Right climate to trade carbon

While people in Kathmandu and other urban areas continue increasing their carbon footprint by using diesel generators, driving gas-guzzling SUVs, or relying on bricks baked by firing coal, some Nepali companies are switching to renewables like solar or biogas energy wherever they can.


But, one bank has offset its carbon use by investing in improved stoves. When the proprietors of Ace Development Bank in Kathmandu found out through a carbon audit that their company emitted 250 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and they decided to do something about it.

The bank purchased emission reductions of 2,800 tons from the Dhading-based community organisation, Rural MutuaI Development (RMD) for Rs 360,000. The Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement, between Ace as buyer and RMD as coordinating and managing entity, for nearly 2,000 fuel-efficient stoves has set a milestone for voluntary purchase of carbon credit to promote renewable energy in the country. The revenue generated from this carbon offset initiative will be utilised for further promotion of improved cooking stoves in Dhading.

“We have established this benchmark as a responsible financial institution contributing to climate change mitigation,” explains Ace’s CEO Siddhant Raj Pandey. “We hope this first step will catalyse the creation of a national voluntary carbon purchase market.”

By burning firewood more efficiently, each improved cooking stove reduces on average 1.5 tons of carbon from being emitted annually. And because the stoves are smokeless, they also reduce the incidence of lung infections, especially among children. In Dhading alone, the 1,935 improves stoves that Ace has financed saves about 2,800 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere every year. The environmental group Winrock International is working with the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) to promote improved cooking stoves in Nepal, and hopes to install over 5,000 such fuel-efficient stoves in Dhading, Sindhupalchok and Dailekh districts.

“We hope to finalise more carbon trading projects with banks in a few months,” says Binod Prasad Shrestha of Winrock International. For banks like Ace, verified emission reductions offer a way to offset unavoidable carbon emissions and thus contribute to the protection of the environment.

Besides trading in carbon, Ace harvests rain water at its new head office in Naxal, and is fully lit by energy-efficient LED lights, which are solar powered. Ace has also contributed to rhino conservation and helped upgrade the rhino enclosure at the Central Zoo in Jawalakhel.

“We are yet to make the switch to total renewable energy,” says Pandey. “So for the time being, we are doing our bit by buying carbon offsets locally from a certified project,” Pandey said. The Kyoto Protocol helped set up the Clean

Development Mechanism (CDM) to allow developed countries flexibility in meeting their emission obligations by offsetting their emissions and purchasing carbon credits from countries like Nepal through forestry or renewable energy projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Certified Emission Reduction (CERs) can then be further traded in the international carbon market.

Ace Development Bank uses electric cars to reduce its carbon footprint and also harvests rain water.

By 2009 Nepal had earned $2.1 million through carbon trading from its globally-acclaimed biogas program. The AEPC has been involved in developing CDM projects that replace firewood and fossil fuels with clean energy through forestry, microhydel, solar and improved water mill projects.

One biogas plant helps stop 60,000 tons of carbon from being spewed out into the atmosphere when the methane generated by fermented cowdung replaces firewood as fuel. However, Nepal is still way behind India and China in cashing in on the Clean Development Mechanism.

Says Raju Laudari of AEPC: “We lack research based baseline data. For instance, we don’t even have the data to quantify the immense potential of our hydropower and how much carbon it will replace.” And although the government wants to encourage the private sector in carbon trading, it lacks clear guidelines and expertise.

The climate for carbon trading is not conducive because of its plummeting price in the international market. Carbon was trading at up to 30 Euros per ton in 2008, while the current price hovers around 1 Euro, making carbon trading much less feasible than before. In addition, the entire CDM process has come under fire in Europe because of fraud, and criticism from environmentalists that it doesn’t really reduce total greenhouse gas emissions. But at least in Nepal, Ace has shown the way to companies aspiring to be green by pioneering carbon trading.

From Brown to Green Economy: Way to Sustainable Development

The concept of green economy is increasingly find its way from the ivory tower of environmental economics to minstream policy discourse mainly due to widespread disillusion with the present economic paradigm which delivers material wealth at the expense of natural capital.  Policy makers are increasingly linking the present crisis of food security, water stress, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, climate change and economic recession to the need for evolving a more resource-efficient and less-carbon intensive growth path.

Successful green investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, green building, organic farming, recyclying & waste development have burst the myth of an inescapable trade-off between environment protection and economic progress.  Green economy has been recognized to have the potential to create employment and alleviate poverty, whilst protecting and maintaining natural capital.

UNEP defines Green Economy as one that results in increased human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental scarcities & rsiks.  The older concept of Sustainable Development requires us to be able to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising nature’s capability to meet the needs of future generations.  While Green Economy is not a replacement for Sustianable Development, there is increasing recognition that sustainable development is not possible without greening the economy.

Green Economy is not a luxury affordable only to the developed world.  On the other hand it challenges the industrialised countries to reduce their ecological footprint without compromising their quality of life.  To the developing countries it poses the challenge to deliver improved services without drastically increasing their environmental foorprint.

The roots of the current environmental dilemma lie in the reconceptualisation of a mechanistic and reductionist world-view during the modern Scientific Age which sanctioned domination & exploitation of nature, as against an organic and systemic world-view of pre-modern times which emphasized ecology and resource conservation.  The image of earth as a living organism and nuturing mother served as a cultural constraint because one does not readily slay a mother or dig into her interiors for precious metals.  However the modern mechanistic world-view with its reductionist approach failed to understand that economy is just one aspect of a whole ecological and social fabric.  Thus the various Revolutions of the Scientific Age like Industrial Revolution, Technological Revolution, Green Revolution, Blue Revolution, etc coupled with an economic system which is largely alienated from an ecological & social context have resulted in a world challenged with recource depletion and social inequity.

The substantial economic progress during the last few decades has been achieved at the expense of natural capital.  The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment says that over 60% of global ecosystems have been degraded having lost their innate functional capacity in terms of regulation and provision.  Around 80% of commercial fish stock has been overexploited, water stress is affecting over 35% of agricultural land, land degradation is increasing with large countries like India & China losing top soil 30-40 times more than their natural replenishment levels.  Climate change is expected to  further reduce agricultural productivity by more than 30% due to changing monsoon patterns, g, glacier retreats, droughts etc.  Ecological scarcities are affecting entire economic sectors which are the bedrock of human supply chain aand critical livelihood sources for the poor.

A fundamental premise of Green Economy is that earth’s ecosystems like forests, agriculture, freshwater, wetlands, mangroves which provide critical regulation, provision and cultural services should be valued and incorporated into economic  activities.  Hitherto in the Brown Economy these vital ecosystem services have been not been valued and not incorporated in National Accounting Systems.  Valuation & Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is therefore an imperative part of Green Economy.

According to UNEP Report on Green Economy, 2011, the benefits of environmental sustainability outweighs the cost of investing in protecting ecosystems offering a double-dividend win-win strategy of growth with environmental sustianability or even a triple dividend win-win-win strategy when poverty alleviation is added.  One key finding of the Report is that transition to green economy creates ‘green jobs’, which after an initial period involving investment in re-skilling & re-education of people, offsets the loss of ‘.brown jobs’.  The Report says that green economy can reduce persistent poverty through sustianable forestry, sustainable fishing, ecological farming, etc. Green economy can reduce energy demand by 40%, water demand by at least 20%, offset  climate change effects, and reduce  biodiversity loss and land degradation.

