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WATCH THIS! NGO Newsletter #7: Voluntary carbon market approves wind farm project on occupied land previously turned down by CDM

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) has just registered a wind farm project in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Earlier attempts by the project proponent to have the farm registered at the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) had backfired precisely because of its location in a politically controversial area.

With its sunny climate and extensive windy coast line, Western Sahara ticks all the boxes as an ideal location for renewable energy projects. But the territory has been the scene of a protracted conflict since 1975, when Morocco invaded and subsequently annexed large parts of its southern neighbour. In the war that ensued, tens of thousands of Saharawi fled to the Algerian desert where they remain till this very day as refugees living in harsh conditions. Saharawis that stayed in their homeland face the brutal yoke of a military occupation. The United Nations consider Western Sahara as a territory awaiting decolonization, and have repeatedly stressed the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. No state in the world recognizes Morocco’s claims on the territory. UN mediated peace talks are deadlocked due to Morocco’s intransigence.

Blatantly ignoring international law and a UN Legal Opinion on the matter, Morocco uses and sells Western Sahara’s natural resources as its own

Not blessed with hydrocarbon reserves and facing ever increasing oil bills, Morocco took an interest in developing its wind and solar potential, including in the territory that it holds in violation of international law. The Foum el Oued wind farm, with a capacity of 50 MW, is just one of the wind farms that Morocco seeks to build in Western Sahara. The project will be carried out by the Moroccan company NAREVA – owned by the Moroccan King whose father decided to invade Western Sahara – in close collaboration with German multinational Siemens, contracted to supply wind mill parts and technical knowhow.

Seeking UN endorsement for its plans on occupied land, NAREVA applied for registration at the UN CDM. But Det Norske Veritas, the Designated Operational Entity, turned the project down in 2012 precisely because it was located outside of Morocco’s internationally recognized borders, in a politically contested area.

NAREVA’s subsidiary Energie Eolienne du Maroc (EEM) then tried its luck on the voluntary carbon market, where the lack of standardized rules seems to have played in its advantage. VCS registered the contentious project in May 2013. WSRW has requested the VCS Board to reconsider this decision.

By Erik Hagen, Chair, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW)

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