Global Warning!

Updated: Apr 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
Climate changes, debate remains constant
Indias GHG emissions may not be as high as that of the West, but its high time we got our act together, says

Jyoti Verma

IT took a 9/11 to prove that terrorism is a global threat. Now, hurricanes like Katrina have strengthened the arguments of environment experts, who have been voicing their concern about the changing climatic pattern, a gradual but serious degradation that might cause a great harm to the humankind.

The recent hurricanes across California and floods in Bangladesh hint at the erratic climatic change and its time that we approach it seriously to find solutions, said Mohammad Raza Salamat, senior programme officer, Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. Salamat and other experts were speaking during a two-day international workshop on Climate Change and Sustainable Development organised by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) in the Capital recently .

Understandably, the Kyoto Protocol negotiated in December 1997 and applied in February 2005 following ratification by Russia came up for debate. Till date the treaty has been ratified by 163 countries (representing over 61.6% of emissions from Annex I countries). Notable exceptions to the treaty include the United States and Australia. Talking about the exceptions, Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment, explains, Most developed countries are finding it difficult to achieve even small cuts in emissions as proposed by them. She is not convinced about the seriousness of India in signing the Kyoto Protocol and wonders whether India played into the hands of US in signing on a joint agreement with it and Australia on climate change. Besides Kyoto Protocol, the Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change has also been signed by India, China, South Korea and Japan all signatories to the multilateral Kyoto Protocol with two protocol-renegade nations, Australia and US. The partnership is about doing things together, so that the world can be saved from future devastating impacts of climate change. But we are also aware that US and Australia rejected Kyoto because it sets legally binding targets for their emissions.

Another prime work once again highlighting the erratic climatic change is the third assessment report of intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Launched in 2001, it gave strong evidence that most of the global warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities, which will continue to change atmospheric composition throughout the 21st century. It even presented an increasing body of observations giving a collective picture of the speedily warming world and other changes in the climatic system (the global average surface temperature increased over the 20th century by about 0.6C) due to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols owing to human activities.

However, Barun Mitra, director, Liberty Institute, refuses to buy the idea. He insists that one of the most fundamental flaws is the belief that commerce is the enemy of conservation and that energy conservation will automatically lead to a cleaner environment. Green practices alone cannot help stabilise climate. Even pro-Kyoto community admits that meeting the suggested emission targets will hardly lead to sufficient reduction in human-induced GHG emissions. Moreover, the lopsided deal affects mainly poor countries, which will only keep them in perpetual poverty.

Experts are coming up with their own sets of solutions which can help tackle the problem to some extent. Jeffrey Sachs, director, Earth Institute and Queteled Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University, USA, is for balancing development with environment sustainability. At a recent Confederation of India conference in the Capital, he castigated eco-degradation, which is leading to increasing temperature in turn affecting the food supply, health condition, habitats, sea level, ocean chemistry, extreme weather conditions and water stress.

Laying stress on the need for an effective climate regime, Narain adds, We need effective action by the industrialised world to curtail emissions, to take on deep cuts.

We need funds and technology to leapfrog beyond the inefficiencies of current fossil fuel use, which is crippling our economies. India must also get proactive in climate negotiations. It has to insist that the next round of Kyoto must rein in the worlds biggest renegade polluters, Australia and the US.

Well, one thing is clear that even if Indias emissions are not as high as in the West, but its time to start getting our act together.

Eco-friendly companies will have a good future: Prodipto Ghosh

IF one asks Prodipto Ghosh, secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, about Indias current stand on the climate change regime, he will not hesitate to give it 10 on 10. The way we have handled climate talks and the parameters suggested therein like the clean development mechanism (CDM), we have become an example for the world. In fact, the United Nations suggests that the framework installed by India for its CDM is that of global standards, says the bureaucrat, who sits on the growing pile of information and strategies adopted by India to address climate change.