Transition to green economy requires enabling national policies and support for national innovation systems.  Current policies, peverse subsidies and national accounting systems are insensitive to social & environmental costs and drive capital misallocation at the cost of natural capital  .For example current price and production subsidies for fossil fuels exceeded 600 billion US dollars in 2008, and this huge subsidisation affects transition to renewable energy systems.  Changes are needed in fiscal policy to include green taxes, feed-in tariffs to support infant green industries for renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc. and target public investment to key green sectors like forestry, agriculture, eco-tourism, mass transport systems, rural assets like water conservation, land development, etc.  Government support is required to create national innovation systems where R&D teams will innovate and disseminate green technologies like energy-saving technologies to SMEs or green building practices to construction firms or sustainable farming practices to farmers.

Given the level of integration of the global economy and given that most green technologies are developed in industrialized countries, global institutional arrangements must be generated to promote international collaboration for research in developing green technology, and for capacity-building and technology transfer to developing countries.  A flexible IPRs regimen which balances the public goods character of knowledge with incentives needed to induce price investments into innovations should be worked out to ensure broader room for compulsory licensing and for allowing innovators to use patented knowledge to generate new knowledge.




System of Rice Intensification: Win-win solution

For resource-poor farmers of Goa, who are also battling changes in weather, the system of rice intensification has come as a boon.  Goaded by the State Agriculture Department and supported by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, some farmers adopted this low-tech, low-cost approach for raising yields, and have been pleasantly surprised by the results.  The State Govt has decided to upscale the pilots to cover the entire state this year.

Rice is staple food for majority of Indians, and for resource-poor farmers, it is a major source of both income and calories.But rice is a water-intensive crop and a source of methane emissions.  A kg of rice cultivated on irrigated land requires not less than 3000-5000 ltrs of water, and continuous flooding required for its cultivation  proliferates methane-emitting anaerobic bacteria which thrive in oxygen-depleted soils caused by flooding.  In a globalised and urbanised world, with increasing population and changing diets, water-stress and unprecedented weather changes like extreme rain events, changing monsoon patterns & changing season durations, a system of rice cultivation which is input-reducing and yield enhancing is welcome to farmers.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI)  is based on the understanding that rice is not an acquatic plant and that continuous submergence under water does not allow it to reach its yield potential.  SRI  improves productivity by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients and involves transplantation of very young single seedlings in widely spaced square pattern  instead of  older ones transplanted randomly in bunches  as in the traditional method.  The single and wide-spaced transplantation encourages greater root growth and wider canopy development.

The soil has to be kept moist, but well drained with sufficient organic matter to support biological activity says Satish Tendulkar,Director of Agriculture, Goa.  Thus instead of flooding, a minimum water is applied during the vegetative growth period, and thereafter a thin layer (1-2 cm) is maintained during the flowering and grain-filling period.  Weeds which is a problem in fields not kept flooded,  are handled through simple mechanical hand-held push-weeders, which also assists soil-aeration, and enhances soil-fertility by letting weeds decompose in the soil.  Farmer Ganesh Dessai says he has not used much chemical fertilizers, but relied on compost and organic manure to get the enhanced yields.

“Techniques are difficult to disseminate because they require trained extension workers says B. Vijjain, Chief Secretary of Goa, who has successfully introduced SRI to farmers in Pondicherry, and at whose instance the Agriculture Dept first introduced SRI  to farmers in Goa during 2009-2010. Since then  several blocks across talukas like Sanguem, Bardez, Tiswadi & Sattari have been adopted as pilots and have registered enhanced yields by more than 35%.  Extensive demonstrations are going on throughout the state to rope in as many farmers as possible and bring the whole state under SRI.

Says V.  Gaonkar, SRI specialist in ICAR, Ela, Goa, “SRI benefits include 50-100 % higher yields, about 50% water savings and upto 90% savings on seeds.  Better soil aeration, better soil biotics through compost and organic manure and wider spacing allows individual plants to grow strong roots and send out more tillers.  Instead of conventional 20-30 tillers, SRI sends out upto 100 with each bearing 250-500 grains as agianst 100 or so in the traditional method.

