Carbon Markets Need to Help the Poor

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global carbon credit trading schemes emanating from the Kyoto Protocol have created a multi-billion dollar market – the global carbon market was worth US $30 billion in 2007 (World Bank) – and represents one of the fastest growing business opportunities in the world. The bulk of this trading is with the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, some US $25 billion. But the big problem to date has been most of this investment is enriching stock brokers, and not the poor.

And this is a huge opportunity missed, as some point out: “These numbers are relevant because they demonstrate that the carbon market has become a valuable catalyst for leveraging substantial financial flows for clean energy in developing countries,” according to Warren Evans, the World Bank’s director of environment.

And the way to do this is through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – where wealthy countries can meet their greenhouse gas targets by investing in clean energy projects in the South. But so far, it has been criticised for spending 4.6 billion Euros on projects that would have cost just 100 million Euros if implemented by development agencies.

But if done right, the CDM could become directly beneficial to the so-called Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) – the four billion who live on less than US $2 a day. The CDM allows developed countries to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by paying projects targeting the poor to develop clean energy, or to create what are called carbon sinks (planting trees for example), to cut global emissions.

One mechanism to make all of this work is the CDM Bazaar: officially launched in September 2007, it is about linking together buyers and sellers. This is a place where people with business ideas or projects can go for start-up funding. It is also a place to share information, contacts and learn about how to tap the market.

And two Southern innovators are showing what can be achieved by tapping the power of the sun to help the poor.

One such initiative In India, owned by Mr. Deepak Gadhia and Dr Mrs. Shirin Gadhia, is targeting the 63 per cent of the BOP market that is with rural populations. All of these people need affordable and clean energy if their lives are to improve: most currently use firewood and kerosene for cooking and heating. The company Gadhia Solar is building and selling solar steam cook stoves in rural villages. The giant solar dishes which resemble satellite TV dishes, can fry and roast using the sun and come in Do-it-Yourself kits. The enormous silver dishes beam concentrated sunlight on to a black plate on the oven, reaching temperatures of over 450 Celsius.

In Morocco, the company Tenesol, an electric supply co-operative society, is using solar power to bring electricity to 60,000 poor households in 29 provinces. And it is making Morocco a world leader in the use of solar for rural electricity.

Each house is equipped with a solar home system comprising a solar panel, battery and controller. It is powerful enough to light four to eight lamps, and support a television, radio or mobile phone charger.

Customers pay a connection fee of US $80, and then a monthly service fee of between US $7.50 and US $17.50. The fee competes well with what rural households were spending on candles and batteries.

The initial outlay for equipment is mostly paid for by investors, with the hope that the money will be made back on the service fees.

Tenesol hopes to bring electricity to 101,500 households, and also wire them up and provide light bulbs.

Resources

  • More on emissions trading: Click here
  • UNDP has produced a free users guide introduction to the Clean Development Mechanism.
    Website: http://www.undp.org/
  • South South North has also produced a Practitioners’ Practical Toolkit.
    Website: http://www.cdmguide.com/