India would soon launch the 'National Mission for a Green India' which, among other objectives, is aimed at increasing the country's forest cover by 10 million hectares by 2020.
The National Mission for a Green India is one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change launched by the Indian Prime Minister in June, 2008. The mission aims at accelerating afforestation and eco-restoration efforts through various technical and financial instruments in order to develop forests as sustainable energy source and carbon sink.
A special working task force would be made under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to implement the mission objectives. The task force would be responsible to increase the forest area to 20 million hectares which would also increase their capacity as carbon sink. Doubling the forest cover would help India offset 6.5% of its total carbon emissions.
Cheapest Carbon Mitigation Technique
Although the mission's cost has been estimated at Rs. 44,000 crore ($9.3 billion), it still is one of the cheapest methods of reducing (or offsetting) carbon emissions. India is committed to reduce its carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit of GDP) by 20 to 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. While the Indian government has been so far successful in ward off international pressure to commit to absolute carbon emissions reductions, it could soon have to agree to mandatory emission reduction targets as the talks for an international climate treaty gain pace.
Achieving reductions in absolute carbon emissions would require deployment of less carbon intensive technologies or expansion of renewable energy technologies. Both of these methods would require tremendous amounts of investments in the financial and technological aspects.
Attracting International Investments
India was one of the proponents of the REDD Plus program which provides financial incentives to the developing and poor countries for not only preventing deforestation but also for reforestation efforts. The ministry plans to make the most of these incentives. A special cell would be created within the mission's directorate to create awareness among the various stakeholders about the REDD Plus program. The cell would also be responsible for chalking out strategies to ensure funding support to various projects through different agencies.
Such a move would reduce relieve the Indian government of significant financial burden and would possibly bring more private investors as the government would like to market the forests as a cheap but effective emission reduction tool to the companies and governments of the developed countries. The REDD Plus program would be a significant add-on to the already flourishing business of Clean Development Mechanism in India.
The Indian government seems to be working on a plan to ensure environmental as well as resource sustainability of the country's forest cover. By marketing the forests as a cheap alternative to the currently expensive and untested carbon-efficient technologies, India would possibly make the developed countries stakeholders in its afforestation efforts thereby reducing the costs and increasing the net benefits.
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.