First  developed in 1980s by Fr. Henri de Laulanie in Madagascar for improving crop yields of poor farmers, SRI has become popular around the world and used in over 28 countries including China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.  This veritable revolution which can address world food crisis and climate-change related problems like reduced agricultural productivity & increasing water stress has been driven by NGOs &  progressive farmers.  On the other hand it has faced resistance from established rice research institutions like IRRI, Manila.  According to Achim Dobermann, Head of Research, IRRI, ” the claims are grossly exaggerated and cannot be verified due to lack of sufficient data”.  Prof. Norman Utholf, Cornell University, however says that ” farmers have missed this method for centuries, and scientists have missed it till recently while some are still in denial mode”

SRI offers significant benefits with strong climate change implications – reduced methane emissions, reduced water requirements and reduced use of nitrogenous fertilizers.  Since SRI does away with continuous flooding of fields, methane emissions will be significantly reduced.  Since rice fields consume more than 70% of irrigated water, the huge water savings under SRI will reduce water demand and positively impact ground water exploitation and dipping water-tables.  Similarly since around 20% of nitrogenous fertilizers are consumed by rice cultivation, there would be significant reduction in use of fertilizers since SRI works best with compost and organic manure.  It can also help the state in dismantling economically problematic subsidies on fertilizers, electricity and water-usage.

Clearly SRI is a win-win- situation.  It can address food security, improve farmers’ adaptability to climate change, help agricultural sustainablity and also help mitigation process. It is time governments around the world and agricultural academia join hands with farmers to centre-throne this revolution.

Jellyfish Blooms: Comment on Health of our Seas

For last few weeks beaches in Goa have been inundated with jellyfish causing inconvenience to tourists and hardships to fishermen.  While jellyfish is important component of the oceanic environment, their proliferation is linked to changing chemistry of the seas.  Though most jellyfish species are harmful, some have irritating and even venomous stings which threaten to turn our beaches into no-go areas.

Jellyfish blooms have been observed on many beaches and coasts around the world specially Japan, Australia, Mexico, England, Scotland, Israel, etc.  Recently jellyfish blooms clogged electric power stations in England & Scotland, while in Japan two nuclear reactors had to be temporarily stopped due to the arrest of their cooling systems which were supplied by sea water.  Jellyfish blooms can play havoc with coastal desalination plants and disable ocean freighters.  Commercial fishing industry in Japan has been badly affected by ‘nomurai’ species of jellyfish.

Jellyfish require warm and saline water to thrive and normally they spend most of their lives in the open seas.  Researches say that they approach the beaches only when the coastal water which is colder and less saline stops acting as a barrier to their approach.  This happens in many places where less and less fresh water from rivers is entering the seas due to droughts, dams and coastal constructions like ports, etc.  Environmental experts link frequent jellyfish blooms over the last few years to human induced environmental stresses like habitat modification, overfishing, eutophication and climate change.  Researchers say that global warming and warmer waters accelerate jellyfish growth, while overfishing of natural predators like sharks and bluefin tuna helps their proliferation.

Jellyfish have very high tolerance to oceanic environmental damage says Dr. Baban Ingole, Chief Scientist in Biological Oceanography at Panaji-based National Institute of Oceanography. While many fish varieties are either killed or are driven away by changing habitats, jellyfish can survive in damaged environments, he adds. According to an UNEP Report, acidification of oceans due to increased carbon emissions makes it difficult for corals and shellfish to make skeletons, which drives away many fish varieties depending on them for food.  Since the Industrial Revolution acidity levels of the oceans have increased substantially because oceans absorb more than 30% of atmospheric carbon emissions. Decline in creatures with shells could trigger an explosion of jellyfish as they are more immune to acidification.

