Heuberger Steps Down as South Pole CEO After Zimbabwe Project Criticized; Nature Carbon Dropped to Record 71c Yesterday (2)

–Renat Heuberger to get non-executive role on board.

By Mathew Carr

Nov. 10, 2023 — The chief’s stepping down comes after South Pole conceded last month the Kariba forest project, the world’s second biggest, wasn’t up to scratch and the Zimbabwe government declared it wanted a larger cut of all carbon credit revenue.

Other than questionable deployment of the specific Kariba project, the move demonstrates the difficulty faced by companies and national governments of navigating the voluntary co2 market while global leaders struggle to deliver a worldwide (or near global) framework that makes carbon programs work better.

On 29 September, Zimbabwe granted a UAE-based firm conservation rights over 7.5 million hectares of its forests – about 20% of the country’s landmass (AfricanArguments.org). Under the deal, touted to be worth $1.5 billion, Blue Carbon General Trading will run forest preservation projects that will generate carbon credits to be sold on the global market.

In revised regulations issued August, the government said projects had 60 days to reapply for reinstatement and it would now keep 30% of proceeds in the form of an environment levy for the first 10 years of their operation, according to Bloomberg. Developers, while retaining 70% of proceeds, are required to invest a quarter of their earnings in community projects.

In May, the government had said it wants all carbon projects to be registered with authorities within the next two months (Reuters). It would take 50% of all revenue from carbon projects, with foreign investors limited to 30% and the balance of 20% going to local communities, Zimbabwe’s environment and climate minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said at the time.

Source doc from today:

South Pole announces senior leadership change

Press Release

South Pole

Zurich, 10 November, 2023: South Pole today announces that its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Renat Heuberger, is stepping down with immediate effect. He will be replaced by John Davis, South Pole’s Commercial Director, Asia-Pacific, as Interim CEO.

On 27 October 2023, South Pole announced it is determined to learn from the experience of working with the Kariba REDD+ project in Zimbabwe. At the core of this commitment is a focus on enhancing its group-wide quality and risk controls, and due diligence processes.

The Board of South Pole believes this exercise will be best delivered by new senior leadership, with the required experience to design and implement a comprehensive program of review, change and governance and process improvements, while also improving stakeholder engagement, trust and communication.

Source doc continues after chart:

Price rose 4% Friday to 83c a ton

The interim and incoming leadership will receive full Board support for their program of change, which includes enhancing quality assurance standards across South Pole’s projects globally. They will also appoint a Chief Risk Officer to oversee executive-level risk management, conduct a thorough review of the company’s carbon project portfolio, and seek expert external support to enhance project design, operation, and management.

To that end, the following changes will be effected immediately:

  • Renat Heuberger will stand down as CEO to be replaced by John Davis as Interim CEO.
  • Christoph Grobbel will cease his executive roles to fully focus as a Non-Executive Chairman on supporting the company through the transition.
  • Renat Heuberger will take on a Non-Executive and advisory role to support the interim and incoming leadership.
  • Cornelius Walter will be appointed Non-Executive Vice Chairman, to support the strengthening of South Pole’s governance, risk and quality assurance processes.

The Board, through its Nomination Committee, has begun a process to identify the best long-term candidate for the role of CEO, who can lead South Pole on its continued mission to be a global leader in providing climate solutions and a pioneer in decarbonization strategies for both the public and private sectors.

Christoph Grobbel, Non-Executive Chairman at South Pole, commented: “This is a transitional moment in the company’s journey, necessitating the introduction of new, experienced, and professional leadership to strengthen and ensure consistency across its governance, risk and quality controls globally. These changes are crucial as we drive the company forward into its next chapter, providing the reassurance our stakeholders require.”

“The Board expresses its gratitude to Mr Heuberger for his leadership in building a global business that delivers positive climate impact. We look forward to drawing upon his expertise in an advisory capacity as we prepare the new leadership team for future success.”

Renat Heuberger, Senior Advisor at South Pole, commented: “South Pole has grown from operating out of a lab to one of the world’s largest platforms for climate action, operating in 42 locations across 6 continents. It has been my life’s privilege to have helped build this stellar team united by a drive to deliver scalable positive climate impact.”

Mr Heuberger continued: “I look forward to supporting John, the interim and incoming leadership as they further South Pole’s mission and I wish them every success in their new posts.”

John Davis, Interim CEO at South Pole, commented: “South Pole recognises its responsibility not only to meet industry standards but also to lead in the development of world-class risk and quality assurance systems, particularly within the emerging carbon market. These changes in senior leadership reflect this commitment. You can expect to hear more from our organisation on this topic and about other concrete measures reflecting this commitment in the coming weeks and months.”

Mr Davis added: “This is a challenging period for both the carbon markets and our company. Nevertheless, at our core, we firmly believe that the professionals at South Pole, spanning our world-leading consulting division and our pioneering projects division, can play a pivotal role in advancing positive climate action and striving for net-zero emissions. Ensuring integrity and quality in our work, and rebuilding our clients’ trust will be at the forefront of our objectives and we express our gratitude to our clients as well as employees for their ongoing support. We commit to learning from this moment, enabling us to do more and do better in the future.”


