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close this bookThe Global Greenhouse Regime. Who Pays? (UNU, 1993, 382 p.)
close this folderPart III National greenhouse gas reduction cost curves
close this folder8 Integrating ecology and economy in India
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View the documentConclusions
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Emissions inventory
Energy efficiency and fuel substitution
Emissions and sequestration from forest biomass

Jayant Sathaye and Amulya Reddy


Recent years have witnessed a growing concern regarding the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth's atmosphere. This concern has led to many in-depth studies of the phenomenon. Individual country studies have ranged from simple (albeit data-intensive), inventories of GHGs to evaluation of policy options to stabilize or reduce emissions in some future year. Impact studies have focused on better understanding the effects of gases on atmospheric temperature, monsoon patterns and sea level rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the global temperature would increase up to 3.5C by 2100 under the most likely scenarios.! The results of these models and other studies prompted calls for an international treaty which nations could adopt to restrict the growth of emissions. Such a treaty was put forward at the 1992 UNCED meeting in Rio de Janeiro. The text of the treaty was debated for many months prior to the convention. One of the critical divisive issues was the sharing of burden among the various parties. This issue lies at the heart of the debate among nations on climate change. Burden sharing is difficult to resolve since the emissions burden that each nation shoulders is different for each gas. And, it depends on the historical cumulative emissions that a country may have emitted through its use of various fuels. The burden varies by the type and extent of impact that a nation may have to bear as well.

The cumulative share of carbon dioxide emissions from the developing countries between 1870 and 1986 is estimated to be only 15 per cent but, with 76 per cent of the world's population, their share of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 1986 was about 27 per cent. This share is increasing since their modern energy growth is faster than for other countries. IPCC scenarios of future emissions indicate that worldwide emissions of carbon and other gases would continue to increase even if the developed countries were to reduce emissions from their current levels. These shares suggest that the developed countries should shoulder a greater responsibility for historical emissions but the opportunities for reducing incremental emissions may be more abundant in the developing countries.

Unlike other airborne pollutants, such as SOx and NOx, which are emitted in trace amounts, are very reactive and can be scavenged at the source, GHGs are emitted in far more diluted and much larger amounts, which poses a problem in attempting to physically remove the gases. The main alternatives consist of eliminating or reducing the emissions of these gases, or growing biomass to sequester carbon dioxide. Much of the current deforestation occurs in developing countries, and reversing or slowing this process would aid in reducing future emissions.

Given the above background, developed countries have insisted that reducing GHG emissions from the developing countries is vital. If necessary, such emissions reduction could be accomplished with assistance from the Global Environment Facility (GEE). On the other hand, the developing countries have argued that the growth of emissions is an unavoidable consequence of economic growth, as was the case with the industrialized countries during their past. Hence, global environmental protection should not be allowed to penalize development. Is this difference reconcilable?

For a signatory to the Climate Convention, the adoption of policies and strategies to restrain emissions growth is an important goal to pursue. A nation would find it easier to follow such options to the extent that these are adoptable without hindering its current or anticipated development trends. Many studies have argued that alteration of growth patterns will lower social welfare and add to the cost of future socio-economic development. We will cite several studies for India to illustrate the opposite view that the adoption of such policies need not reduce social welfare. Indeed, accelerated adoption of certain energy and forestry policies, some of which are already being promoted and implemented, will lead to reduced carbon emissions anal or increased carbon sequestration at no additional cost to the nation. The pursuit of such policies will shift the business-as-usual growth to basic-needs-oriented development.

Adoption of such policies may be slowed or thwarted by many barriers in developing economies. In the case of India, scarcity of capital and of hard currency are twin dilemmas which often limit adoption of the most efficient policies. Lack of institutions to facilitate the adoption of high energyefficiency technologies is another barrier. Reddy (1991) lists the many barriers to improving energy efficiency.

If adoption of such policies were to increase social welfare and achieve reduction of GHG emissions at no extra cost, then is a nation justified in seeking international support for implementation of these options? As we illustrate for India, even if the life cycle cost of abatement projects is less, the up-front costs of these projects may make them prohibitively expensive to pursue. As provided for in the Convention, India could justifiably seek support for projects meriting such assistance through the Global Environment Facility.