Jellyfish is attracted to polluted waters and is a strong indicator of ocean health.  According to Dr. Nandakumar Kamat, Professor of Biology at Goa University, nitrification of the oceans due to fertilizer run-off and eutophication following discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies tend to favour jellyfish proliferation.  Jellyfish are ‘scavengers’ of the ocean and survive in the oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ typically found near coastal cities.  Dr. Nandakumar says because  most organisms do not survive the ‘dead zones’, jellyfish face lesser or no competition for food, rather they thrive on the debris of ‘dead zones’

Researchers say that it is difficult to predict how much the worldwide population of jellyfish would increase, but do warn that if the proliferation continues, it would certainly affect fisheries and tourism sector badly.  Fishing industries in Japan, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean Sea have already been affected, and local fishermen are complaining of lesser catch during periods of beach invasion by jellyfish.

To the extent that jellyfish blooms are caused by global warming and increased acidification of the seas, any action taken to fight climate change like use of renewable energies would help in management of jellyfish blooms.Steps needs to be taken to reduce pollution of rivers and seas and curb dumping of untreaated sewage and hazardous chemicals into water bodies.  Reducing fertilizer run-off through use of natural manure and biological pesticide would certainly help.  It is necessary to curb overfishing through fishing regulations so that damaged habitats are restored and natural balance among different species of fish is maintained.  Periods of fishing bans should be strictly executed.





Jellyfish require warm and saline water to thrive and normally they spend most of their lives in the open seas where the water is warmer and more saline.  Researches say that they approach the beaches only when the coastal water which is colder and less saline stops acting as a barrier to their approach.  This happens in places where less and less water enters the seas from the rivers due to droughts, dams or coastal construction like ports, etc.  Environmental experts link frequent jellyfish blooms over last few years to human induced environmental stress like habitat modification,


Winter, the sea and coral reef

This story focuses on the changing wintering pattern, it’s intensity and impacts on marine life, specially fish in Pakistan’s coastal area. Local fishermen, comparing the present situation to the past, say that now neither winter is coming normally, nor is the normalcy in sea. Earlier, this season was limited for 40 days, pushing fishermen to stay idle at home. But now the winter enters with full intensity and ends the similar way, affecting fishermen for more than two months, as fish moves to coral reef.

Fishermen also link the increasing boat incidents in the open waters to the unusual high tides, grabbing fishing vessels down without obvious reasons. Ending year 2012 experienced horrible boat incidents, in which more than a dozen people died in Sindh and Balochistan provincial coastlines. Fishermen Cooperative Society and other organizations working on the welfare and development of the fisher community do not have exact data of boat incidents and deaths of crews, while they were busy in their livelihood activities in the open sea.

Fishermen do not take risk to move their boats to the open seas during the winter and facing hardships, because they depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

Similar is the status of coral reef, the natural beauty, because of unchecked over fishing, issuing licenses to deep sea trawlers. Irony is that there is no data of these happenings, coral reef, fish stocks and the changing situation.

These all happenings contribute to put the communities more vulnerable to face impacts of changing weather, sea storms and loss of livelihoods.

Read the full story.

Is the world running out of time?

To make matters worse, in 2011 poorer developing countries have been hit much harder by climate change, according to the new edition of the Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index. The ranking, which was also presented in Doha, concludes that Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan and El Salvador are on top of those countries that suffered most from extreme weather events in 2011. According to Germanwatch, “Recent science results also tell us that climate change is an increasing factor in the occurrence of very heavy events. In Doha, we need serious progress in the negotiations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, on increasing support for adaptation, and the kick-off for the development of an international mechanism to address loss and damage”. It looks like Pakistan is going to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world — in 2010 it ranked as No. 1 on the Global Climate Risk Index and in 2011 it ranked No. 3. Without serious cuts in emissions, which seem unlikely from the goings on in Doha so far, it looks like the world is all set to get warmer. The World Bank also recently issued their report entitled “Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C warmer world must be avoided”, which spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4°C (which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes). The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

Read full story: http://dawn.com/2012/12/09/is-the-world-running-out-of-time/

Bhutan calls for ambitious emission reduction at cop18

The delegation is also following issues related to finance and cooperation with other delegations on strategies to ensure that there is no gap between fast start finances.

