As folk such as the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah have cottoned on, there is a ton of money to be made out of the artificially created market in so-called Carbon Trading, which is supposed to be an ethical effort spearheaded by the UN to save the world’s climate.

However, given that money tends to attract the selfish rather than ethically minded, there are serious concerns that too little is being done to scrutinise those would-be carbon traders chasing after ‘green’ cash.

One major concern is the number of carbon credit companies registered offshore, which represents a red flag indicator that they are seeking to avoid scrutiny and transparence… and of course tax.

The campaign site, REDD Monitor has exclusively shared research with ForestSEA showing that no less than 15 of the leading carbon credit companies are indeed opaque institutions located in offshore jurisdictions, thereby withholding from users who the shareholders and beneficiaries are.

As a Chris Lang of REDD Monitor points out, there are already concerns about the way the carbon credit system operates:

“Carbon offsets exist to allow Big Polluters to continue their destructive business as usual for as long as possible, while giving the appearance of taking action on the climate crisis. Carbon offsets also make money for carbon traders. That so many carbon trading companies are registered in offshore tax havens is scandalous. Registering in a tax haven is not illegal. But it is a way of avoiding paying tax and increasing profits. Tax havens are by definition non-transparent and secret. What exactly are these companies trying to hide?”

Indeed, transparency ought to be a pillar for any operation dealing in public resources under the protective mantle of the United Nations on the understanding they are performing a service for the global community.

Yet the off-shore trend has been a feature of the carbon market since its inception and has already created scandal involving some of the world’s leading environmental advocates. One of the original offshore carbon credit companies, Sustainable Forestry Management, was registered in the Bahamas and caught the eye of Prince Charles. The Prince’s estate, Duchy of Cornwall, bought shares worth $113,500 in February 2007, only revealed in the recent Paradise Paper leak.

Having himself invested in SFM (which first platformed its operations in Sarawak in 2006 at a conference to which Sarawak Report was invited) Prince Charles began doing the rounds at business events and dinners arguing for the “need” for a forest carbon credit market, while the company lobbied the UK government directly to promote the voluntary carbon market.

Having accrued large sums from its investors the company was dissolved in 2011. Its founder Eric Bettleheim headed off to a new job with an oil company seeking to devise offsets for its controversial oil sands operation, providing a stark example for the purpose of some of these carbon credit companies—and the networks running them.

Given that the carbon market is unregulated and there are increasing cases of “carbon cowboys” jumping on the green bandwagon to make a buck at the expense of indigenous communities through Asia and the Americas, close attention should be paid to any company in this market which has chosen to hide its assets and shareholders behind the veil of the offshore system.

If these companies exist to combat climate change and provide financial resources to communities which are dependent on their forests for livelihoods, why do any of them hide who is benefitting from cutting these deals? And why is the UN’s REDD programme not demanding more transparency as more and more cases come out of the woodwork such as Sabah’s own shocking so-called Nature Conservation Agreement?

Have these companies been created to fight climate change—or does their registration offshore reveal the intent to merely make quick, big and invisible bucks off of the most vulnerable peoples and ecosystems in the world?

ForestSEA and REDD Monitor can exclusively reveal the names of these companies which are currently registered offshore or in jurisdictions known for their secrecy:

Climate Care – registered in Jersey, taken over by Mirova in 2017

Althelia Climate Fund –  – registered in Luxembourg.

Carbon Trade Exchange – parent company, Global Environmental Markets, registered in Mauritius.

Hub Culture Ltd and Hub Culture Pavilions Limited – registered in Bermuda.

The Poseidon Foundation – registered in Malta.

EcoPlanet Bamboo – several related companies egistered in Delaware.

Oak Group – registered in Guernsey

Carbon Green Investments Guernsey Limited – registered in Guernsey

Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator Inc – registered in Delaware.

Forest Trends Association – registered in Delaware.

Pachama Inc – registered in Delaware.

Ecosecurities Holdings SA is registered in Switzerland

Toucan  – registered in Switzerland

Bunge Emissions Ltd – BVI

Tricora Climate Partner AM – owned by Sofostene, registered in Cyrpus