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India will avoid 5mn tonnes of CO2 by 2012

Sep 9, 2008 - Nitin Sethi - The Economic Times - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

India - For those who believe India is not doing enough to check the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions, here is some news that should serve as an eye-opener. Through carbon trading projects under the Clean Development Mechanism, more than 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be avoided by 2012 -cutting back 10 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Official figures show the government has cleared more than 1,000 projects for carbon trading, the highest in the world, followed by China, attracting investments worth Rs 119,662 crore in these green ventures. The Clean Development Mechanism is a marketdriven device under the UN Framework on Climate Change that allows industries in developing countries to get funds to make their plants and production facilities a bit greener.

Under the convention, rich countries are expected to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by a fixed percentage by 2012. But realizing that transition would be costlier in developed countries, the treaty allows rich countries to instead fund green transitions in developing countries and claim credit of the reduced emissions against their targets.

So companies or other entities in India undertake a change in their existing processes that reduces emissions against which they are provided carbon credit certificates (each worth a tonne of carbon dioxide not emitted), which they can sell to the rich countries. A single project such as this can generate anything from 100 to a million carbon credits, depending on the amount of emissions it cuts back on. But the price that an Indian entrepreneur gets in an open market for his certificate depends entirely on how much rich countries really need to meet their targets. If their demand is higher, the certificate, quite naturally, attracts a better price.

At the moment, countries are negotiating what targets rich nations should accept in 2012 --when their first phase of commitments ends. Naturally, India has demanded rich countries take on more ambitious targets and this would benefit India by way of funds to go green while also helping developed nations meet their "clean" commitments.

The rich countries, despite a lot of rhetoric, have so far been trying to keep their targets as low as possible and demanding that India should also undertake fixed targets of its own, even though the UN convention on climate change has no such provision. This would require India to divert money from its development and poverty alleviation programmes to instead fund the "green drive" that is required to meet a crisis created by rich countries, Indian climate negotiators have pointed out.

How big the carbon pie will become in days to come, therefore, is linked critically to what direction the international negotiations on climate change take.