UK-based cryptocurrency venture Save Planet Earth has convinced investors it can make them rich and fix the climate, but its tree-planting vision is a long way from reality
When a carbon credit representing a single tonne of CO2 sold as an NFT for an eye-watering $70,000 at auction, carbon market experts were bewildered.
The credit was generated in Indonesia from the Rimba Raya reserve, one of the world’s largest initiatives to prevent emissions by protecting tropical peat swamp forests.
At the time, millions of credits from the same project were trading on the market for less than $20 each. In the first half of 2021, the price of a forest carbon offset averaged just $4.73/t. Why would anyone pay such a huge premium?
To find answers, Climate Home News dived into a community of cryptocurrency investors, connecting on messaging apps Telegram and Discord. Members were buzzing about the prospects of Save Planet Earth (SPE), the UK-based cryptocurrency venture behind the auction.
Since November 2021, SPE has sold 1,000 limited edition carbon credits as NFTs, from credits certified by market standard Verra, for an average price of $1,770. The aim? To raise funds to plant billions of trees that will “significantly change the Earth’s landscape” and store carbon that can be sold as carbon credits.
Central to SPE’s investment case is a claim to have government contracts to plant more than a billion trees in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. An investigation by Climate Home, drawing on interviews with government officials and experts in those countries, suggests this claim is vastly inflated. While SPE’s founder has been striving to make his vision a reality, it is far from a done deal.
SPE was established in April 2021 by 41-year-old Imran Ali, a project manager from the northern British city of Bradford, who previously worked in the waste and renewable energy sectors.
The company is part of a recent boom in cryptocurrency initiatives to overhaul carbon trading. These involve taking carbon credits out of the existing market and putting them on a blockchain where they can be bought with cryptocurrency, allowing traders to speculate on the price of a tonne of carbon. Growing demand for offsets is expected to push up prices.
“We are trying to create a clean market for carbon credits… make it easy for people to obtain,” Ali told Climate Home in a phone interview from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, where he said he was visiting tree nurseries.
Ali described himself as “an environmentalist” and a father concerned about his daughter’s future – “not a crypto person”. The buzz around cryptocurrencies provided him with a vehicle to fund carbon-saving projects and raise awareness about the climate crisis, he explained. “So far it’s working.”
SPE says it has attracted more than 80,000 investors. While Climate Home could not verify the figure, supporters of the venture exchange hundreds of messages every day on its Telegram channel. Ali said SPE was in talks with fossil fuel and mining companies interested in using its carbon credits to offset their emissions.
Source: Climate Change News