Introduction: The average world’s per capita CO2 emissions are calculated to be around 5 tons per year, which means about 15 kg per day. If we take into account the current world population of 7.9 billion, the emissions per day would be around 0.1185 billion tons or 43.25 billion tons per year. While annual emissions are 43.25 billion tons, which continues to rise, the carbon sink from forests is just 2.6 billion tons. So there is a huge difference of 40.65 billion tons. To reach neutrality or zero rates, this huge gap of 40.65 billion tons of CO2 needs to be reduced.
Apart from this, there is a big gap in per capita emission between the North and the South. Whereas countries like the United States emit 15.5 tons per capita, followed by Russia 11.44, China 7.9, EU 6.5, and the countries like Uganda emit only 0.1 tons and most of the countries in the southern hemisphere emit less than one ton per capita per year. The developed countries, which emit more, need to compensate poor countries, whose emission is less, so that they do not lag behind in the race of basic human development necessities.
We in India have 1.9 tons per capita annual emission, which may look meager, but taking into account the size of the population, our contribution to emission is not low. Therefore, the government of India has pledged to reduce the emission voluntarily and set her intended national determined contributions submitted in 2015 an economy-wide emissions intensity target of 33% to 35% below 2005 levels, electric power capacity target of 40% installed capacity from non-fossil-based energy resources by 2030 (conditional to international support), and creating a carbon sink expansion target of creating an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Problem: Globally electricity (25%) and transportation (29%) contribute mainly to greenhouse gas emissions. In India, 68.7% percent of GHG emissions come from the energy sector, followed by agriculture, industrial processes, land-use change, and forestry, and waste which contribute 19.6 percent, 6.0 percent, 3.8, and 1.9 percent respectively to GHG emissions. In 2019, CO2 emissions for India were 2,597.4 million tons. Over the last 50 years, emissions rose substantially from 232.8 to 2,597.4 million tons with an annual increase rate that reached a maximum of 11.65% in 2009 but eventually decreased to 1.6% in 2019. Despite this, our dependency on fossil fuels particularly coal and crude oils for energy and transportation remained intact. Decarbonizing the Indian economy will take a long time though Prime Minister Modi increased the target of renewable sources of energy from 4.5 GW to 5 GW; he rightly said to neutralize the emissions by 2070 in the recently held UN convention on COP26 at Glasgow.
At Glasgow, the concern expressed by governments, environmentalists, and particularly countries of small islands from the southern hemisphere to restrict the rise of global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and it is assumed that increase from this point will prove to be a climatic catastrophe. At 2 degrees Celsius islands would be submerged in the ocean. Apart from this, climate change has exacerbated uncertainties on precipitations, weather extremes, regular occurrences of storms, cyclones, floods, and droughts have not only accentuated the calamities but have also affected agriculture, its production, and food security.
Uttarakhand state has become the worst victim of climate change or now the climate “crisis” a term frequently used by environmentalists at Glasgow COP26. A Himalayan state, its glaciers, rivers, fragile rocks, forests, agriculture and people already susceptible to fragile ecosystems have become more vulnerable to climate change with frequent occurrences of calamities. With rising temperature glaciers the source of perennial rivers is melting at a faster pace resulting in their shrinking as well as causing unseasonal flash floods. A state where the incidents of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, landslides, and droughts are as old as the civilization is, triggered with the climate crisis in recent periods and their occurrences have become unexpected and regular.
Solution: The solution is carbon sequestration through green technology, reducing the consumption of carbon-intensive products, carbon sinks through afforestation, crop diversification, and adaptation. To decarbonize the economy is a long term process and green technology needs massive funds. Different countries have voluntarily pledged to reduce carbon emissions and set their NDC goals as per Paris Agreement 2015. India has also set an economy-wide emissions intensity target of 33% to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030. But, here our solution will focus on CSR-NGO partnership on carbon sequestration.
Before elaborating on the CSR-NGO partnership, we will look back on the carbon trade and how it operates. Internationally carbon trade functions principally on two aspects; carbon credits and carbon offsets. Credits are a type of permit of emitting CO2 in tons per year issued by the government to the industries, whereas, offsets are surplus credits, which were saved from the given permits or earned from sequestration by investing in green technology including agroforestry projects. According to harmonyfuels.com, carbon credits stand for the right to emit that carbon, while the carbon offsets represent the production of a certain amount of sustainable energy to counterbalance the use of fossil fuels. As stated in onetreeplanted.org, carbon offsets are also measured by a ton of CO2-equivalent, but different from the condition where a company emits less carbon than their limit, the carbon offsets are created when a business or a company decides to invest in something that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions excluding their everyday operations. In a nutshell, carbon offsetting is the act of canceling out the CO2 emission produced in one place with the act of reducing emission in another place. Carbon offsets work that a company as a carbon emitter is able to invest in offsets rather than actively reducing their own emissions. Carbonfund.org said that carbon offset derived from a third-party certified project that usually may generate a carbon credit. Carbon offset allows companies to balance out the climate impact and compensate for the emissions they produce. It’s achieved by reducing the CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world.
At present there are two carbons mandatory (compliance) markets governed by governments; California carbon credit market and European carbon credit market and the rest are operated on a voluntary basis. India is on a trajectory to decarbonize its industries and fulfill its nationally determined contributions commitment. In India AGNIi Mission, under the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, seeks problem statements and strategic focus areas from the corporates and business houses of the nation. Apart from setting other goals to decarbonize India’s economy, the government of India is creating a carbon sink expansion target of creating an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. This is the area where CSR and NGOs can set up partnerships to catch and store CO2 from the atmosphere to effectively reduce GHG and also build up carbon offsets.
CSR-NGO partnerships and carbon offsets: Climate farming and agroforestry are one area where carbon sequestration can be faster, easier and widespread. Since the carbon market is in an upswing and it was estimated $400 million last year is expected to grow $10-25 billion by 2030 according to carbon credit.com if countries aggressively pursue their climate change targets. The international price of per metric ton carbon is expected to rise by $150 by 2022, which means at present $125 per metric ton means INR 9305. On this basis, we can safely put per kg CO2 prices between INR 8 to 10. Planting a grafted sapling takes 3 to 4 years to become a mature tree of around 15 feet in height with 9 to 10 inches in diameter of the trunk. According to Eco Matcher and its tree-planting partners, this size of a tree sequestrates 25kg CO2 per year. The average age of this type of tree is estimated to be 20 – 25 years and carbon sequestration is calculated for 17 years. Similarly, millet crops; sorghum, foxtail millet, finger millet, pearl millet, barnyard millet, etc. also sequestrate CO2 from the atmosphere, though its calculation is complex, but calculated on an area (ha) basis and formula are available, however, phytolith occluded carbon has not yet been fully considered as a global carbon sink. But, it is a well-established factor that millets are tolerant to drought and weather extremes, thus resilient to climate change. By investing in climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry CSR can create carbon offsets and NGOs can get funds for their community works and socio-economic pursuits.
Ranveer Singh Rana
CSR = corporate social responsibility
NGO = non-government organizations
CO2 = carbon dioxide
GHG = Greenhouse gas emissions
GW = Gig watt
COP 26 = conference of parties
NDC = nationally determined contributions
AGNIi = accelerating growing of new Indi’s innovation