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CASH FROM CARBON

By Tyre Asia News Bureau

Markets for trading carbon emission credits are still evolving. Regulations are being put in place all over the world to encourage it as it can help contribute to reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. An authority on the subject Dr Lakshman Rodrigo, Additional Director of the Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka (RRISL), says promotion of rubber cultivation for carbon markets has not been sufficient to make a real impact. To derive the full advantage of carbon trading, the eminent scientist and winner of ten awards – including six presidential awards and two other prestigious ones in Sri Lanka – suggests rubber cultivation along with energy projects. As the cost of building carbon projects limits an individual farmer or manufacturer to reap its full benefits, small projects should be bundled, he says in the first part of an exclusive interview.

All over the world under the green initiatives, governments are introducing new laws or fine-tuning existing regulations to encourage carbon trading. The markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are expanding worldwide. Under the Kyoto Protocol, signatory countries are eyeing carbon markets, renewable energy incentives and carbon taxes to reduce GHG emissions.

Experts say carbon sequestration, which involves capture and storage of carbon, should be promoted through incentives to reduce carbon emissions. Here, forests have a key role to play in climate change mitigation through emission reduction, sequestration and substitution.

Being a tree crop with over 20 years of economic lifespan and five metres (upper limit) height, rubber has an entitlement to be a forest plantation. The eligibility comes under Aforestation and Reforestation categories of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Rubber plantations can help mitigate climate change through fixing atmospheric CO2 as biomass.

Climate change has occurred mainly due to accumulation of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere, says eminent scientist Dr Lakshman Rodrigo, Additional Director of the Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka (RRISL). “More carbon is emitted to the atmosphere than what is taken away,” he said in an interview.

“There are two options available to mitigate climate change effect,” he said pointing out that one is reduction in the rate of emission of CO2 or other GHGs and second, increase in the rate of removal. Basically, the latter option is what rubber plantations do.

Through photosynthesis, atmospheric CO2 is sequestered and fixed in biomass. Rubber plantations have been ever fixing CO2. “So in order to reduce atmospheric CO2 level, we need to prove that it fixes additional amount of CO2 than what is fixed before, i.e. ‘additionality’ over the business as usual. Is it happening?”

Dr Rodrigo, a PhD from the University of Wales, is known for his leadership in expanding rubber cultivation to non-traditional areas of Sri Lanka, particularly in the conflict-affected Eastern and Northern regions. His research has contributed to the fields of farming systems, latex harvesting, besides climate change. He is credited with developing several intercropping systems particularly for rubber cultivation and has developed Low Intensity Harvesting systems to increase worker use efficiency and curb high levels of bark consumption rates.

Cropping cycle

Having a short-term cropping cycle, most of atmospheric CO2 fixed in seasonal crops is evolved back to the atmosphere quickly through decomposition. Even shrub lands are subjected to frequent fire hazards or other disturbances as people try to use those for hunting or ad hoc agriculture practices. Unlike seasonal/short-term crops, fixing CO2 in the rubber tree biomass is rather long-term, Dr Rodrigo said.

Full Interview in PTA June/July issue

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