Bhutan along with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has called for an ambitious emission reduction targets for developed countries at COP 18, Doha.

While the Doha conference marks the closure of the first commitment period of Kyoto Protocol the LDCs also called for the second commitment period to start from January next year so that there is no gap between the first and the second commitment periods.

According to a foreign ministry press release, the Bhutanese delegation is rigorously working with the group of LDCs to advance its position during the negotiations and

“As a nation that has pledged to remain carbon neutral and is a net sink for green house gas emissions, Bhutan remains deeply concerned with the adverse impacts of climate change,” states the press release.

The delegation is also following issues related to finance and cooperation with other delegations on strategies to ensure that there is no gap between fast start finance, which will end from this year till 2020.

“The Bhutanese delegation called for a strong financial support from the developed countries to help the developing countries adapt to the adverse effects of climate change,” stated the press release.

The cabinet secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk who is leading the Bhutanese delegation addressed the gathering on Thursday.

He said Bhutan is a victim of climate change and remains highly vulnerable to its adverse impacts.

He informed the members that with regard to adaptation efforts, Bhutan successfully completed the first NAPA project to reduce the risk of a catastrophic glacial lake outburst flood from one of the most dangerous glacial lakes called Thorthormi tsho.

“Over the last four years, the outlet of the lake was lowered by 5 meters and an early warning system installed in the valleys downstream. We wish to express our appreciation to all the donors of the LDC Fund and also our partners who have contributed to this project, including the Government of Austria, UNDP, WWF and GEF,” he said.

He demanded that Doha must ensure that it delivers on the extension of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and comparable action from those not party to the Protocol so that the near term action required before 2020 is not missed.

“The Durban Platform must start its work immediately on matters of substance in order to avoid delay in the conclusion of a new comprehensive agreement by 2015,”he said.

The chair of the LDC, Pa Ousman Jarju from The Gambia, who delivered a statement on behalf of the LDCs group said with the emission increase in the atmosphere, climate related disasters have become normal in LDCs.

“We are only 12% of the world’s population, but we suffer the effects of climate related disasters over five times as much as the world as a whole. All these disasters call for nothing else but to speed up global action towards addressing a low emission future where everyone has the chance of survival and sustainable livelihood,” said Pa Ousman Jarju.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2012, carbon emissions increased by 3.2% in 2011 to reach a record of 31.2 Gigatonnes carbon emissions. The UNEP Gap report estimated the 2020 emission gap larger by 2 Gigatonnes compared to last year’s gap.

The chair of the LDCs said countries must agree on comparable targets and common accounting rules ensuring transparency and coherence across developed countries those that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

He said substantial financial resources are keys to keeping the global temperature rise below the 1.5 degree Celsius target and helping developing countries adapt to unavoidable climate change impacts.

“Agreeing on a climate finance roadmap from 2013 to 2020 to provide new, additional and predictable public finance to developing countries is paramount for a successful outcome in Doha,” said Pa Ousman Jarju.

He said that countries must agree on a decision in Doha to annually scale up developed countries’ public finance contributions from USD 30bn to a minimum of USD100bn a year from 2013 to 2020.

The Bhutanese delegation at COP 18 is also following and considering developments on discussions related to the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

The delegation also presented the findings of a case study on “Loss and Damage” from changing monsoon patterns in Punakha valley at a side event organized by the United Nations University.

The presentation was a part of a broader program with LDCs to provide inputs on the ongoing dialogue on the issue of loss and damage from climate change through extreme events like storms or slow onset events like melting glaciers, sea level rise and changes in climate.

The Eighteenth  Session  of the Conference  of the Parities  (COP18) to the United Nations Framework on Climate commenced on the morning of 26th November in Doha.

This article was published in Business Bhutan http://www.businessbhutan.bt/?p=11065