Government has been proactive in developing a carbon trade policy in order to create carbon markets for international investors. Carbon markets are trading systems where carbon credits are bought and sold by companies and individuals to compensate for greenhouse gases emissions. Carbon trading is currently a hot cake on the international market with funders eager to invest in the green economy industry. Developed nations have set aside millions of dollars for creation of carbon credit markets for the developing countries in Africa, and Zambia has not been left out given its vast forests for carbon stocks.

A successful and effective carbon trade policy encompasses all key stakeholders especially the local communities living around forests at developmental stage. Engaging key stakeholders in the policy formulation process is pivotal in developing a well-balanced policy to benefit all the stakeholders without bias. This also helps to avoid conflicts of interest in future. The stakeholder consultative process also helps to engage with the local communities so that they are aware of the policy content and enable the smooth implementation by the government. So, a represented process must identify all the key players, engage with them, incorporate their submissions so as to have a well-balanced and effective policy.

Inasmuch as we may need this policy in a shortest possible time, I think government is in a rush to develop the carbon trade policy. For the first time, Zambia has initiated the development of National Carbon Trade policy in an effort to materialize carbon trade markets. It should be underlined that the policy-making process is hurried, rigid and is excluding major stakeholders such as local communities and NGOs important in the process. This article therefore aims to identify a few shortcomings in the development process of carbon trade policy and any potential implications thereof in an effort to prescribe pathways to engaging local community stakeholders in policy formulation.

Given Zambia’s sizable potential markets and abundant carbon stocks, it is clear from the agreements reached at both COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt earlier this year, and the European Union’s Forest Partnerships in which the developed nations want to see Zambia implement carbon trade market policy in a shortest possible time. The government is under pressure to create bare-bones measures by taking short cuts because developed nations continue to push for the fast implementation of the policy.

Policy making must be an all-inclusive process. There is no fast track in policy development. All stakeholders must be considered fairly and equally. However, the carbon trade policy is not moving in that direction. Many stakeholders like local communities and NGOs are not involved and not consulted in the policy development process which may lead to problems in the future.

Local communities are crucial in this process since they are the ones who live within or around the forests and they know what is acceptable and important in the policy. Their livelihoods, most notably are dependent on the forests with charcoal production being the main activity. Farming and non-forest products sustain the lives of the local people in all the local communities. However, government is not taking these people’s wishes into account by excluding them in the development of carbon trade policy as key stakeholders. The government must develop a balanced policy that takes into account aspirations of all players. If not done inclusively, the policy tend to favor government while leaving out others.

NGOs responsible for environmental protection, the local communities, community resource boards the and chiefs, researchers, consultants, academia community, and policy developers must convene in form of an indaba with government to provide inputs for the carbon trade policy so as to have an inclusive stakeholder consultation and avoid missteps in policy development
Carbon trade issues are everyone’s responsibility and the Ministry of Green Economy must not be isolated in the process. The carbon trade policy must be fair to all parties involved hence the call for a collaborative and inclusive process of policy development which is inclusive and engaging.

I foresee a future where government develops a carbon trade policy that provides no benefits to the local communities where carbon stocks are. Such a policy can be difficult to implement and also have numerous shortcomings. Most communities will refuse to accept the carbon trade businesses.

For example, there are some ineffective policies in the forestry sector. Local communities are not benefiting from the timber concession businesses due to bad policy. The local communities, who are the primary stakeholders in timber concessions are excluded from the benefit sharing yet they own forest resources. The local communities are sidelined from the benefits because of the poor policy which resulted from non-inclusive of local people in policy formulation process.

Therefore, government must ensure that all key stakeholders are consulted in the carbon trade policy development process. It must ensure that all the players’ especially local communities are invited to participate in the formulation process. It is preferable to be late and do the right thing than to rush and do the wrong thing. Carbon trade can be profitable if everyone is involved in the policy development and can help to alleviate poverty in many local communities in the country.

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