There are reports that make us realise that climate change is occurring. Whether we take the increase in sea level, changing patterns in precipitation, cases of floods, warming, etc, all reflect that the change is there. We are addressing the issue both at the national level and through global platforms like the Kyoto Protocol and Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (also known as AP6), he says.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is an international non-treaty agreement between Australia, India, Japan, China, South Korea and US announced in July 2005 and launched in January this year. The agreement brings together foreign, environment and energy ministers from partner countries to work towards reduction of GHGs. The ministers have agreed on a charter and work plan that outline a ground-breaking new model of private-public taskforces to address climate change, energy security and air pollution.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol (currently un-ratified by US and Australia), which imposes mandatory limits on GHG emissions, this agreement allows member countries to set their goals for reducing emissions individually, with no mandatory enforcement mechanism. This has led to criticism of India, which is a party to both.

Ghosh, however, rebuffs the accusations. I want to tell all those who are suggesting that India is a part of the US camp that it is not important what other countries are doing.

What is important is: how are we tackling it. Whether we talk about Kyoto or AP6, we are cooperating for a global cause. In the case of US, the target to decrease its GHG emissions is set at the domestic level. The country has set targets to achieve this. So, what is the harm in that

Besides conducting negotiations, Ghosh is also proud of government policies on sustainable development, decreasing GHG emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energy policies, usage of clean fuel in major consumption sectors like transport and alternative modes of development, etc.

Detailing the plans ahead, he talks extensively about bolstering CDM business among companies in India and also getting further support from international partners.

These will mainly include raising funds for research and development for the projects. This will also involve better technologies and working out Intellectual Property Rights for the same. We aim to give the projects a clear economic advantage.

The two-fold process will cater to development issues and adaptive strategies, says Ghosh. He feels the rising carbon trade makes a better deal than even the biotech business in India currently.

Also, the carbon trade currently stands at Rs 5,000 crore. With the trend gaining momentum, companies in eco-friendly domain will indeed have good future.

Companies like Suzlon, which is listed on the Nasdaq, is a good model to prove the point, he says.


Going green
A personal guide to make the world greener

Cities in various parts of India have low water tables in surrounding areas. The level of suspended particles in ten of the largest Indian cities is three to five times greater than WHO standards. In fact, the amount of garbage the cities produce per day creates vast wastelands and polluted water bodies.

These facts are not meant to scare anybody. However, one can certainly look at these green practices and adopt them to make the world a better place.

Go for energy-efficient buildings: Buildings (domestic and commercial) made with recyclable material like Portland Pozzalana Cement, which contains substantial percentage of fly ash, clay blocks and reinforced cement concrete (RCC), laden with rainwater harvesting and storage system, and solar appliances hold the future. The buildings, which cost around 15% more than the conventional buildings, promise substantial energy savings.

One can even save energy in the conventional buildings by opting for water-based eco-paints, which have negligible amount of volatile organic compound content, and energy efficient PL, halogens and other photovoltaic appliances.

Reduce, reuse and recycle resources like water and energy. Go for mini cisterns with a low capacity of water flushing out. Wastewater can also be recycled and used for gardening. Low cost models for harvesting water on the terrace or on the ground floor are now available.

Switching from non-renewable energy sources (petrol and diesel) to less polluting sources (LPG or CNG) or renewable forms like solar and biomass is also a valid choice. Leave your car at home and opt for public transport. For those trying to get rid of the extra flab, its desirable to go for cycling rather than an electronic jogger or treadmill. More sweat with least electric energy consumption through exercises like cycling and swimming is good for heart too.

Insist on biodegradable materials (paper, leaves or thermocol). Plastic, rubber and leather are a big no. Slippers made of cane and not rubber are also in vogue.

Grow plants and spread the culture of green belts near your home and office. For greening wasteland, go for plants like jatropha curcas, neem, paras pepal, acacia, salicornia and casuarina, which restore soil nutrients.


Eyeing greener pastures
India Inc eyes the carbon trading market, estimated at Rs 10,000 crore

Jyoti Verma

SRF Ltd, Indias leading tyre cord maker, expects revenue of Rs 8.50 crore from the transfer of 1.4 million carbon credits during the current January-March quarter. The company plans to sell another 4 million credits and its financial advisers were already in talks with potential buyers in Europe and elsewhere. SRFs shares rose 7% to Rs 289.5 at the BSE.

