Published: Saturday 31 December 2005

Carbon credits

I really liked the article on Clean Development Mechanism (cdm) ('Newest biggest deal', Down To Earth, November 15, 2005) and agree with most of your key points, especially concerning the role of shoddy consultants, the flimsy stakeholder consultation documentation, non-sustainable biopower plants and the clearance to problematic projects by the Indian cdm authority. But I have some critical comments:

Additionality is the key to safeguard the environmental integrity of cdm (o therwise, business-as-usual projects would flood cdm and generate more hot air to blow up the Kyoto targets. Non-governmental organisations (ngos) should try to prevent this and not argue that additionality testing engenders corruption). The hfc-23 and n2 o projects are clearly additional and not business-as-usual as they only have costs and no revenues except Certified Carbon Reduction Units or cers. One may rightly criticise them on their weak sustainability credentials but they fully achieve one of the cdm targets -- emission reduction at lowest possible cost

More problematic than bilateral projects (involving a company from an industrialised country and an Indian company) are the unilateral projects because they are generally blatantly non-additional and ignore local sustainability. Almost all biopower plants are such unilateral projects. I do not see why projects done by public entities would perform better than private ones

Generic cer price levels are regularly reported by public sources, for instance, by gtz's monthly newsletter, cdm Highlights. What is secretive is the deals specific cdm projects make, but that is as in any other business

The cdm process is very transparent on the international level as it allows public inputs to any project design document (pdd). Unfortunately, ngos hardly use this opportunity. I have been scrambling to submit comments to the most problematic pdd s and it would have been immensely useful if ngos like cse had done likewise (for instance, exposing the flimsy stake holder consultation).

Axel Michaelowa

I strongly agree with your call to increase transparency but am troubled by your blaming the "additionality" criterion for the woes you describe.

If we are to have cdm at all, it should be used to furnish additional credits. You make a good case that we are using a flawed process to try and establish additionality, but that does not mean that the additionality criterion is wrong.

I'm sure you are right that the rules developed for cdm are too complex and convoluted. I'm very skeptical of the idea that they can be simple and effective. Project-based trading was tried extensively in the us in the 1970s and 1980s but was a failure. Once one goes down the route of allowing sectors without caps to trade, detecting fraud is inherently<>

Not only about the tiger

I appreciate the work you have done towards evolving a tangible, India-specific model of conservation.

It is not only the tiger but an entire ecosystem that should be preserved in tiger reserves. I would still question the coexistence (of humans and animals in such reserves) theory because humans have multiplied at a prolific rate and depleted the resources nature offers, by unsustainable consumption patterns. Is it in out nature to coexist?

All around we can see cases of land encroachment. In cities, land-grabbing is common and politicians often facilitate regularising of illegal settlements.

Similar is the story with tiger havens where human settlements have spread like bushfire. You talk of coexistence and special development for such areas. But such efforts will only result in more encroachments by the teeming masses of the poor. The same politicians would then talk of legitimising such encroachments. It is a Catch-22 situation.

Till we realise that humans have to be regulated in these reserves, conservation may not be possible to achieve.


Cooking gas

There is a tendency now to go in for gas-based power plants. But certain questions arise on the issue.

Gas is an exhaustible resource and a popular (and convenient) fuel for cooking purposes. Also, more use of the gas for cooking will lessen the burden on wood. This could be an important factor in checking our forests from being destroyed.

A gas-based power plant would generate electricity for industrial and domestic use. But is it advisable to burn the precious gas for industrial use or to run domestic appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, personal computers and air conditioners? Shouldn't it be used exclusively for cooking?

After all, we have other options for power plants such as using coal or uranium/thorium. Rather than make gas-based power plants, the government should give concession on gas to increase its use as a cooking fuel among the people.


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Pick of the postbag

Let farmers decidebr> The article on Bt cotton ('Cotton Tangle', Down To Earth, August 31, 2005), does not offer proper scientific explanation on the findings by Keshav Kranti et al on the expression of Bt gene in certain commercial varieties of cotton under laboratory conditions.

The paper, published in Current Science, must not be read in isolation. In fact, the same journal had published, in June 2004, a paper by Bambawale et al, which showed a superior performance by some Monsanto varieties under field conditions. But none of the anti- gm activists took note of it.

With reference to your article, I would like to say, first, that there is no direct correlation between the level of gene expression and insect control under field conditions although a certain threshold level of Bt toxin is required to control the target pest.

Second, it is meaningless to talk about 75 or 100 per cent gene expression. Different plants, tissues and cells vary in their overall metabolism (including gene expression and regulation) at different times of the day or night (diurnal variation) under all sorts of vagaries of field conditions. What is important is the degree of insect control that can be measured as percentage insect mortality. Bt cotton can control the target pest only by 60-80 per cent, but the crop needs to be sprayed fewer number of times for both the target and non-target pests. By that agronomic measure, Bt cotton has won handsomely wherever it has been commercialised in the world. In fact, Keshav Kranti has expressed regrets that his paper is being misconstrued to show that Bt cotton is a failure.

Those skeptical of Bt cotton must look at its increased acreage and sales all over the country. In fact, even cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh were demanding more seeds in the last season. The proof of pudding is in the eating, and cotton farmers will be the final arbiters of Bt cotton, no matter what. If they see the benefit, no one can stop them from growing Bt cotton.

Shanthu Shantharam

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