India launches “green jobs” project

India has begun a pilot project to quantify climate benefits from a huge anti-poverty plan, Reuters reported. The scheme could become one of the country’s main defences against criticism that it is not doing enough to address global warming. Some 70% of works under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) are “green jobs” such as water harvesting, afforestation and land development.


The flagship anti-poverty plan, started three years ago, provides 100 days of employment every year to tens of millions of rural poor, a move that partly helped the Congress party-led coalition return to power in a general election this month.

“Here is a programme which is an anti-poverty project that also yields co-benefits of adaptation to climate change and reduction of vulnerabilities against climate change,” said Rita Sharma, who heads the ministry overseeing the jobs scheme. “Within the next two years,” she said, “we should begin to get some handle on what kind of quantification is happening as a result of the NREGA works.” Some data could be available from smaller samples in about a month, however.


India’s current stand on climate change disturbs western countries, which seek more commitment to curbing rapidly rising greenhouse-gas emissions from one of the world’s top polluters. Some experts worry, too, that India could use projects like the NREGA as a way to avoid additional investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.


The government says economic growth, to lift millions of people out of poverty, must be a priority. At the same time, though, it intends to shift gradually from heavy coal reliance to solar-led clean energy and increased energy efficiency. Indian officials argue that the west must recognise the huge benefits, such as carbon sequestration and emission reductions, achieved through projects such as the NREGA.


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