Lenku quashes ‘opaque’ deals on carbon credits

Joseph Ole Lenku

Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku. Governor Lenku has revoked all carbon credit contracts signed between private entities and local communities.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Governor Joseph Lenku has revoked all carbon credit contracts signed between private entities and local communities.

The cancellations come at a time when residents have just started raking in millions of shillings from the scheme.

Announcing the development by way of a public notice yesterday, the county government said it took the decision after realising that private entities are signing opaque agreements with community group ranches and conservancies to buy carbon credits from them.

Citing an insufficient legal framework in the carbon credits market, the devolved unit said the trade was disadvantageous to local communities.

Governor Lenku told Nation yesterday that the National Climate Change Action Plan, which is derived from the Climate Change Act of 2016, does not specifically address how trading in carbon credits will be regulated in the country.

“For the entities possessing carbon credit agreements, contracts or licences, as far as the county government is concerned, they all stand revoked. Our people signed the deals without understanding the market. We must renegotiate [the deals] from a position of knowledge,” he said.

The aim of the National Climate Action Plan is “to guide the country toward the achievement of low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development”.

Several group ranches, among them Imbirikani, Rombo, Kimana, Kuku A and Kuku B in Kajiado South, alongside Oldonyonyokie in Kajiado West, have signed carbon credit contracts with private entities. Kuku A and Kuku B sit on a combined 283,000 acres with 6,000 members. Each member is required to set aside 21 acres for conservation purposes, which recently earned them Sh70 million from carbon credit buyers.

On his part, Oldonyonyokie Group ranch chairman Daniel Nchui said the trade in carbon credits has potential even if they were yet to earn money from it.

“It's a new phenomenon to us. At least several people have been employed [in the group ranches]. We are yet to get monetary benefits but we are optimistic that the county government will negotiate better terms for us,” said Mr Nchui.

Other group ranch leaders who spoke to Nation in confidence said they were not conversant with the carbon credits scheme yet, but had signed agreements through brokers.

‘Some of these agreements were rushed. I suspect brokers are reaping more benefits than local communities. Residents need to be enlightened further on the carbon credits trade,” one of the chairmen said.

‘Reducing basis’

According to Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa, carbon trading “is the buying and selling of permits of carbon credits that allow the holder to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs)”. The agency is incorporated as a non-profit company, limited by guarantee in Kenya and funded by the UK government through its international development arm; UK Aid.

It defines a carbon credit as the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide or any other GHGs that an organisation can emit into the atmosphere.

“Essentially, companies are awarded credits to allow them to continue to pollute up to a certain limit, often on a reducing basis. Those that cannot reduce their emissions are, however, allowed to continue operating, but usually at a higher cost,” FSD Africa says on its website.

In some parts of Kajiado County, money from the carbon credits trade has been used to build classrooms, and health centres and fund community projects. 

The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry has sponsored the Climate Change Act (Amendment) Bill 2023 which seeks to strengthen the existing Climate Change Act 2016 by introducing carbon markets guidelines.