Late last year, officials at the World Bank decided it was time to practice what they had been preaching about reducing carbon emissions.
Well, sort of.
Some environmentally-friendly types at the international finance agency calculated the bank spewed 147 tons of carbon into the atmosphere when it flew
in attendees for a conference in Washington in October 2003.
Looking to set a cheap and practical example on the worldwide issue of carbon emissions, the Washington, D.C.-based organization went halfway around
the world to a tiny village located in the remote jungles of southern India.
In the ironically named village of Powerguda, the villagers had recently begun to collect and sell to a local mill the seeds of a native tree called
the Pongamia pinnata. The seeds produce a natural oil that can be used as an alternative to diesel fuel. And unlike diesel and other fossil fuels,
pongamia oil produces little carbon emissions when burned.
By providing the raw material for an alternative to relatively dirty diesel, Powerguda was effectively reducing the overall carbon load in the
atmosphere—at least in the eyes of the World Bank. And it was this theoretical tiny reduction in worldwide carbon emissions that the Bank decided to
buy to offset the carbon emissions resulting from its conference.
The price tag to the World Bank: $645. For that the bank got the village's entire potential carbon emission savings for the next 10 years.
The World Bank and others believe the Powerguda deal—while tiny and relatively insignificant—could help provide a new blueprint for governments and
businesses trying to comply with the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, the controversial manifesto meant to address greenhouse gas emissions on a
worldwide basis. The treaty goes into effect early next year, after being approved this month by Russia.
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