This chapter addresses three main issues dealing with these topics: emissions inventory and the uncertainty of estimates; energy efficiency, fuel substitution and the economics of GHG abatement; and emissions and sequestration from biomass growth.

Emissions inventory

The Climate Change Convention calls for each Party to prepare an emissions inventory. GHGs-included in the inventory are carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and CFCs. Carbon dioxide and methane are emitted in larger amounts than the other GHGs, and CFCs are regulated under the Montreal Protocol. Several other different inventories have been prepared for India by experts both national and foreign. Emission estimates of CO2 from energy sources are in relatively close agreement. Estimates of CO2 from non-energy sources, and of methane from all sources, vary widely and have been debated in many fore.

In Table 8.1, we show the estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic activities in India for 1986. Carbon, emitted as carbon dioxide, emissions total 164 teragrams. Of these, emissions from forestry and land use changes amount to 20 teragrams. A more recent estimate places carbon emissions (as CO2) from fossil fuel use at 133 teragrams in 1988 compared to 139 in 1986, as shown in Table 8.1.5

Methane emissions are estimated at 55 teragrams in Table 8.1. Boden et al. estimate emissions of this gas from livestock and rice paddies to be 10 teragrams, compared to 48.2 in Table 8.1. The lower figure is the result of new emissions measurements which reflect smaller rice biomass from Indian paddy fields and the fact that areas emitting high methane flux are a fraction of total paddy area; and above-surface biomass weight is reportedly smaller than elsewhere.

Table 8.1 Estimates of annual GHG emissions from anthropogenic activities in India, 1986 (teragrams of gas)

  CO2 CO CH4 N2O FCs
1 Coal production - - 1.7   -
2 Coal combustion 378 (103) 6.6 0.04 0.03 -
3 Oil combustion 114 (31) 3.9 0.01 0.01 -
4 Gas combustion, flaring 18 (4.9) 0.01 0.002 0.002 -
5 Gas venting, leakages         -
1 Cement manufacture 18 (4.9)       -
2 CFCs(CFC-11 Equiv.) - - - - 0.01
3 Landfills - - 1.7   -
Agriculture and forestry          
1 Animal husbandry - - 10.4   -
2 Rice cultivation - - 37.8   -
3 Fertilizer use - - - 0.04 -
4 Biomass combustion - 55.6 3.5 0.09 -
5 Deforestation, land use changes 73 (20) - - 0.03 -
Total 601 (164) 66 55 0.2 0.01

Amount of carbon in the CO2 shown in brackets

Source: Ahuja, D (1990). Climate Change Technical Series: Estimating Regional Anthropogenic Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, US EPA Report No. 20P-2006.

The emissions inventory is for a single year and does not provide guidance on trends or future growth of these emissions. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has tracked historical emissions for several countries, including for India (Figure 8.1). Carbon dioxide emissions from India have increased at 5.7 per cent annually since 1950 as India climbed from thirteenth to fifth place in the world as a national contributor. With increased shares of oil and gas, the share of CO2 emissions from coal has declined from 87 per cent in 1950 to 71 per cent in 1989.

We have selected future scenarios from two authoritative reports for carbon dioxide emissions from energy and forestry sources. In Table 8.2, we show emissions estimates for commercial energy sources for 1985 and 2025, and for biomass sources for 1986 and 2011. Emissions from modern energy sources increase at a rapid pace in these scenarios but those from biomass increase much more slowly in either scenario.

Energy efficiency and fuel substitution

The production and use of modern energy in India generated 115 million tonnes of carbon in 1985, or 10 per cent of all carbon emissions emanating from the developing world. From a global perspective, India will account for 21 per cent of the increase in carbon emissions produced from energy use in developing countries between 1985 and 2025.

