognized. “It’s just been taken from them,” says FERN’s Jutta Kill, “by speculative land sellers and companies selling land in the Amazon.” Olga Ramos de Castro, an Amazon sociologist from the University of Pará is also quick to condemn this model. “The chances are the team made a false purchase in the first place,” she says. “Either the piece of land doesn’t exist – it’s an imaginary piece of land – or it is a symbolic sale of emissions allowances from contributions to the forest’s preservation.”

Greene, however, says that if it’s not taken and protected by carbon companies like Brazil Property Group, it will simply be cut down by locals or claimed for deforestation by other Brazilian ranchers. “Most land owners will kick the Indians off or kill [them] when they wander on.” The land is worth more as it’s high risk, he continues, as the parcels are just north of what he terms the “Anapu devastation area, “which the government flooded with poor people. It’s the poor people who were moved there by the government. They are the culprits for the deforestation,” he says.

There is now an ongoing process, explains Ramos, particularly by the growth in emissions trading, where the idea is that you can protect forests by carbon trading. Within this system, poor people are the ones who are vilified. “The rights of the people who live here are being restricted and they are labelled as criminals. In between are the well-meaning Europeans and the middle class who believe that with the pieces of land that they buy, the forest can be saved.”

For a full English transcript of the show, visit REDD-Monitor.

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