Why experts aren't happy with Centre's Green Credit Program methodology

One “grown” tree will amount to one Green Credit, as per the new rules

Green-Credit-Program Representational image

One “grown” tree will amount to one Green Credit, as per the new rules. Four months after launching the Green Credit Program, the Union government on Monday notified the methodology for calculating green credits for tree plantation activity. Green Credits is promoted by the government as innovative market-based mechanism designed to incentivise voluntary environmental actions across diverse sectors.

“The green credit shall be calculated at the rate of one green credit per tree grown through the tree plantation on a land parcel, subject to minimum density of 1,100 trees per hectare, based on the local silvi-climatic and soil conditions,” reads the notification. For the purposes of generation of green credits, the notification states, the state forest department shall identify degraded land parcels, including open forest and scrub land, wasteland and catchment areas. “The land parcel identified for plantation must be free from all encumbrances and must have size of five hectares or above.”

On submission of application by “any person or entity desirous”, the administrator will have to identify the land and issue a demand note including the cost of tree plantation and administrative expenses, if any. The administrator in this case is the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE).

“On the payment of the amount, the administrator shall direct the forest department to carry out tree plantation in line with the management plan or working plan and shall be completed within a period of two years from the date of payment.”

The notification also states that the “green credit generated may be exchanged for meeting the compliance of the compensatory afforestation in case of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes”.

Besides, these can can also be used for reporting under environmental, social and governance leadership indicator or under corporate social responsibility.

These clauses, however, are not going particularly well with the experts.

Says Tushar Dash, an independent researcher working on advancing community forest rights and governance, “This is reminiscent of the new Forest Conservation Rules that facilitates any kind of plantation by the user agency/ private companies on a land that is usually their own.”

“Similar proposal was earlier mooted by the environment ministry in 2015 but got stuck due to opposition and objection by the central empowered committee of the Supreme Court.”

“The new rules are very much connected to earlier proposal for opening up forests to the private sector which is now pushed through green credit programme and forest conservation amendment rules.”

Dash says that the new rules defeat the very objective of compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority (CAMPA), which is a statutory process.

Green Credits Program was launched in October 2023 to take ahead Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) initiative proposed by the prime minister at COP 27 in 2022. Apart from afforestation, water conservation is another sector which will be taken up in phase I of the programme. A green credit registry and trading platform is also being developed by ICFRE to facilitate buying and selling of green credits. Besides, private sector industries and companies, individuals and communities can also apply under the programme.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp