Rajvir Singh of Uttarakhand has lived surrounded by trees all his life. But the thought that planting trees could earn him some money never crossed his mind, nor did the realisation that he was saving the earth from the adverse impact of climate change.
Singh, along with his friends, has been planting trees in the wastelands of Uttarkashi district, his birthplace, to help the state government earn valuable carbon credits. “We have planted thousands of trees in the last few years which have turned barren mountains into the region’s green lungs,” he says.
With the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now allowing countries to earn carbon credits from planting trees, which function as carbon sinks, the work that Singh and his friends do has helped the Uttarakhand government to register its forestation programme for earning carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
Singh has become a role model in his state but there are many others like him who have helped state governments to take up forestation projects to earn carbon credits. Two of India’s greener states, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, have taken a lead in identifying land for planting trees. “We would soon be submitting a proposal to the CDM Authority for claiming carbon credits from our green belts,” said a Delhi government’s forest department official.
The Delhi government has identified land on the Yamuna belt in the east and in Najafgarh in the north-west of the city for planting trees and claiming credits. “We have planted lakhs of trees in the Najafgarh area and would increase tree planting drive once the government proposal is ratified by CDM Authority,” says SA Verma, environment head of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
Tree lovers like Surender Sarthak, a schoolteacher who has planted trees along roadside from Model Town to Alipur to Pitampura in north Delhi, has appreciated the decision but says that the government should ensure that these trees survive and stay healthy.
India’s tryst with carbon credits is not restricted to forests. New innovations that lead to carbon emission reduction by making systems efficient has helped India in registering 354 projects so far with the with UNFCCC, which is the maximum for any country.
The DMRC has already claimed over 40,000 carbon credits for using innovative braking system that generates electricity, thereby reducing the travelling cost. Gadhia Solar, a company that installs these German made systems in India, is listed its solar cooking systems for claiming carbon credits with CDM Authority. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has listed two projects for generating power from landfill sites at Gazipur and Bhalswa for claiming over 1.5 lakh carbon credits every year. Similarly, urban development projects in Gujarat and Maharashtra have got UNFCCC validation to claim carbon credits.
Owning to such projects, India has 4.64 lakh carbon credits for trading in the international markets but experts say the country has failed to replicate its innovations at a larger scale. “Unlike China, we have not been able to implement CDM for large projects, which could have earned us huge carbon credits,” said Srikanta K. Panigrahi, former member secretary of CDM Authority in India.
Things are going to change fast, Panigrahi felt, with industry bodies like CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM asking is members to take up CDM projects in a big way. “We have companies that are in touch with international consultants to get their projects registered for earning money through CDMs. We expect India’s carbon credits to double in the next two to three years,” said an official of the environment wing at FICCI.
The industry is expected to get a big boost from the government soon. “Very soon we would introduce carbon emission reduction norms that will involve tax concessions, incentive schemes including legislative framework to motivate Indian Inc to efficiently undertake carbon emission reduction programme,” said Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal at a climate change conference in Delhi last week.