Media contact:

media@southpole.com / southpole@h-advisors.global

Notes to editors:

John Davis, Interim CEO

John Davis is South Pole’s Commercial Director for Asia Pacific, and has been with the company for eight years. During his initial four years in London, he played a pivotal role in leading and expanding the Sustainable Finance Team. His achievements include successfully scaling and selling South Pole’s CNI business to ISS and establishing and developing the company’s commercial teams in both New York and Singapore. Currently based in South Pole’s Sydney office, John is responsible for running the APAC business and is an active member of the company’s Executive Committee. His extensive experience in the environmental markets, accumulated prior to joining South Pole, spans over a decade, including roles at Spectron, an energy brokerage firm, and CF Partners, an energy and environmental trading company, where he contributed to building and managing the environmental trading desk.

About South Pole

South Pole is a leading climate project developer and solutions provider.

Since its founding in 2006, South Pole has supported and provide climate finance to over 850 projects in more than 50 countries. Together, these projects have helped reduce over 200 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions and provided measurable benefits to communities vulnerable to climate change. South Pole’s projects accelerate the transformation across all sectors, including across sustainable land-use, ecosystem conservation, circular economy, and renewable energy.

South Pole also advises governments and thousands of leading companies on their climate journeys to achieve net zero emissions. With its global Climate Solutions platform, it implements comprehensive strategies that help organisations across the world build resilience and turn climate action into long-term business opportunities. Our global team of over 1,000 experts is trusted by many FT500 businesses and world-class investors around the world.

For more information, visit www.southpole.com or follow us on LinkedInX (Twitter), Facebook and Instagram.

Earlier source doc:

27 Oct 2023

South Pole ends agreements with Carbon Green Investments (CGI), owner of Kariba REDD+ project

Press Release

South Pole

Zurich, 27 October, 2023 – South Pole confirms that it has terminated its contract with Carbon Green Investments (CGI), the owner and developer of the Kariba REDD+ project, with immediate effect.

The termination follows careful consideration of the project, issues involved, and allegations that have been raised publicly. All activities related to carbon certification and carbon credits from the Kariba REDD+ project will now be the responsibility of CGI, and South Pole’s role as the carbon asset developer has ended.

While South Pole is terminating its contract with CGI, it continues to believe in the significance of the Kariba REDD+ project for local communities, large-scale forest protection, and local biodiversity. It is important to mitigate any disadvantages to the project’s beneficiaries emerging from the termination of this contract. As such, should any Zimbabwean authorities wish to draw on South Pole’s technical support for a period of time to help Kariba REDD+ transition under the country’s new national carbon regulations, South Pole is open to considering this. In the meantime, the project is expected to keep operating within Verra’s requirements and safeguards.

The company and management are determined to learn from the experience of working with the Kariba REDD+ project. Management is well aware of the scrutiny that both the project and the wider voluntary carbon market is currently under. For these reasons, South Pole has, for over a year, been working on enhancing its group-wide quality control and due diligence processes.

A dedicated team has been redesigning our Quality Assurance system, which includes conducting annual quality control reviews for all projects. These reviews include periodic risk assessment, management, and corrective action planning. South Pole’s latest Quality Assurance framework and quality risk reporting are aligned with latest guidance from the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM). Specifically for REDD+ projects, internal baseline monitoring will now happen every three years, surpassing the current Verra requirement of every six years (previously, every 10 years). These improvements reinforce South Pole’s commitment to working towards the highest market standards at all times, as they continue to evolve and improve.

A spokesperson at South Pole said:

“Kariba REDD+ is a pioneering and challenging project that has demonstrated the possibilities of large-scale forestry protection projects, from which governments can learn when developing national forest protection schemes.

“We are not confident that the project meets the high standards we expect from our partners all over the world. It is with great sadness that we have come to this conclusion, since we also believe that the Kariba REDD+ project sought to bring benefits both to the communities it supports and the forest and biodiversity it protects.

“Kariba REDD+ is one of the world’s first large-scale REDD+ forest protection projects and we are proud to have played a role in its establishment, growth, and positive impact on climate change and forest preservation. Despite materially complying with the relevant Verra and Climate, Community & Biodiversity standard requirements at all stages of the project, we are disappointed with aspects of how the project was managed on the ground by the project owner. We have learnt from this experience and are proactively implementing stronger controls and processes.

“Funding climate action through nature-based projects remains key to reaching net zero emissions and protecting our vulnerable ecosystems. The carbon market is still in its early stages and South Pole remains committed to continuous learning, showing leadership in driving ever higher standards, and in encouraging new thinking that helps put better solutions on the table.”


Note to editors

  • South Pole was the carbon asset developer for the Kariba REDD+ project, which has been successfully certified and verified multiple times by Verra, both under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) standard as well as the Climate, Community & Biodiversity standard (CCBS).
  • As a carbon asset developer hired by the project owner, South Pole’s responsibility has been to ensure that established carbon standards are being correctly implemented in order for the project to receive verified carbon credits, and to manage the sale of carbon credits to the market, in order to secure funding for the project’s operations.
  • The full responsibility for operating the project on the ground has been, and will continue to be, with CGI’s local partner Carbon Green Africa (CGA). The project has always been owned by the communities and run by the operator, CGA. South Pole never had any equity stake in the underlying project.
  • Details on why South Pole has only sold carbon credits from the project that are fully valid and verified under Verra can be found here, full details on the project can be found here. The carbon credits sold by South Pole maintain their validity, as verified by Verra, irrespective of South Pole ending its contract with Carbon Green Investments (CGI).

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