Aid Agencies Launch Carbon-Offset Program to Benefit Poor Communities in Developing World

Aid Agencies Launch Carbon-Offset Program to Benefit Poor Communities in Developing World

A London-based coalition of aid agencies is launching a carbon-offset program designed to marry emissions savings with help for people living with the effects of climate change, Reuters reports.

Coordinated by the New Economics Foundation and the International Institute for Environment and Development, the international coalition will work to address the concern that existing trade in carbon credits excludes the world's poorest communities, which are most at risk from the impact of global warming. While conventional carbon offsetting has focused mostly on promoting renewable energy, the new program will combine measures to curb carbon dioxide emissions with efforts to enable vulnerable individuals to cope with climate-related problems they are already experiencing.

Over the coming year, the coalition's partners, including UNICEF, Greenpeace, CARE International, and Tr�caire, will test pilot programs in regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are expected to be hardest hit by the effects of climate change. The projects will prioritize adaptation — for example, teaching children in India to swim so they can survive floods — as well as initiatives to curb carbon dioxide emissions, such as providing solar-powered lights.

While the United Nations hopes to raise $86 billion in new financing by 2015 to help the world's poor cope with climate change, governmental support for the effort has been slow to materialize. In the meantime, the market for voluntary carbon trades is growing rapidly, more than tripling between 2006 and 2007 to $331 million.

At the same time, charities have found it difficult to access buyers in the voluntary market, in part because brokers prefer large projects that deliver high volumes of emissions savings. "The transaction costs are quite high for small projects," said Andrew Scott, policy director at Practical Action, which is planning to raise close to $800,000 over five years by selling carbon credits from energy projects in Sudan, Peru, Sri Lana, and Bangladesh. "It is a very slow, time-intensive process for the initial investment, and you do begin to wonder whether it is worth the effort."

Megan Rowling. "Aid Agencies Plan CO2 Offsets That Also Help Poor." Reuters 09/02/2008.