This statement released by SRF Ltd in February 2006 conveys the mood of India Inc today. According to Roop Salotra, CEO and president, SRF Fluorochemicals Ltd, the division of the SRF group looking into its carbon trade business, the market took positively the green practice adopted by the organisation two years ago.

Upbeat about the idea, the group runs one of the 28 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Indian projects registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which deals with carbon trade. But before the deal which got SRF Rs 97 crore in the March-ending quarter of 2006 was struck, the project was an environment-friendly initiative to counter the harmful hot gases emitted by the refrigeration plant.

As the company is into refrigeration, we were producing these harmful gases as a byproduct. Though we were very much aware about the potency of these GHGs (greenhouse gases), the Kyoto Protocol talks during the late 90s made us take it more seriously. Even before the Protocol was ratified by India, we were actually ready with our project. Today, the same project is getting us some extra money, says Salotra.

Interesting. But before discussing the new opportunity area for corporate India, a country with second largest number of CDM projects registered with the UNFCCC, lets take a look at the basics again.

Carbon trading refers to selling carbon credits (the carbon emission saved through alternative technologies) by companies in the developing world to companies in the developed world, who have a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 2008. A CDM project can focus on a range of green practices such as HFC 23 (a harmful GHG) destruction, capturing methane and N2O from animal waste, hydro and biomass energy, landfill gas capture, use of non-conventional and renewable energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency projects in effect all the projects that lower GHG emissions. The currency here is certified emission reductions or CERs, which are credits issued for emission reductions by a project under the CDM.

A multi-party agreement, the carbon trade is between two nations, but implemented through companies. In India too, the business has got a platform with the active support of the government, adds K P Nyati, principal advisor, CII.

Experts say that the next big foreign exchange earner for the country could well be emission trading. The government expects Rs 17,000 crore worth of investment by 2012 and estimates forex earnings of Rs 10,000 crore a year by selling carbon emissions saved from such projects. The Planning Commission estimates that India can generate 205 million saleable CERs.

As per the current statistics of the UNFCCC, India has 37 CDM projects. Brazil has 40 projects. However, as per the CERs generated by the projects, India with 14.63% of total CERs issued comes fourth after China (31.51%), Brazil (20.30%) and Korea (20.29%). The difference is due to the size of the projects and the number of CERs issued. So, here again, India finds its competitors in China and Brazil.

As per current data provided by the ministry of environment and forests, the number of projects approved by the government stands at 263. Through the CDM projects, India is catering to Austria, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The CERs produced by the country number 226 million fetching net earnings of Rs 18,715 crore. Between 120 and 150 companies belonging to different sectors like cement, chemical, energy, fertilisers, hospitality, iron and steel, petrochemicals, textiles and sugar are involved in the project. Karnataka has the maximum number of CDM projects, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The most successful field for CDM projects is energy generation based on renewable projects.

Carbon trade, which earlier saw participation from small groups, is now drawing major industrial groups like ITC and Ashok Leyland, and public sector entities like ONGC and MMTC. As per reports, Ashok Leyland Finance, which owns more than 60 windmills, plans to get its wind farm rated so that it could explore possibilities of selling carbon credits.

The company expects to earn around Rs 40 crore through carbon trading. It, however, does not want to go public on the status on these projects currently, says a company official. Says Subhash Rustagi, executive vice-president, Environment, Health & Safety, ITC Ltd, A large number of CDM projects have been identified in the Bhadrachalam, Tribeni and Kovai units of ITCs paperboards business. ITCs farm and social forestry projects also help sequester a very large amount of carbon dioxide. ITC is also evaluating CDM opportunities in other units, including use of solar power in e-Choupals.

With these activities, ITC is trying to become a carbon positive corporation. Last year (2005-06), we planted another 12,000 hectares totalling 41,230 hectare plantations. This should put ITC in the unique position of becoming a totally carbon positive corporation, says Pradeep Dhobale, chief executive, ITCs Paperboards and Specialty Papers Business.

