Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 2, 2008 - Carbon Credits in Kampala

If you read all of our blogs and have a good memory you may recall that earlier this year I took some consultants from a company called EcoSecurities around Kenya to do what they call a feasibility study. We had a great trip, were stopped by elephants in the middle of the road and met with some local rural woman to whom I still owe a water borehole.

Anyway, last week was the follow up workshop/training in Kampala, Uganda. As the carbon focal point for the Kenya Country Office of WFP, I went to Kampala assisted by my Kenyan colleague Bernhard from our emergency operation.

The flight itself was great. I had a window seat and the sun was setting during the 1 hour flight. I could see Mount Kenya most of the way there, quite interesting how you normally look down at things from an airplane but Mount Kenya stood stall and was almost at the same altitude as the plane. Lake Victoria is beautiful with many small islands and when I walked down the stairs from the plane I was greeted with hot humid air and a view if the sun setting over the lake.

We stayed at a nice hotel in the city and the workshop was prepared and executed by a professional team from EcoSecurities; the company has officers around the world but these guys were from Oxford, England. I was very active in the workshop which was quite dense in content: this carbon credit business is fairly complicated. I presented for my group and it was the first time in my life that I wasn’t nervous before giving a presentation. My exposure to things like this is just so common to me now that I haven gotten used to it: Great!

So what is it all about? In 1995, developed countries agree to reduce their emissions (pollution) and sign an agreement in the city of Kyoto in Japan: hence the name The Kyoto Protocol. The countries that ratified the protocol have to lower their emissions a bit below their 1990 levels. If the country finds it more cost-effective, it can choose to lower emissions in another country. Say Denmark can’t meet its target, we can then buy credit from, say, Germany which has lower emissions or we can install solar panels or plant trees in Germany to meet our targets. The Green house effect doesn’t discriminate so it doesn’t matter where you off set the emissions. But there is another mechanism, the so-called Clean Development Mechanism, which allows a country which has ratified the Kyoto Protocol to buy the credits from a less-developed country. That is where the World Food Programme comes in. If we can prove that we will off-set emissions we would then be eligible for Carbon Credits (Money). So if we plant trees or install energy-saving stoves through our programmes, we can apply for these credits. But the process is expensive, very technical and long term. In most cases the credits would only amount to 10-20% of the investment (for us) and you have to off-set the carbon before you are reimbursed, so there are many challenges. However, there is no doubt that this will be big in the future and I’m sure we will do it eventually, and since I am the focal point it is my responsibility that it is carried out, or at least in initiated, in Kenya. I’ll present to the heads of all of our units this coming week.

Hopefully the USA will ratify Kyoto soon, as it would be a huge boost for the market and the fight against global warming. At the last global meeting in Bali, the USA was told to either cooperate or GET OUT OF THE WAY! Which is now a famous quote from that meeting. Europe is now the world leader on the carbon front, and even the farmers in Kenya have noticed that the climate is changing. The rain patterns have changed and are not as reliable as they used to be. So come on America, this is affecting us all! I sometimes wonder if Baby Simba will ever forgive us for the mess we are creating on our planet right now.

And to the no-climate change believers: go to school, because you must clearly be illiterate. Yet another massive study was released this week, confirming that climate change is man-made. However, having read both the Danish and American news for quite some time now, I must say that those studies rarely make it to the US media.

What can you do? To quote Nicolas Stern, when he was asked this question at a presentation I attended at the World Bank two years ago: “The most effective thing an individual can do is to become a vegetarian!” Nicolas Stern is a former vice president of the World Bank who released a massive study for the UK government under Tony Blair a few years ago.

Ok…I’ll get off my soap-box now!

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