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Who’s the greenest of them all? India

Delhi is country’s first city to earn carbon credits, as global survey ranks nation’s consumers ‘greenest’

india Updated: Jun 05, 2010 11:24 IST

Indian consumers are the greenest in the world, said a global survey of 17 countries, released on a day when the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) became the nation’s first municipal body to cash in on cutting down carbon emissions warming the planet.

A municipal compost plant in south Delhi run by the private sector ILFS group generated a first modest cheque of Rs 5 lakh in carbon emission reduction (CER) credits for its plan to keep more than 9,000 tonnes of carbon over the next 10 years by stopping methane leaks from garbage.

“In an age in which American consumerism has nudged most of the developing world into aping its values, such success stories illustrate that a publicprivate
partnership model is the way to go,” said Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.

CERs or carbon credits are environmental currency issued by the United Nations after a rigorous procedure that can last two years; the Delhi plant was cleared in one to a project that cuts carbon emissions.

The credits can then be traded on international exchanges. Conducted by the National Geographic Society and Globescan, an international opinion research consultancy, the global survey of 17,000 consumers said India has not only retained its first position from 2009 but also increased its lead.

Brazil is ranked No.2, while US consumers are ranked last, just below Canada.

The survey uses an index of consumption habits and their environmental impact in five categories: goods, food, housing, transport and attitudes.

India’s proclivity for small cars, its relatively low vehicle density (India has 12 vehicles per 1,000 people; the US has 765 per 1,000), the penchant Indians have for fruits and vegetables and locally grown foods over imports these contribute to the score.

“India has a good baseline,” said Anumita Roy Choudhury, a transport expert with Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment.

“Our carbon footprint is low in part due to our sustainable transport practices high usage of public transport and nonmotorised transport.”

Indians prefer motorcycles or scooters and are likely to choose to live close to their destinations, the survey noted. But, as experts note, this is changing.

“There is a huge risk if we are not conscious of our baseline,” said Choudhury. “A shift towards buying big cars has begun.

“The emphasis of transport infrastructure should be to enable public transport, walking and cycling, not build expressways, cloverleafs and flyovers meant for cars.”

Other experts said there wasn’t much difference in the consumption patterns of the rich in India or the West. The middle- class is not driven by environmental concerns but by what it can afford.

“The use-and-throw mentality has not set in, yet,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s associate director.

“As prosperity rises, so does the carbon footprint. China is a clear example.”