“I have a memorandum of intent on these carbon offsets that have been validated and verified,” Zuma said at the Carbon Credit Conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. “This is our pledge to start the process.”
In his speech on Friday, Zuma did not indicate why he represented a Belarus-backed organization or where the association obtained carbon offsets. Zimbabwe has close relations with Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko visited the African country earlier this year.
An individual carbon credit is a ton of climate-warming carbon dioxide or equivalent that is either removed or prevented from entering the atmosphere. Credits are bought by companies to offset greenhouse gas emissions as tougher regulations force them to do more to slow global warming.
Global trade in carbon offsets is expected to grow to as much as $1 trillion within 15 years from $2 billion now, according For estimates from BloombergNEF.
Aside from Zuma’s presidency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2011, he has no known record of making carbon credits, but he did have close ties with Russia, an ally of Belarus, during his nine-year rule that ended in 2018.
His daughter, Duduzel Sambudla-Zuma, who accompanied him to the conference, has been placed at the center of a Russia-backed Twitter campaign to boost support for the invasion of Ukraine, according to research conducted and funded by the Center for Information Resilience.
In 2016, while Zuma was in power, South Africa halted one of the world’s most successful programs to attract private investment into wind and solar power, and, under Zuma’s direction, unsuccessfully pursued a plan to get Russian companies to build a nuclear power plant in South Africa.
Since South Africa’s ruling African National Congress ousted him as its leader, Zuma has spent most of his time fighting legal battles over a charge he profited from an arms deal in the 1990s. He spent time in prison for contempt of court after refusing to testify before a judicial inquiry into state corruption. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Zuma, who arrived at the Zimbabwe conference on Wednesday and was seen wearing a brightly patterned shirt while having dinner with his daughter, spoke passionately about the effects of climate change on Africa while giving a speech.
“Climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders,” he said. “Emissions affect people everywhere. It doesn’t pick on any kind of person. It attacks all kinds of people.”
He said the new carbon market, part of the dollar-based Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, was an “African” solution to climate change.
The exchange is in talks with the Zimbabwean government and a partner to launch offset trading, Justus Begoni, CEO of the exchange, said in a text message. The partner is not specified.