Figure 8.1 CO2 emissions from India, 1950- 1989

Table 8.2 Scenarios for India of future carbon dioxide emissions (million ions of carbon)

Annual growth rate (%)      
Modem energy sourcesa 1985 2025  
High 115 703 4.5
Low 115 615 4.2
Biomass sourcesb 1986 2077  
High 64 99 1.7
Low 64 70 0.4

Sources: a Pachauri, R K, Suri, V and Gupta, 5 (1991). CO2 Emissions from Developing Countries: Better Understanding the Role of Energy in the Long Term. Volume 3: China, India, Indonesia and South Korea. July. LBL Report 30060.
b Ravindranath, N H. Somashekhar, B S and Gadgil, M (1992). forests: Case Studies from Seven Developing Countries Volume 3: India and China. August. LBL Report 32759.

Figure 8.2 Primary energy per GDP, lndia, 1970-2025 (HE scenario excluding biomass)

Between 1970 and 1990, the intensity of India's primary modern energy use increased by 38 per cent (Figure 8.2). In various sectors of the Indian economy, the intensity of energy use per unit of value added exceeds that found in most industrialized and many developing nations. The increasing intensity in India reflects a replacement of human and animal draught power by mechanical and electrical devices. In particular, agricultural electricity use is increasing much faster (at almost 20 per cent annually) than the value added derived from this sector. The high intensities also reflect the underlying inefficiency of energy use in industry, transport and power generation. For example, energy intensities of cement production for wet, dry and the wet-dry processes were as much as 20 per cent and, in some cases, 50 per cent above international norms. Similar figures have been documented for steel, aluminum and other major energy intensive industries.

A recent study has shown that direct and indirect carbon emissions may be higher from construction activity than any other component of India's final demand. Energy-intensive materials such as glass, cement, bricks, steel, aluminum, and asphalt constitute the bulk of the components of a building or any other type of structure. Thus, emissions associated with construction are large. Reducing construction activity to decrease emissions is not a viable solution since a growing infrastructure is necessary to maintain the pace of economic development in India. Using materials more productively through improved designs of buildings and other infrastructure would be the better approach.

India's opportunities for curtailing emissions of carbon include rectifying its currently uneconomic allocation of fuels and inefficient energy-use patterns. Abundant but carbon-intensive coal resources satisfy almost 50 per cent of India's modern energy demand. In recent years, the costs of coal production and transportation have risen primarily because of changes in technology and low productivity. Arguably, more efficient fuel options (primarily oil, natural gas and renewables) could serve as economically viable substitutes for coal in the future.

Determining which alternatives provide the most cost-effective means for India to restrain the growth of CO2 entails a thorough economic evaluation of the available options. In the industrialized countries, economic evaluations of reducing carbon emissions have focused on taxation policies. However, in most developing countries where fiscal and technological resources are scarce, any effective emissions abatement strategy must go beyond evaluating the impact of changes in domestic taxes on levels of carbon emissions. Carbon conservation efforts must identify the types of energy-supply and energy-use technologies needed to restrain the growth of carbon. They must also assess the capital investment and foreign exchange requirements needed to acquire less carbon-intensive technologies and fuels.

Through the 1980s, imports of crude oil and petroleum products constituted the largest single commodity group in India's import bill. In Table 8.3, we show the share of oil imports in total imports in each year between 1980-81 and 1990-91. It also relates oil imports in this period to export earnings. Although we find no secular trend in Table 8.3, we can discern a clear pattern in which oil imports were linked to the growth in consumption of petroleum products and the trends in the domestic production of crude oil. The higher international oil price in 1980-81 boosted India's oil import bill. In response, India accelerated the exploitation of the offshore Bombay High Reserves. Thus, production of Indian crude tripled to 28.9 million tons in 1984-85.

The consumption rate accelerated in the second half of the 1980s. Consumption increased at an annual average rate of 5.5 per cent during the Sixth Plan (1980-85), but it increased at 6.8 per cent per year during the Seventh Five-Year Plan. As Bombay High was exploited fully in the mid1980s and no new discoveries on the same scale as in the mid-1970s were made, oil imports rose inexorably. Crude oil imports, therefore, increased in 1985-86, and petroleum product imports followed suit in 1987-88. As we show later, the nexus between oil demand and import payments has an important bearing on India's capacity to reduce emissions.

