India Focuses on Forestry in Fight Against Climate Change

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India’s Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, unveiled a plan to protect Indian forests, stating that preventing additional deforestation and increasing afforestation are key parts of India’s strategy to fight climate change. Ramesh said in comments to AFP: “we are amongst the few countries in the world who are not just stopping deforestation but are actually increasing forestation. Countries like India must get adequate credit for increasing its forest cover that absorbs greenhouse gases.” 

According to AFP, India has established a forest management fund with an initial budget of USD 2.5 billion. Also, there will be annual funding of USD 1 billion for “forestry-related services.” India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests says forests cover 20 percent of Indian territory or 65 million hectares. The Wall Street Journal noted that India’s forest cover “neutralizes more than 11% of India’s total greenhouse-gas emissions at 1994 levels — equivalent to 100% of emissions from all energy in the residential and transport sectors, or 40% of total emissions from the agriculture sector.” The Wall Street Journal added that India is one of the few developing countries where the forest cover has increased over time.

India has low per-capita C02 emissions in comparison with the U.S. and Western European countries, but the size of its population make it a major player in climate change talks, along with China, the world’s number-one Co2 emittter, and Brazil and Indonesia, major sources of CO2 emissions from deforestation. India also produces a large amount of black carbon or soot, which travel from local wood-burning stoves into the atmosphere, where it absorbs heat, or falls on ice, speeding melting. (see earlier post). Ramesh was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying: “In the last 60 years, 45% of the variation in our GDP growth has been because of variations in rainfall. We are therefore acutely conscious of what will happen to different parts of India because of climate change.”

India is increasingly under pressure from the U.S. and Europe to limit Co2 emissions and sign on to aggressive emission reduction targets at the UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting in December. Climate change and U.S.-India cooperation on renewable energy and green building technology transfer and capacity-building were the main focus areas of a recent trip to India by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern (see earlier post). Some commentators saw little progress on the issue during recent discussions in India — in fact, going as far to add that the talks didn’t go well.

Read the article and India’s report, “India’s Forest and Tree Cover: Contribution as a Carbon Sink.”

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