With World Bank already funding various CDM projects, banks looking at the green practices include ICICI (funding energy efficiency programmes), Yes Bank and foreign banks such as Rabo Bank. Over the past five years, ICICI Bank has supported about 15 projects in the above areas. These projects are demonstrative of what we have done with different companies while encouraging other companies to replicate, says a senior bank official.

We need to find means to create a market for green products: Pachauri

IT may not be a sudden impact, but climate change is nevertheless amongst the major of challenges facing humankind in this century. R K Pachauri, chairman of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the challenges facing us. Exceprts from an interview with Suman Tarafdar:

How is India placed on the issue of climate change

As far as India is concerned, the impacts of climate change are going to be pretty diverse. We are going to be very vulnerable in our coastal areas. In some cases there is a specific ecological problem.

If you look at the Sunderbans, for instance, which have these protective mango plantations, all of those are likely to be completely inundated and of course depending on the strength of sea level rise, we are likely to see complete submergence of the Sunderbans. The projections of the IPCC as far as sea levels rise is concerned till the end of this century is anywhere between 9 cm and 88 cm.

Is it not a really large range

It is simply because the way the economy is shaping up, the way emissions are going to take place over the 100 year timespan. One cannot really come down to anything more pin-pointed than this range. It is dependent on a whole set of assumptions that drive human activities in this century.

But even if you were somewhere in the lower end of the range and even if you had an increase by a foot, it is dangerous enough for the Sunderbans as well as other parts of our coastal areas.

In addition, we have got a serious problem developing with water availability. If one looks at the melting of the glaciers, for instance, in the Himalayan range, this could give us larger flows of water in the immediate short term but once the body of ice constituting these glaciers is reduced, then flows would also reduce and that has major implications for water availability, at least in the northern parts of the sub-continent.

Also, another is mitigation of emissions of GHGs. Even if we take very drastic steps to reduce the emissions of GHGs today, the impacts of climate change will continue for decades if not centuries.

So we have no choice but to adapt to climate change.

What are your recommendations on the change

There are so many areas where attention has to be given. Like, Americans consume far too much energy. The domestic insulation patterns must change.

It is not unusual to find someone sitting with a T-shirt in his home in the peak of winter, while the temperature outside is -10C.

The heating inside allows you to sit in a T-shirt so you can enjoy your beer. I mean both things need to change.

What about the costs that are never taken into consideration

These are really behavioural changes that have to be brought about. Public transport, for example, is a far cheaper option in intra-city travel than passenger vehicles and yet people do not invest in public transport in that country. So that is another area where major changes are required.

What is preventing us from adopting green practices. Are there shortcomings in knowhow, insufficient research or higher costs involved

You have to find means by which a market can be created so that competition and the need for being able to succeed in a competitive environment will result in better products and services.

A good example is a solar water heater. There is no reason why in this city, for instance, every house doesnt have a solar water heater. We all use geysers and electricity being the source of heating which is terribly inefficient. Often it also takes place at the time when there is peak demand for power, which is only adding to power cuts and solar water heater is a totally viable option.

If there was a regulation that requires every new home to be fitted with a solar water heater then you create a market and in that market there would be competition, people will come out with better products and people where you don't even have regulation will probably also buy them.

I think we just need to be a little imaginative in seeing how one can bring about market-based solutions that would help.

What is the next step to be taken

We have got a huge amount of data available with us. We are also analysing for the Fourth Assessment Report in the IPCC. Science is galloping ahead. There is an enormous amount of research taking place on the impact in different parts of the world.

Now, we have to somehow prevent the dangerous level of climate change where certain regions of the earth are likely to be submerged or reach a level where livelihoods would be threatened in a big way. Thats a crucial question and the fact is that we have to start taking action.

So, hows India Inc responding to climate change

Global industry is getting responsive to climate change. Indian industry has still to respond to it. It is not at a stage where it would, because in any case, the developing countries are not required to cut down emissions but some global leaders of corporate sector are very determined.

Apart from BP and DuPont, GE has recently announced a major programme called eco-imagination. They are moving beyond the obvious. In fact, they advertise the fact that BP stands for Beyond Petroleum.

So I think a fair amount of action is happening in these places.