Kochi , May 15
IT may not be the latex alone that the rubber growers are selling in future. They could well be trading in the amount of carbon dioxide their trees have absorbed.
The Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) has started a project to assess the carbon absorption capabilities of rubber plants, which can be encashed as per the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.
The RRII is now trying to work out how much carbon can be sequestrated by one hectare of rubber plantation, said Dr N.M. Mathew, Director of the Institute, in an interview to Business Line.
"Rubber plants have very high carbon assimilation capacity. We have found that in the growing phase, this is more," Dr Mathew said.
Once the carbon sequestration per hectare is quantified, and necessary approvals are obtained, rubber plantations can pitch for funding from developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This in a way would help farmers raise funds to develop plantations till the trees are ready for tapping. It takes 6-7 years for a rubber tree to start yielding latex.
The Protocol mandates developed countries to bring down green house gas emissions to five per cent below the levels prevailed in 1992. One of the three mechanisms the Protocol has put in place is called the clean development mechanism (CDM).
Under the CDM, developed countries can contribute to environment-friendly projects in developing and least-developed countries. One tonne of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent of other gases such as methane) thus reduced from the atmosphere through a CDM project is called certified emission reduction (CER).
Countries that have the emission reduction obligations can trade in CERs and use them to partially meet their targets. Currently one CER is priced at about 5-8 euros and the price is expected to rise. India has the maximum number of CDM projects - 54 - now on.
Dr Mathew said natural rubber plantation could qualify for CDM projects, given the trees' ability to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Also, many activities related to rubber such as production of biogas from rubber processing effluents and production of bio-diesel from rubber seeds can also be eligible for CDM funding.
"Any technological innovation in the primary processing and product manufacturing in the commercial plantations and forestry sectors that improves the energy use efficiency over the existing level is eligible for CDM funding," he said. Also, use of rubber wood as alternative source of timber and firewood may also qualify for funding.
However, it may be at least two years away before the first CDM project in the rubber sector becomes a reality. Dr Mathew said once the research work to quantify the carbon sequestration is over, the findings and proposals have to be approved by the CDM executive board of the UNFCCC.
Meanwhile, the RRII is planning to spread awareness about the CDM through workshops, Dr Mathew said.