Table 8.3 Petroleum imports (products and crude) as proportions of all imports and of export earnings

  Oil imports (net)
Year As % of all imports As % of export earnings
1980-81 42 78
1981-82 37 64
1982-83 30 48
1983-84 20 33
1984-85 21 31
1985-86 22 40
1987-88 15 22
1988-89 14 19
1989-90 16 20
1990-91 23 30
Average 21 31

Source Reddy C R. D'Sa, A and Reddy, A K N (1992). 'The Debt-Energy Nexus A Case Study of India', Economic and Political Weekly, July 4.

Generation, transmission and distribution of electricity are the most capital intensive of all energy activities. In the growing Indian economy, demand for electricity has increased faster than that for other forms of energy. Driven by this growth, demand for capital to finance the supply of electricity has also increased commensurately. Much of the capital to finance the energy sector is derived from the government budget. In the past, the government devoted an ever-increasing share of its budget to the energy sector. During the Sixth (1980-85) Five-Year Plan, for example, the government allocated 27.2 per cent of its plan outlay to the energy sector. This share increased to 30.6 per cent during the Seventh Plan. Even this increased share was insufficient to provide adequate power to the growing Indian economy. Power shortages are now common throughout the economy end 'brown-guts' in many cities during peak periods are the norm. The government is pursuing private sector power generation to alleviate power shortages. But the government has not yet set priorities in selection of technologies. Moreover, the management and operation of the power sector itself must be improved prior to seeking additional financing.

A recent analysis of the growth of carbon emissions and the economics of abating emissions from modern energy use in India highlights the relationship between abatement strategy on the one hand and capital investment and foreign exchange or hard currency requirements on the other (Table 8.4).

Table 8.4 Economic implications of reducing carbon emissions

  1985 2005
GDP (billion US$) 193 512
GDP/capita (US$) 256 428
Emissions (million tons) 770 mt 390 mt
Cost $38 billion $107 billion
Investment $8 billion $29 billion
Investment/GDP (%) 4.1 % 7.0 %
Foreign exchange $3.6 billion $22.4 billion
FE/GDP (%) 1.9 % 4.4 %
Emissions (million tons) 770 mt 340 mt
Cost $38 billion $94 billion
Investment $8 billion $26 billion
Investment/GDP (%) 4.1 % 5.1 %
Foreign exchange (FE) $3.6 billion $22 billion
FE/GDP (%) 1.9 % 4.2 %
Case 1    
Emissions (million tons) 770 mt 280 mt
Cost $38 billion $95 billion
Investment $8 billion $23 billion
Investment/GDP (%) 4.1 % 4.5 %
Foreign exchange (FE) $3.6 billion $25 billion
FE/GDP (%) 1.9 % 4.8 %
Case 2    
Emissions (million tons) 700 mt 280 mt
Cost $38 billion $ 105 billion
Investment $8 billion $32 billion
Investment/GDP (%) 4.1 % 6.2 %
Foreign exchange (FE) $3.6 billion $23 billion
FE/GDP (%) 1.9 % 4.5 %

Scen.1 Efficiency frozen at 1985 levels
Scen.2 Includes efficiency improvements
Scen.3 Lowest carbon emissions
Case 1 Lowest carbon emissions through greater fuel switching and fuel efficiency
Case 2 Lowest carbon emissions through increased reliance on renewables, e.g., solar, wind, hydro and biomass
Source: Mongia, N. et al. (1991), endnote 12.

The analysis assumes annual average rates for GDP and population growth. A linear programming model couples these rates to energy demand growth by sector and end-use. The model minimizes the cost of providing energy services to the Indian economy. Energy service may be provided by new energy supply or higher efficiency of supply and/or use. The model computes the investment and foreign exchange requirement for meeting the estimated demand for energy. Table 8.4 shows the foreign exchange requirement for fuel imports only.

