Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bhutan : Carbon-cash for Bhutan

11 June, 2008 - Bhutan’s well preserved environment and environment-friendly projects may allow the country to earn some money in the near future in the form of carbon trading. The agriculture ministry is looking into taking part in the global carbon trade on the basis of the country’s more then 60 percent forest cover, large nature reserves and also in terms of its hydro projects.

Carbon trading, under the Kyoto Protocol, basically allows big carbon emitters in developed countries to buy carbon points from developing countries that emit less carbon. According to a World Bank study, the international carbon trade market was worth US $ 64 billion in 2007 alone.

“Carbon trading is a viable resource generation method for Bhutan because of our environmental friendly policies,” said agriculture minister Lyonpo Pema Gyamtso.

Officials in the ministry’s planning and policy department have already been instructed to study the viability and details of carbon trading.

Detailed studies will have to be done on carbon emissions and intake and the viability of various parts of the project. “Only after we know the exact figures on the carbon sink potential of our nature parks and programs and other environment friendly projects can Bhutan apply for carbon trading on a large scale,” said the minister. Bhutan will have to hire international carbon trading lawyers and experts and also find countries willing to buy carbon points.

However, a problem for Bhutan is that the Kyoto Protocol does not recognize standing forests or country’s efforts to protect them. It only awards carbon points to new forest planting initiatives and has been criticized for not taking into account countries like Bhutan, which are major carbon sink areas.

“A way out for us for now is that around eight percent of Bhutan consists of degraded forests and shrub areas which, if planted anew, will mean significant carbon points for us,” said director of national conservation division, Dr Sangay Wangchuk.

He also said that by 2012 the Kyoto protocol would be revised and already pressure was building from many countries like Brazil to award carbon points for standing forests. Another plus point for change is that currently deforestation accounts for around 20 percent of global emissions, apart from other implications. Bhutan will also stand to gain from any revision because the highest carbon point in forests will be given for sub-tropical broadleaf forests, which constitute a majority of our forest cover. Even conifers and pasturelands will garner carbon points.

“We’ll also look at internal carbon trading whereby, for example, an upstream community will be rewarded for making efforts to keep the river clean for downstream people,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho. So far, Costa Rica in S. America has already put its carbon points in the stock market earning millions of dollars.

For hydropower projects and industries, cooperation with India in the mega hydropower projects also allows Bhutan to use India’s carbon emission baseline within the Kyoto Protocol, making Bhutan eligible for carbon trading through our hydro projects. This means that Bhutan will receive compensation for its contribution to the reduction of emissions.

“The fact that our clean hydro energy helps to reduce thermal pollution in neighbouring countries will allow us to claim carbon points,” said …

Bhutan is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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