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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Greed credit: Editorial on the concerns over the Green Credit Programme

Over 100 environmental and human rights organisations and 400 citizens have thus written to the ministry concerned demanding that the scheme be rolled back

The Editorial Board Published 02.05.24, 07:23 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

The Green Credit Programme rolled out by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change appears to be more grey than green. It has been flagged by conservationists as a way of diluting forest conservation laws and circumventing legal provisions that prevent the diversion of forested land for industries. Over 100 environmental and human rights organisations and 400 citizens have thus written to the ministry concerned demanding that the scheme be rolled back. Their concerns merit scrutiny. On paper, the GCP incentivises environment-positive actions like afforestation and water conservation. Industries, communities or individuals voluntarily engaging in such activities would, according to this initiative, earn ‘green credits’, which can be traded in the future for, say, business ventures that require the clearing of forests. But can arbitrary tree plantation — such drives often end up as monoplantations dominated by one species — compensate for the loss of the priceless diversity of forests? The GCP also makes it easier for companies to comply with compensatory afforestation with plantations even as dense forests are diverted for ‘development’. Reports suggest that since 2003, 20,000 square kilometres of dense forests have become non-forests in the country. Further, the final GCP draft left out several details that were incorporated in the original text, such as the proposal that credits be issued progressively over 10 years depending on the survivability of the plants and evidence of their maturation. The suggestion of the minimum number of trees planted per hectare being 100 and the maximum 1,000 and the issuing of credits on a gradient across different rainfall zones with a list of appropriate forestry and horticulture species that could be planted there did not make it to the final version either. As it stands, the GCP evidently prioritises volume over quality — a testament to a typical bureaucratic mindset — by ignoring the importance of ecological variations among tree species while basing the award of credits solely on numbers.

This is not to suggest that all green credit or funding schemes lack potential. In fact, the creation of environmental markets and green funding, with their promise of yielding financi­al as well as environmental returns, can provide a roadmap for transitioning to a model of sustainable development globally. This template has been successful in countries like China, whose wind power projects benefitted immensely from the United Nations’ carbon market. The global market for carbon credits, in fact, is expected to touch $250 billion by 2030.

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In this regard, the sovereign green bonds issued by the Reserve Bank of India have the potential of doing a far better job of advancing the sustainab­il­ity agenda as compared to the GCP, which not only incentivises deforestation but also disregards the rights of forest-dwelling communities.

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