In Scenario 1, energy intensity is frozen at 1985 levels. Energy sector investment as a proportion of GDP increases to 7.0 per cent by 2005. Foreign exchange requirements increase from 1.9 per cent in 1985 to 4.4 per cent by 2005. In each case, the sharp increase will require that financial resources be transferred to the energy sector from other sectors which will also demand more capital and foreign exchange.

Reducing the intensity of energy use as illustrated in Scenario 2, restrains the growth of carbon emissions to 340 million tonnes. Since this reduction is achieved primarily through cost-effective efficiency improvement, the cost of abatement is negative. The Indian economy benefits from restraining carbon emissions growth. The scenario captures the many opportunities available to use electricity more efficiently, which reduces investment requirement. However, the opportunities for reducing petroleum products demand are limited, and more difficult to implement, and this is reflected in the 4.2 per cent foreign exchange to GDP ratio, which changes little from Scenario 1.

Switching to less carbon-intensive fuels (Scenario 3) can reduce emissions further than in Scenario 2. This result is achieved through either the import of natural gas as illustrated in Case 1 or through the use of renewables as illustrated in Case 2. Renewables include the use of wind, solar, hydro and biomass resources. Natural gas imports increase the ratio of foreign exchange to GDP to 4.8 per cent while reducing the investment needs. Increased use of renewables drives up the investment requirement sharply to 6.2 per cent of GDP. Restraining emissions beyond what might be achieved through efficient fuel allocation and use would increase either capital investment or hard currency requirements.

The unit cost of conserved carbon rises from Scenario 1 to Scenario 3 as more expensive approaches are used to curtail carbon emissions (Table 8.5). By conducting alternate runs of Scenario 2 and placing progressively tighter constraints on carbon emissions, the cost of conserving carbon at levels between those in Scenarios 2 and 3 were determined. For example, the cost of conserved carbon is US$0.02 per kilogram when emissions are reduced from 340 million to 300 million tonnes.

Table 8.5 Unit cost of conserved carbon, India

Carbon emissions Unit cost of conserved carbon
(million tonnes) (1985 USS/kg)
390-340 -0.27
340-300 0.02
300-280 0.05

The Scenario 3 costs of restraining carbon emissions are lower than those for Scenario 1. This implies that India can reduce carbon emissions at a net benefit to the economy, and the energy sector would therefore not require any new resources to reduce emissions. Scenario 3 costs compared to Scenario 2 are between 1 and 11 billion dollars higher. Many energy efficiency improvements are embedded in Scenario 2. Thus, if India's energy sector were to become more efficient, this analysis implies that it would need additional resources to reduce emissions. Which of the two paths (Scenarios 1 or 2) India takes to provide energy services will determine whether resources need to be transferred to or away from the energy sector, and consequently whether the nation would be justified in seeking resources from the world.

Restraining emissions from energy use in India will require that fuel allocation and energy efficiency be improved to their maximum potential. The scenario analysis shown in Table 8.4 includes many opportunities for improving efficiency of electricity use and supply. Additional measures to improve oil use efficiency would have further reduced the FE/GDP ratios shown in Table 8.4. What approaches might have yielded a more efficient use of oil in India? Four important shifts in strategy could be implemented:

1 a shift in long-haul freight movement from road to rail in order to reflect the economic cost of transportation for each mode;
2 a shift in cooking fuel from kerosene to LPG to encourage the use of more efficient stoves;
3 electrification of non-electrified households which would reduce kerosene consumed for lighting;
4 replacement of diesel pumpsets with electric pumpsets.

These four strategies would have reduced demand for oil in the scenarios between 1980 and 1990 by 14.4 per cent. More importantly these steps would have reduced by 5 million tons the demand for kerosene and diesel, the two critical middle-distillates which are imported. The result of four strategies would be a reduction of the 1985 FE/GDP ratio of 1.9 per cent in Table 8.4 to 1.3 per cent. If we assume that similar improvement may be achieved by 2005, then the ratio for Scenario 2 would fall to 2.9 per cent from 4.2 per cent. A lower share of GDP allocated to importing oil would make the fuel import payment more manageable.

