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    South Asia
     Aug 31, 2007
India looks to tap carbon market
By Siddharth Srivastava

NEW DELHI - It is a market expected to grow to US$100 billion in the near future, and Indian firms want to reap some of the benefits.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol allows richer countries to trade their emission-reduction targets with developing countries by buying carbon credits earned by the latter for projects reducing emission of greenhouse gases, those suspected of accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere and trapping the sun's heat, contributing to global warming.

Recent estimates predict that uncontrolled carbon emissions could cost the global economy more than $200 billion annually by

2030 unless the pollution levels are controlled. Environmental group Greenpeace has said that shifting to renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions could save Southeast Asia $80 billion annually.

Indeed, with the Western world (read Europe and Canada, not the United States yet) looking at the CDM seriously, Indian firms do not want to lose out on the business opportunity due to investments in clean technology.

Recently, an Indian firm won the single largest issuance of carbon credits by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which awarded 5.4 million carbon credits to two projects owned by India's JSW Steel. One project was issued 4 million carbon credits, the single biggest credit.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has said that Indian companies may earn almost $4 billion through carbon-credit sales in the near future.

Institutional mechanism
Indeed, an institutional mechanism is quickly emerging in India to take advantage of CDM. This is critical. Given the vast country that is India, it is essential that an organized framework reaches the grassroots level where numerous green projects could be eligible under CDM.

This month, the country's largest lender and oldest bank, the State Bank of India (SBI), tied up with three entities to provide a comprehensive framework for industries to take advantage of CDM projects. State-owned SBI has the largest rural network in the world and exists in places where no private Indian or foreign bank will reach for some time to come. The entities that the bank has tied up with are Pune-based MITCON Consultancy Services, Ecosecurities India Pvt Ltd, and Cantor CO2E India Pvt Ltd.

"SBI proposes to provide a single-point delivery of services related to carbon credits/CDM under the Kyoto Protocol to its customers,'' SBI chairman O P Bhatt said. These would include advisory services and value-added products such as securitization of carbon-credit receivables, delivery guarantees and escrow mechanism for carbon credits, apart from finance to implement CDM projects, he said.

"With so many potential buyers and sellers in this market, counter-party risk can become a key area in carbon-credits trading, and SBI, with its wide Indian and international presence, can play a major role here," he said.

London-based EcoSecurities is a global leader in developing and trading carbon credits and has been expanding its presence in India. It structures and guides projects for reduction of greenhouse-gas emission, acting as the principal intermediary between the projects and the buyers of carbon credits.

CDM consultancy is already a big business in India, with revenues rising substantially over the past couple of years. Following in the footsteps of SBI, India's largest private-sector bank, ICICI Bank Ltd, too announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with MITCON to service firms engaged in the CDM business.

"With global warming becoming a concern worldwide and the industry sensing the need to move on to CDM and green projects, this memorandum will be our platform to facilitate SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to make this movement toward such projects," Sanjeev Mantri, general manager of ICICI Bank, said in a statement.

Last December, the Industrial Development Bank of India Ltd (IDBI) entered a non-exclusive memorandum with Washington-headquartered International Finance Corp, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, to assist Indian companies jointly in CDM projects.

The two financial intermediaries have also been seeking to help companies realize the value of the carbon credits by selling them in global markets.

IDBI has a pool of industrial clients that can seek advice. However, it does not have the kind of exhaustive bridge SBI could be capable of extending. Last October, IDBI entered a similar non-exclusive memo with MITCON and later Germany-based KfW Bankengruppe.

Apart from the banking system, other forums are likely to emerge to help the growth of CDM projects in India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has spoken about the need for India to tap the CDM potential. The federal government has constituted the National CDM Authority to evaluate, review and encourage projects. Many government projects such as the Delhi Metro are looking at the green option to earn carbon revenues.

India's federal Parliament should be looking to legislate within this year whether to permit the Multi-Commodities Exchange (MCX) to trade carbon credits, the bourse's joint managing director Lamon Rutten said in an interview recently. "We hope to get the approval," Rutten said.

The permission to trade carbon credits would enable Mumbai-based MCX to proceed with establishing a platform to buy and sell certified emission reductions (CERs). Countries such as China, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand are looking at various options related to a carbon exchange. Trade in voluntary emission-reduction credits is spreading with new exchange-based initiatives in these countries.

Expectations high
Since carbon trading took off in India two years ago, domestic companies have earned about $500 million from carbon-credit sales, according to consulting firm Ernst & Young. India has cornered nearly 43% of CERs issued so far by the CDM executive board, the highest under the Kyoto Protocol. Seventeen percent of the CERs have been issued to China.

But the expected average annual income from registered projects through 2012 has China (44%) far ahead of India (15%), although India, with 259 projects, leads China (101) in the number of registered projects.

Indian expectations continue to be high. Recently, New Delhi has asked industry to bunch up CDM projects that can be traded in the current $30 billion global carbon-credit market. Because of the small size of CDM projects, Indian companies are unable to cash in the carbon credits, because of procedural costs.

SBI has said analysts peg the global carbon-trading market at $100 billion by 2010, and the Indian carbon market has the potential to supply 30-50% of the projected global market of 700 million CERs by 2012.

According to the director of the Environment and Forest Planning Commission, S K Panigrahi, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand together can earn CERs of Rs10 billion ($244 million) by 2012 if they take to CDM. Orissa alone is capable of earning Rs2.5 billion in the way of CERs, he said. A number of coal-based as well as steel and aluminum units are being set up in eastern India.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist.

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