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Carbon trading brews tea hope

Silchar, Feb. 9: The worldwide revolutionary concept of carbon credits ' a derivative instrument designed to scrub greenhouse gases from the earth's atmosphere ' is expected to bring a windfall to the beleaguered tea industry in Assam.

Carbon credits basically seek to encourage countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as it rewards those countries that meet their targets and provides financial incentives to others to do so as quickly as possible.

There is moolah to be made in all this. Surplus credits that are acquired by overshooting the emission reduction target can be sold in the global market. One credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emission reduced. Carbon credits are available for companies engaged in developing renewable energy projects that offset the use of fossil fuels.

Manojit Dasgupta, secretary general of the Calcutta-based Indian Tea Association (ITA), said here recently, 'If the tea industry in Assam, which uses the pollution-enhancing coal-fired machinery in their processing plants, reduces its greenhouse emissions in substantial measure, then it will be in a position to expect the bounties in the form of generous cash-help from other major industrialised nations.'

Dasgupta said the sale of the surplus carbon credits is part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, which aims at the mandatory reduction of the high greenhouse gases.

The Kyoto Protocol is a voluntary treaty signed by 141 countries, including the European Union, Japan and Canada, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Developed countries have to spend nearly $300 to $500 for every tonne reduction in CO2, against $10 to $25 to be spent by developing countries. In developing countries like India, the emission levels are much below the target fixed by the Kyoto Protocol.

So, they are excluded from reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On the contrary, they are entitled to sell surplus credits to developed countries.

The European countries and Japan are the major buyers of carbon credits.

This is what makes trading in carbon credits such a great business opportunity. Foreign companies, which cannot fulfil the protocol norms, can buy the surplus credit from companies in other countries. This leads to a flourishing trade in Credit Emission Reduction.

'As the tea industry in Assam has good prospects to take part in the carbon trading in the global market, the ITA has already hired a leading global consultancy firm, Ernest and Young. The firm will advise the Indian tea industry in general and Assam plantations in particular (which constitute about 60 per cent of the total number of the tea estates in the country) as to how it could explore the advantages of carbon trading,' Dasgupta said.

The US and China are two major industrial behemoths which produce the pernicious carbon dioxide along with toxic methane gas (CH4) emissions in large quantum. As a result of this, emission following the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas is trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, which then warm the world's surface crusts.

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