Strategies 3 and 4 would increase demand for electricity which would add to investment requirements shown in Table 8.4 for 2005. As we pointed out above, there are many options to improve efficiency of electricity use that are easily implementable. The options for improving efficiency of oil use involve a diverse set of actors which make them difficult to implement. For some end uses, such as lighting, electricity use is more efficient than oil use. Shifting to electricity in such selected end-uses would improve a nation's energy efficiency. Further, since improving system efficiency for electricity may be easier than for oil, increased electricity demand from strategies 3 and 4 could be better controlled.

In light of the cost, capital investment and foreign exchange parameters, to what extent can India restrain carbon emissions from modern energy use? Stabilization of emissions or limiting their increase to 20 per cent over a 20year period has been discussed for the industrialized countries. Analyses show that this goal could be achieved without a net loss of GDP in some of the countries. The Energy Modelling Forum-12 in its deliberations on scenarios assumed that restraining emissions growth to a 50 per cent increase over a 20year period was plausible for the developing countries.

In contrast, Scenario 3 in Table 8.4 shows that, at best, emissions for 2005 could be held to 155 per cent (280 compared to 110 million tonnes) above the 1985 level. Further reduction in emissions would reduce annual GDP growth from the 4.9 per cent assumed in Table 8.4. Indeed, we estimate that to achieve the 50 per cent limit suggested by EMF-12 would require that the current pattern of unsatisfied energy demand continue in the future and that India's annual GDP growth be limited to 3 per cent. Most probably, these requirements would be unacceptable to India.

Emissions and sequestration from forest biomass

Forests, defined as woodlands with more than 10 per cent crown cover, occupy about 20 per cent of the Indian land area. This proportion may be compared with 57 per cent for heavily forested Indonesia and Malaysia. Deforestation has led to a major decline in forest area in most countries; India is no exception. About one-fifth of the forests standing today are extremely degraded. Half a million hectares or 0.8 per cent of total forest area was deforested in 1986. The primary conversion activity in India is agriculture followed by pasture and harvesting. The primary conversion activities vary by region. In the state of Karnataka, conversion to agricultural land accounts for 33 per cent, but submergence and resettlement due to power and irrigation projects account for 42 per cent, and mining for 21 per cent of the lost forest area between 1956 and 1984.

Table 8.6 shows the carbon emissions from India associated with deforestation. These are divided into three categories: inherited, prompt and delayed. Inherited emissions are caused by past forest activities and occur in the base year. Prompt emissions are those that are generated immediately as a result of a forest conversion activity. Delayed are cumulative emissions that take place over time as decomposition of biomass occurs. Releases of carbon dioxide due to changes in soil organic carbon, both from forest conversion activities and areas under harvesting and afforestation programmes, are also included here.

The committed emissions displayed in Table 8.6 have been much debated. An earlier World Resources Institute estimate placed these emissions at 140 million tons. More recent estimates from other sources place the committed emissions closer to the figure in Table 8.6.

In the section above on energy, we discussed the potential and economics of restraining emissions from that sector. Growing biomass offers an opportunity to sequester carbon which would reduce net emissions from India. What is the potential for such offsets and to what extent might it be achieved while simultaneously pursuing or accelerating currently planned socio-economic development?

The development of agro-forestry and tree plantations on previously unforested lands can provide India with options to reduce its net emissions. The biomass density and carbon accumulation of new forests can exceed those of the initial natural vegetation depending on the silvicultural practices. In addition, afforestation projects can provide gainful employment to rural peasants who formerly earned their living through activities resulting in deforestation.

India has a strong, rapidly growing afforestation programme. India's afforestation process was accelerated by the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 which aimed to stop forest clearing and degradation through a strict, centralized control of land-use rights. The afforestation activities resulted in a total of 11.5 million hectares as of 1986. Another 5.6 million more hectares were afforested between 1986 and 1989, raising the total planted area to 17.1 million hectares.

