Reducing carbon emissions: Responsibility of key nations

The United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s 13th assembly in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007, first developed the concept of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, it was found that deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20 per cent emission in the form of carbon. Hence to reduce the GHG emission, preventing deforestation and forest land degradation was seen as one of the crucial tasks. And, for those developing and underdeveloped countries that help in reducing the atmospheric carbon by capturing and sequestering in their forests, the developed countries, listed as Annex I countries, which are the top GHG emitters, had to help them financially and technically. Based on the results of how much carbon is sequestered by the forests with reference to a certain baseline data, the forests are to be paid. This is the basic concept of carbon trading. The REDD mechanism became REDD+ and REDD++ after additional components such as sustainable management of forests and conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks are included in it.

Global temperature is soaring neither because ‘we’ (Nepalese) are consuming a high amount of fossil fuels nor because we are rapidly clearing forest lands. The amount of GHGs emitted by Nepal annually hardly equals the daily emission, if not hourly, by, for example, China alone. Similar comparisons can be made with the USA, India, Russia, Japan and the European Union. Nepal’s contribution to global GHG emission is just 0.025 per cent. Ceteris paribus, it would take forty years for Nepal to emit 1 per cent of the current annual global GHG emission. Even if we allocate our whole budget in fossil fuel only, our contribution to annual global GHG emission probably won’t reach 1 per centAnd still, we are behind REDD that aims to reduce atmospheric carbon by preventing deforestation from us, not from the top emitters! Should we always focus on forest conservation only or think about development too? It is not that development cannot be achieved within environmental protection, but instead of regulating a REDD implementation mechanism, deploying that manpower in other developmental works will be more beneficial. We are in the list of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) not because we don’t have sufficient money but because we don’t have the ability to spend it effectively and the will to develop ourselves.

Anyway, we are implementing REDD, but the issues of permanency, leakage, baseline data, etc. are raised and we are not certain to be paid again. We have been calculating the amount of dollars we deserve from our carbon sink but we don’t know if we will really get it. Just a year ago, officials were wary of the source of money for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which is supposed to pay for the carbon sink after 4 years, i.e. 2020 AD and the scenario has not yet changed significantly.

What makes the situation worse is the recent political development in the United States, which is also the second largest GHG emitting country, where the newly elected president Donald J. Trump has expressed doubts over climate science, signifying it as a hoax. How can we expect such a country to pay for the carbon sink whose president-elect has even threatened to withdraw last year’s already ratified Paris agreement?

We have always been discussing how Nepal can get benefits from carbon trading. We hardly hear the discussions about how carbon trading benefits the environment actually, as the objective of REDD is to reduce the emissions and ultimately limit the rise in temperature. But at the same time, the top carbon-emitting countries do not seem to be serious about cutting down their emissions. Though the ratification of last year’s Paris agreement by many countries earlier than expected showed some silver linings, the recent political development seems to jeopardize the deal. It is not sure now that they will fulfill their commitment to limit the emissions.

If we really work for the environment, we must be able to tell them, the top emitters, “We don’t want any payment for the carbon we sequester. It’s our responsibility towards the environment/ the mother earth. We actually need you to cut down the emissions.” Then only will we have the ethical right to pressurize them to cut down the emissions. Otherwise, they will always go on saying that they were helping to mitigate the effects of climate change by paying for the carbon and it seems that we are letting them emit as much GHGs as they want for the sake of money. Expecting money from the one and pressurizing the same to cut emission does not seem reasonable. What if those countries themselves say that they won’t pay for the carbon sink? The USA may say so soon. Will we start deforestation to pressurize them? Certainly not.

Developed countries are also unwilling to cut down emissions in the name of ‘economic growth’. But, the Climate Group, in one of its news stories last year, wrote – “Demonstrating again that economic growth can be achieved within environmental protection, according to the document presented to the press, ‘Switzerland emits less GHG today than in 1990 despite the fact that gross national product increased by 36% over the intervening period.’”

If Switzerland can do it, can’t other countries do the same?


[ Rewritten article of Carbon Trade Hallucinations (own blog) and published in The Himalayan Times, November 17, 2016. ]


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