In the last 30 years, India has spent around INR 360 crores on Project Tiger. That’s roughly 12 crores per annum (= USD 3 million).
The $ 3 million is distributed across 19 tiger reserves spread over 30,000 sq. Km. This $3 million is utilized on salary of employees, relocation costs, spreading awareness, procuring equipment and lastly to save the tiger.
Last year Goldman Sachs paid close to $4 million aggregate to 40 freshly minted B-School graduates. Many of you work with large MNC corporate. Put your hand in your hearts, and admit to yourselves, the fringe benefits and expenses the company spends on you will shoot over $4 million!
My reason for putting forth these facts is to build a case about the economics of Tiger Conservation. I am now convinced about economics being the saviour of the tiger. Perhaps fellow forum members from B-school can pitch in with their views / counterviews after going through the thread.
In my last thread on “Vote bank politics”, I spoke about the lackadaisical attitude of the current political parties & people towards wildlife conservation. You cannot blame people; a middle-class family or a farmer faces a thousand problems just to survive. Moreover, everybody is running out of time.
In this age of instant noodles, instant karma, instant relief, instant gratification, people expect instant solution. Unfortunately, conservation cannot be instant. Even if we try to expedite, it require huge outlay of capital.
This thread is about raising $ 2 billion solely for tiger conservation. First step, make Tiger conservation a public-private initiative (PPI). Create a Tiger fund (audited by big 4 accounting firms). I will write more about this PPI in a subsequent thread.
Let me talk about the capital first.
Carbon Credit & the Tiger:
Kyoto Agreement is a landmark in climate control of sorts. A company (registered in a country that is a Kyoto protocol signatory) has two ways to reduce emissions. One, it can reduce greenhouse gases by adopting new technology or improving upon the existing technology to attain the new norms for emission of gases. Alternatively, it can tie up with developing nations and help them set up new technology that is eco-friendly, thereby helping developing country or its companies 'earn' credits.
Therefore, carbon credit (like any trade) has a buyer and a seller. The seller is India. We have this advantage because we are a developing country. Any company, factories, individual in India can get linked to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and know the 'standard' level of carbon emission allowed for its outfit or activity. The extent to which I am emitting less carbon (as per standard fixed by UNFCCC), is the amount of credit I accrue. This is called carbon credit.
These credits are bought over by the companies of developed countries -- mostly Europeans -- because the United States has not signed the Kyoto Protocol.
Let me simplify it further; I own a thermal power plant. My plant burns coal to generate electricity. Coal is carbon. Let us assume, every year I release 20 tonnes of CO2. Suddenly enlightenment dawns upon me and I install energy efficient machinery. This immediately reduces my CO2 emission; say it is 16 tonnes now. This 4 tonne difference is carbon credit. UNFCCC has frameworks that can covert this 4 tonnes to money.
My contention is to use carbon credits to save forests (tiger habitat).
Deforestation is cutting down / burning a section of stable forest ecosystem for constructing houses, agriculture, pastureland etc. Recent statistics show that deforestation contributes about 20 percent of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide and methane from clearing and burning forests. Mind you, stable forests are crucial water catchments and act as lungs for the planet by soaking up vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.
Hence, the aim of this scheme is saving remaining tracts of stable forests by paying national and local private-public initiatives to keep them standing and undisturbed. The payment, via the sale of carbon credits, would reflect the value of carbon stored in the forests.
Estimates vary but this could yield between 3 billion dollars and 10 billion dollars a year in funds for the developing world, with forest based carbon credits fetching 4 to 10 dollars a ton.
Challenges: There are various potential challenges. The most obvious is how do I put a value to the carbon content (meaning tonnage) of a forest? Ideally, I have to do a census of all the trees / scrubs in the forest, estimate their weights and thus calculate the carbon tonnage. It is definitely a gargantuan task! A much simpler way (thanks to ISRO) is to do a spectral mapping of the forest terrain by satellite and use statistics to estimate the carbon tonnage.
Another risk is that of destruction. What if fire breaks in the forest? What if tribal population encroach upon forestland mass? With USD 10 billion at stake, the governing body could use innovative insurance schemes to “cover” forest from such damages. With forests now having an economic value and being treated as an asset, I would not be surprised if European companies regularly audit the forests (definitely a welcome change). With reference to human encroachment, the forest body has to utilize its huge capital in effective & complete relocation in addition to imparting other vocational trainings (topic of another detailed thread).
The last risk is that of sheer economics. Tomato prices go down when the supply is excessive and the demand is flat. The same could be with the Indian forests carbon creditworthiness. What if China (with its well-oiled propaganda machinery) also floods the market with their “carbon credits”?
Sadly, the emoticons provided here, do not have a smug smile emoticon!
My answer to that is the Tiger.
Definition of a stable, healthy forest ecosystem is a healthy, happy, uninterrupted tiger population!
A tiger is not just another wild beast; it’s everything – from the largest tree to the smallest insect to everything in-between.
So why just sell the proposition of a "Forest'. Let us sell the "Tiger Forest". This brings to my mind, the creation of a “Tiger Credit Fund”! Any ideas as to how we can put it in action? Where are the B-schools grads when we need them most?