In Table 8.6, we show the carbon uptake, the annual carbon balance and the net committed emissions from India. The committed carbon uptake is almost twice as large as India's committed emissions. Over the years, the country would sequester 56 million tonnes of carbon from past afforestation activities. This figure is sufficiently large to make a dent in the emissions from the energy sector. The annual carbon balance in Table 8.6 shows a net uptake of 5 million tonnes from forestry activities. Combining this figure with emissions from energy shown in Table 8.4 would reduce emissions from modern energy and forestry to 105 million tonnes of net carbon emissions.

Table 8.6 India's forestry related carbon emissions and uptake, 7986

Carbon emissions (MtC) Carbon uptake (MtC) Annual carbon balance (MtC/year)a (9) = (1) + (2) - (5) - (6) Net committed emissions (MtC) (10) = (4) - (8)
Inheriteda (1) Prompt (2) Delayed (3) Committed (4) = (2) + (3) Inherited (5) Prompt (6) Delayed (7) Committed (8) = (6) + (7)
26 38 26 64 68.8 n.a. 120.0 120.0 -5 -56

a Inherited emissions for India were calculated using historic average deforestation rates for the past ten years.
Source: Makundi, W. Sathaye, J and Masera, 1992. Carbon Emissions and Sequestration in Forests: Case Studies from Seven Developing Countries, Volume
1: Summary, August, LBL Draft Report LBL-32119.

These figures have important implications for future carbon emissions from India. The carbon sequestration occurred and is occurring through programmes with the main goal of promoting sustainable rural socioeconomic development. Carbon sequestration is an unintended consequence of these actions. Given the potential for reducing net carbon emissions from India, the various factors that have contributed to this sequestration are worth noting. They include:

1 establishment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980;
2 preparation of an environmental impact statement required with the beginning of the Fifth Five-Year Plan of 1975-80;
3 reduction of subsidies to forest-based industries beginning in the late 1970s;
4 increased industry-farmer links which have encouraged production of tree crops;
5 decentralized political decision making - village and district level authorities have been established in West Bengal and Karnataka, for example, that are far more motivated to ensure the prudent use of local resources;
6 growth of strong environmental movements in different parts of the country;
7 biomass fuel conservation programmes in all the states.

Strengthening these programmes would enhance carbon sequestration and accelerate rural development. As Saxena points out in a recent article, implementation of programmes will benefit some groups at the expense of others within India. Most of the programmes proposed in the article, such as welfare forestry on forest lands, social security plantation, farm forestry for the poor, etc. will benefit the rural poor and the rich at the expense of lower level officials. However, not pursuing such programmes will make everyone lose in the long run.

Favourable scenarios have projected a net carbon uptake from forests in 2011 to be 121 million tons. Interpolating between the base year, 1986, and 2011 gives a net uptake of 57 million tons in 2005. Thus, forests could offset India's modern energy related carbon emissions shown in Scenario 2, Table 8.4, by 17 per cent in 2005. India's net emissions from these two sources would be reduced to 283 million tons in 2005. This outcome would be achieved at no additional cost to those shown in Scenario 2. Further, given the exponentially higher sequestration potential for 2011, forests could offset as much as 25 per cent of the energy emissions in 2011.

Biomass use

Carbon is stored away or released when the biomass from a tree is utilized. The type of use and its duration determine the net carbon emissions. A tree burnt for the purpose of land clearing will release most of its biomass immediately. A tree providing lumber used to make buildings will store carbon away for decades. What is the best use of trees in order to sequester carbon?

Hall, Mynick and Williams point out that while sequestering carbon in forests is a relatively low-cost strategy for offsetting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, substantially greater benefits can be obtained by displacing fossil fuel with biomass grown sustainably and transformed into useful energy using modern energy conversion technologies. Biomass substituted for coal can be as effective as carbon sequestration, per ton of biomass, in reducing carbon emissions. However, fuel substitution can be carried out indefinitely, while carbon sequestration can be effective only until the forest reaches maturity. Also, greater biomass resources can be committed to fossil fuel substitution at any given time than to carbon sequestration because biomass (such as sugarcane bagasse) can be obtained from sources other than new forests. Thus, biomass can play a much larger role in reducing greenhouse warming by displacing fossil fuel than by sequestering carbon. Moreover, biomass energy is potentially less costly than the displaced fuel energy in a wide range of circumstances, so that the net cost of displacing carbon dioxide emissions would often be negative.


