African countries can benefit in carbon trading by “rewarding the carbon absorbers and punishing the carbon emitters’’

Posted on September 1, 2013 08:39 am

Experts define carbon trading as a transaction of verified carbon credits whereby a company or organization can buy greenhouse gas credits whenever its carbon emissions quota is fully spent. In developed world and emerging markets, credits are bought in a government created carbon market by fossil fuel industries in order to offset the carbon they emit in excess of their carbon allowance. In many cases, companies that yield less carbon than the amount they are allowed to emit can sell credits to companies that exceed their carbon emission limits. According to a researcher in environmental matters I spoke to recently, carbon trading is categorized into two. One is the industry compliance and the other is for voluntary offsetting. In Europe, North America and Asia pacific regular flyers can individually buy credits to offset their carbon footprint. Generally, carbon offsetting is related to carbon trading, a plan that has stirred acrimony as a means of reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere, which is said to fuel global warming according to scientists. I strongly believe that governments imposed limit should be placed on the amount of carbon an industrial plant can emit in a given trading period.

With a cap and trade mechanism, however, industries in Africa can get around this limit through offsetting excess carbon by buying carbon credits. Carbon trading could be the best incentive to save carbon-rich forests in Africa like Congo forest in Central Africa, Mabira Forest in Uganda, Mau Forest in Kenya among others. By protecting its vast tropical forests, African countries can earn a lot of carbon credits it can sell. One way African economies can conserve their forests and become a carbon vendor is through initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Measuring carbon is at the core of carbon trading business and accuracy in calculating the carbon content in forested areas like Congo forest is imperative. For African countries to benefit, they should ensure compliance with measuring, reporting and verifying standards. I also think that high technology tools such as satellite imaging and computer modeling should be used to measure carbon stocks in Africa and not through rudimentary means. To those unaware, measuring reduced emissions, is technically referred to as  “avoided deforestation” and involves a process where credits are counted. Such credits could end up being sold in thriving international carbon market.

From the perspective of ‘global warming’, the majority of African countries have conveniently forgotten the contribution of greening the environment. Research shows that as the tree grows and during their lifespan, they absorb the harmful and dangerous carbon dioxide in a process known as ‘photosynthesis’. Unfortunately, in Africa such efforts have not recognized neither has there been any kind of reward for green practices across the continent. At the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit held in 2009, African leaders in attendance pledged to play a role in reducing global warming by pledging to reduce carbon emissions with continent’s biggest polluter South Africa expected to lead the way. Despite the promise, deforestation continues unabated and if the trend of reduced tree hectarages continues, Africa capability to absorb the carbon emissions will be greatly reduced. However, African governments can help reverse this trend by implementing programmes that are geared towards arresting the alarming developments. Tree farmers in Africa are doing a great favour to the continent and this has long gone unrewarded by stakeholders.

Organizations like French oil giant Total have been at the forefront in promoting tree planting initiatives in African countries and but I think time has come for governments to step in and provide better incentives for existing smallholders in tree farming and make an effort in persuading others to return to growing trees. One incentive could be for governments to create green carbon grants to the existing trees replanting. In Africa, many businesses in energy, industrial and transport sectors leads in emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burning fossil fuels. I do not know of any of such companies that have been penalized for polluting the environment and studies after studies have shown that they do so with impunity. Me think African governments can call upon these polluters to financially contribute to a carbon fund that can then distribute the money to green industries that have a net Carbon Dioxide absorption capacity. Africa scientists should seriously consider studying the implementation of a carbon trading regimes. If this is realized then the key actors will be able to sell their carbon credits to carbon-emitting industries. Africa has to plan ways and means to ensure the strategic contribution of keeping the world greener. I believe the concept of “rewarding the carbon absorbers and punishing the carbon emitters’ in Africa has to be agreed upon in principle by the governments and the key stakeholders before benefits of carbon trading can be achieved.

Contador Harrison