As the world continues to debate climate change in Copenhagen, the rural development ministry is looking to reap some green benefits at home.
It is conducting studies to quantify the value of carbon credits generated through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) activities so that funds can flow into the rural economy.
The world's largest social security scheme — in terms of people covered and money spent to combat rural poverty — has created "green jobs" such as water harvesting, afforestation, soil conservation and land development.
"About 70 per cent of NREGA works are green jobs. These have helped check rising temperature, depleting water table and deforestation," said a ministry official, who didn't wish to be identified.
Rich countries can make up part of their emissions-cutting targets by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas output in developing countries. These projects are awarded carbon credits — each representing a tonne of carbon avoided — that can be bought by firms or governments. Carbon trading was first set up under the Kyoto protocol.
Simply put, carbon credits are the currency for buying and selling the right to pollute.
The ministry is trying to assess if the works done under NREGA can help it earn money through carbon trading.
The UPA's flagship job scheme has created about 5 million green jobs so far.
According to official data, even if renewable energy is expanded 40-fold, carbon emissions could rise from 1 billion tonnes per year to 3.9 billion tonnes per year by 2031-32. Under energy projections that assume an even higher rate of coal use, such emissions could rise to 5.5 billion tonnes per year by 2031-32.
The ministry has roped in consultants to find the exact nature and magnitude of the green jobs. They will also determine whether services provided under the scheme could generate revenue through carbon trading.
“Poor are most vulnerable to global warming ... There is an urgent need to study the positive impact of NREGA on climate change,” the official said.