India's carbon emissions are likely to grow in the future because of the increasing energy and food consumption needed to support a growing economy. However, strengthening the ongoing afforestation programmes, increasing energy efficiency, and prudent use of renewable options in selected applications have the potential to offset a significant portion of the GHG emissions.

Implementing the three types of options will not be easy. Energy and forest products consumption and supply patterns, and forest land use are shaped by a large number of actors at various levels. Improving resource allocation and use patterns will require action at the national and international levels. Reddy has outlined many barriers to energy efficiency improvement. Similar barriers exist to increased afforestation and renewable energy use. Energy consumers are often uninformed, first-cost sensitive, indifferent and helpless to improve efficiency. National institutions are supply-based, with little incentive to innovate. The government is uninterested, is short of capital and skills, has inadequate training facilities and limited access to hardware and software. Energy efficiency agencies are relatively powerless compared to their supply counterparts or they are part of the supply agency and therefore have no incentive to reduce demand for their product.

Further, bilateral and multilateral aid agencies target the supply aspects of energy systems with inadequate attention to demand-side measures. Other issues, such as an anti-innovation attitude, the large-is-convenient funder and the project-mode sponsor contribute to the lack of attention to the three options.

Many of the barriers listed above arise because there is no incentive for the various actors to behave differently. Concern about climate change can provide this incentive. The establishment of the GEF and the growing attention being paid to environmental issues at the World Bank is a positive sign which will alter future lending practices of multi-lateral institutions. Increased attention to environmental issues holds out the hope that these and other similar institutions will begin to address the concerns of the poor, and not just those of the elite, in the developing countries. For example, dislocation of rural populations caused by building the Sardar Sarovar dam, coal mines and afforestation schemes are being discussed and addressed. Concern about climate change can improve on this dimension by explicitly developing projects which provide sustainable solutions to meet the energy, food, water and other needs of the poor. These projects will halt deforestation and/or lead to increased greening of rural areas in India.

Our analysis suggests that if India pursues basic-needs oriented development with emphasis on end-use efficiency, decentralized renewables and afforestation programmes, then its carbon emissions growth will slow and its economy will improve more rapidly. Simultaneously, it is in the interest of the developed countries to fund India's incremental costs of switching to less carbon-intensive technologies. Such technologies represent the most cost-effective path to economic development. For perhaps the first time in history, the interests of the developing world are aligned with those of the industrialized countries creating an unprecedented paradigm for future human development. More importantly, many of the measures to implement the three options have the potential to improve the condition of the poor in the developing countries. Efficient energy use and selected renewable options have been successfully demonstrated as necessary means to provide better water supply, lighting and fertilizer, which has fostered rural development. Afforestation in India, through natural regeneration programmes, directly aids rural villagers.

Concern about the shared global problem of climate change offers a unique opportunity to align the interests of the developed and developing countries, rich and poor. While competition and dissimilar goals have often frustrated and defeated cooperative ventures, climate change offers a common incentive for collective action. Pursuing the socio-economic development goals of the South is consistent with the environmental goals of the North, and provides joint benefits to economy and ecology that are in the shared interests of all.


1 IPCC (1992). 1992 IPCC Supplement. February

2 Ibid

3 Hall, D, Mynick, H and Williams, R (1991). 'Cooling the Greenhouse with Biomass Energy'. Nature, September 5; Hall, D, Mynick, H and Williams, R (1991).'Alternative Roles for Biomass in Coping with Greenhouse Warming'. Science and Global Security, Volume 2, pp 1-39

4 Reddy, A (1991).'Barriers to Improvements in Energy Efficiency'. Energy Policy, December, pp 953-961

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