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How to obtain carbon credits


Even as corporates and large organisations may be cashing on the carbon credits program worldwide, at the individual level there is still not much incentive for migrating to technologies that mitigate climate change. Whe..

25 Mar 2010

By Sreekumar Raghavan

The other day, my wife’s cousin sister moved to a new rented house in my home town at Trivandrum and as we made our first visit, we found the place too hot even in the evening and night. Its owner told them the previous tenants had installed air conditioners to beat the heat and he also uses one at his home nearby. This means my wife’s cousin will have to shell out Rs 25,000 upwards for a 3-star rated AC and incur additional power bills to just keep cool.

In the southern Indian state of Kerala, air conditioners haven’t become common in households while I have found many using air-coolers, the cheaper variety where you have to pour water and keep the machine on. Even when global warming and climate change fill up our every day conversation, no major movement is being witnessed to build ‘green buildings’ although the State Government has announced it will henceforth deploy ‘green building concepts’ for government buildings.

A few weeks ago, we went to an acquaintance of ours who lives in a modest thatched hut (roof made of coconut leaves), although it didn’t have the finish and sophistication of much of the new skyscrapers that dot the Trivandrum skyline. My son was pleasantly surprised at its ambience. You don’t need fans or an AC to keep cool and is inexpensive to build. Of course, you have to rethatch the roof every six months or so as coconut leaves are not permanent. A retired railway engineer living in Trivandrum for more than two decades went nostalgic -- earlier if you arrived on a flight to this city all that you could see from above was cocount trees and the only barren strip was the airport. Now they have been replaced by 24-storied sky-scrapers that block flow of wind from the sea leading to heat build up in the atmosphere.

Indeed, those who build and live in thatched huts are saving energy and making their invaluable contribution to mitigating climate change, but there is no mechanism to bring them under carbon credits. For, how is it possible for my friend to calculate the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from a thatched hut vis-à-vis a concrete building? Even if he so calculates, who is to agree to those data? Even as corporates/organizations earn carbon credits by implementing ‘green projects’, an individual still has no forum to bring out his innovations that reduce carbon emissions or incentive to utilize such technologies.

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As I pen down these thoughts, here comes the news that US scientists say they've created a roof coating made from waste cooking oil that can switch roles season to season, either reflecting or using solar heat.

Roofs coated with the material would

reflect summer sunlight and reduce air-conditioning bills. When chilly weather sets in, the scientists said their coating will transmit heat to help warm a building's interior.

"This is one of the most innovative and practical roofing coating materials developed to date," said Ben Wen, leader of the research project and vice president of the company that created the coating -- United Environment & Energy LLC of Horseheads, N.Y.

"This bio-based intelligent roof coating, compared with a traditional cool roof, could reduce both heating and cooling costs as it responds to the external environment," Wen said. "In addition, it will provide a new use for millions of gallons of waste oil after it is used to cook french fries and chicken nuggets."

By changing the coating's composition, Wen and colleagues said they can tune the substance so that it changes from reflective to transmitting at a specific environmental temperature.

The scientists said the coating might be commercially available in about three years.

The research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, was presented this week in San Francisco during the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the news report featured in and OfficialWire said.

There are costly options too, as roofs of high-rise buildings can be filled with solar arrays and panels as some organisations have done which generates energy as well as prevent heat build up in the building.

Even as powerful and costly motor bikes enter the Indian markets every now and then, fascination for less-powerful, environment friendly electric scooters are also seen. I talked to a few of them—the price of such scooters are more or less the same as conventional scooters but travels at less speed with no noise pollution or carbon emissions. Apart from environmental conscious people, it is still a pity that there is no incentive for anyone to buy those vehicles. And the saddest part is that the electric supply to which he plugs the battery for charging the vehicle may be distributing power that is less environmental friendly such as coal or nuclear?

It is not difficult for us to find several examples of use of eco-friendly technology. My wife’s parents' bio-mass fuel for cooking and considerably lessens the need for conventional LPG and eliminates household waste effectively and they have been doing so with no particular incentives or carbon credits to earn other than perhaps a one-time small subsidy from a renewable-energy agency.

In the modern market oriented economies, the `Freakonomics’ view is that nothing works without incentives and so does it apply to reducing global warming and mitigating climate change. Perhaps, governments need to think of incentive programs either through improved food grain allocation or tax rebates for individuals involved in climate change mitigation. Or still better allow them to trade carbon credits through their own innovative ways.

P.S.Here comes a Citibank offer to its customers to conserve nature and earn rewards: By signing up to receive card statements through email, you earn 100 reward points. That would mean close to 2 litres of petrol at an IOC pump!

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