Carbon & Environment

What is carbon credit?

Simply put, a carbon credit is a tradeable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon or carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). One carbon credit is equal to one ton of carbon dioxide, or in some markets, carbon dioxide equivalent gases.

How does one earn a carbon credit? Once again, in simplest of terms, an organisation which produces one tonne less of carbon or carbon dioxide equivalent than the standard level of carbon emission allowed for its outfit or activity, earns a carbon credit.

How does it help? Countries which are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol under the UNFCCC have laid down gas emission norms for their companies to be met by 2012. In such cases, a company has two ways to reduce emissions. One, it can reduce the GHG (greenhouse gases) by adopting new technology or improving upon the existing technology to attain the new norms for emission of gases. Secondly, it can tie up with developing nations and help them set up new technology that is eco-friendly, thereby helping developing country or its companies 'earn' credits. This credit becomes a permit for the company to emit GHGs in its own country. However, only a portion of carbon credits of the company in developing country can be transferred to the company in developed country.

Advantage Asia: India, China and some other Asian countries have the advantage because they are developing countries. India and China are likely to emerge as the biggest sellers and Europe is going to be the biggest buyers of carbon credits. Last year global carbon credit trading was estimated at $5 billion, with India's contribution at around $1 billion. China is currently the largest seller of carbon credits controlling about 70% of the market share.

India has generated some 30 million carbon credits and has roughly another 140 million to push into the world market. Waste disposal units, plantation companies, chemical plants and municipal corporations can sell the carbon credits and make money.

Carbon, like any other commodity, has begun to be traded on India's Multi Commodity Exchange. MCX has become first exchange in Asia to trade carbon credits.

Black carbon

Black carbon, commonly known as soot, is a form of particulate air pollution, produced from incomplete combustion from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels, and diesel exhaust. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo, the ability to reflect sunlight, when deposited on snow and ice.

BC is the strongest absorber of sunlight and heats the air directly. In addition, it darkens snow packs and glaciers through deposition and leads to melting of ice and snow. Regionally, BC disrupts cloudiness and monsoon rainfall and accelerates melting of mountain glaciers such as the Hindu Kush-Himalayan glaciers.

Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks, whereas CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of more than 100 years. Thus the effects of BC on the atmospheric warming and glacier retreat disappear within months of reducing emissions, consequently buying the planet much needed time to find solutions to mitigating the effects of CO2.

According to estimates, between 25 and 35 percent of black carbon in the global atmosphere comes from China and India, emitted from the burning of wood and cow dung in household cooking and through the use of coal to heat homes. Countries in Europe and elsewhere that rely heavily on diesel fuel for transportation also contribute large amounts.

Project Surya has been launched to reduce black carbon in atmosphere by introducing efficient stove technologies, solar cookers, solar lamps and biogas plants.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is a broad term for technologies used to capture and permanently sequester or store carbon dioxide.

Carbon sequestration describes long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming. It has been proposed as a way to slow the atmospheric and marine accumulation of greenhouse gases, which are released by burning fossil fuels.

Carbon sequestration may be carried out by pumping carbon into 'carbon sinks'— an area that absorbs carbon. Oceans, forests, soil etc are natural sinks for carbon. Depleted oil reserves, unmineable mines may be used as artificial sinks for pumping carbon.

Revision Questions

1. In the context of CO2 emission and Global Warming, what is the name of a market driven device under the UNFFC that allows developing countries to get funds/incentives from the developed countries to adopt better technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

  1. Carbon Footprint
  2. Carbon Credit Rating
  3. Clean Development Mechanism
  4. Emission Reduction Norm

2. The concept of carbon credit originated from which one of the following?

  1. Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro
  2. Kyoto Protocol
  3. Montreal Protocol
  4. G-8 Summit, Heiligendamm

3. The project launched to provide sustainable, effective, incentive-based action plans, infrastructure and technologies to switch to cleaner-burning technologies such as efficient stove technologies, solar cookers, solar lamps and biogas plants has been named

  1. Project Cool India
  2. Project Surya
  3. Project Solar Power
  4. Project Global Cool