Kochi: Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) is set to present a “green budget” next month, with an eye on Union government proposals that reward states encouraging afforestation and reducing carbon emissions.
Climate concerns: Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac.
“Incentives will be there for carbon emission reduction with tax benefits for those promoting green technology, improvement of forest cover and use of alternative energy resources,” state finance minister Thomas Isaac told Mint in an interview.
Isaac will present the 2010-11 budget on 5 March as the last table of accounts for the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government before elections to the state assembly next year.
The emission of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” prevents heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere and leads to large-scale climate change—one of the biggest global concerns today.
The minister added that his budget will offer incentives for other measures to mitigate global warming, such as lower power consumption and homestead cultivation.
“The budget will (also) look at improving the tree coverage in the state with measures for afforestation,” Isaac said.
The LDF government is hoping to capitalize on the 13th Finance Commission proposal—approved by the Union cabinet committee last week—to set up a corpus of Rs3,000 crore for states between 2010 and 2015 for promoting afforestation.
Also, the Union environment and forests ministry has said carbon emissions would be brought down by up to 25% by 2020 from 2005 levels.
“We are looking into those provisions to be incorporated in the budget proposals, so that the state can get green dividends,” Isaac said.
The budget will also provide support for desilting dams, Isaac said, adding that state-owned Kerala State Mineral Development Corp. Ltd has already been entrusted with the project.
Only around 1,800MW of power is generated by 24 hydroelectric stations in Kerala, against an installed capacity of at least 4,300MW. Desilting will help raise water storage levels and generate more power. This, in turn, will reduce dependence on other, more polluting sources of power, such as coal-based thermal power plants.
Growing public concern for environment protection as well as popular campaigns against Bt brinjal, forest-submerging dams, and encroachment of forests will help a green budget garner attention, said K.K. George, chairman of the Kochi-based Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Studies.
He added that such a budget would likely be the first of its kind in the country.
Around 29% of Kerala’s total land area, or 2.8 million acres, is forested. Of this, about 1.2 million acres is under rubber cultivation, which acts as a so-called natural carbon sink. The whole country, by comparison, has only 19.5% forest cover.
Natural carbon sinks use up carbon dioxide, thus preventing it from being released into the atmosphere, cutting emissions in the process.
Carbon sequestered during the 21-year life of a matured rubber plantation is 66.47 tonnes per acre. Kerala also has roughly 89,452 acres under tea cultivation and nearly 209,298 acres under coffee. With the shade trees in these plantations, the carbon sequestration is estimated to be roughly one-fourth that from rubber plantations.
George said the Centre should institute a mechanism to create more benefits for states such as Kerala, “which is a net absorber of carbon”.