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Biogas projects reduce carbon emissions

Hundreds of households in the southern city of Can Tho profit not only by converting animal waste to fuel for lighting purposes and cooking but also by contributing to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sell carbon credits.

Le Hoang Thanh’s household in My Thuan Hamlet of the city’s Phong Dien District is one among them.

Apart from growing orchard fruits and running a pig husbandry, his household has been provided assistance in building six individual biogas systems to produce biogas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, as well as a semi-solid residue to replace firewood or gas for cooking.

“As processes to package animal dung, to transport the gas to locations where it will be used and to remove the residue are already available, all that one needs to do is to transfer the pig dung into the containers provided and wait for the matter to decompose to produce biogas,” Thanh explained.

Thanh is able to produce sufficient biogas to not only cook in his own house but also share the fuel with his neighbours for their cooking.

In addition to collecting animal dung, Thanh’s garden is also used as a laboratory to produce biogas by using rice straw or water ferns.

“Instead of using pig dung, I use rice straw or water ferns in specialised plastic containers. When they become inflated with air, it is time to use the biogas for lighting purposes and/or cooking,” Thanh added.

Thanh’s house is one among 401 households in Can Tho funded by the Japan International Research Centre for Agriculture Sciences (JIRCAS), which works in collaboration with Can Tho University to provide biogas containers to the beneficiaries of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project.

According to a project manager, Tran Sy Nam, farmers will be provided a biogas container worth over VND2 million (US$95) when they agree to participate in the project and commit to using biogas to replace firewood and gas tanks within seven years.

To control carbon dioxide, a group of controllers usually visit the project beneficiaries’ houses to gather statistics on the reduction in the use of gas tanks or firewood every month since switching to biogas.

Nam said that the controllers are also asked to evaluate changes in the amount of animal dung that is being used to produce biogas. In this way, it is possible to quantify carbon credits, which are an instant solution to reducing the amount of GHG emissions in the atmosphere.

Profitable project

A JIRCAS representative, Dr Nguyen Huu Chiem, reported that the project had been implemented in Phong Dien, Binh Thuy and Cai Rang districts since 2009.

Known as the first carbon credit project in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, the project aims to help 1,000 farm households gain access to biogas containers to reduce GHG emissions.

“Farmers are assisted in growing orchard fruits, using clean agricultural methods to minimise carbon dioxide emissions in the environment. The reduction in emissions will be measured to qualify carbon credits. JIRCAS will sell the carbon credits after maintaining stable carbon credits in the gardening households,” Chiem said.

This year, JIRCAS has pledged to provide 1,000 biogas containers to households in the three districts. It is expected to create about 3,000 carbon credits each year.

As planned, the organisation has started to total up carbon credits, ready to sell them to the world carbon market in 2015.

“Income earned from selling carbon credits will be used to provide clean water purification systems, solar energy and other support to project beneficiaries,” Chiem added.

According to Nam’s estimation, a biogas container with a capacity of 2 cubic metres can be used to reduce about 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent to 3 carbon credits) each year.

“In addition to producing fuel, biogas systems also help protect the environment. It is possible to produce clean fertilisers from waste, contributing to create carbon credits in every household,” Nam said.

Carbon credits

According to Chiem, carbon credits were first introduced in 1997 at the third conference gathering countries involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Tokyo.

In the voluntary market, carbon credits are generated by projects that are accredited according to independent international standards such as the Verified Carbon Standard.

In the compliance market, carbon credits are generated by projects that operate under one of the UNFCCC-approved mechanisms such as the CDM.

Accordingly, the CDM allows developed countries to implement a plan of reducing or limiting GHGs at rates lower than those created under the Kyoto Protocol.

To this effect, the carbon market enables the trading of carbon emission allowances between developed countries, which have higher levels of GHG emissions than permitted, and developing countries, which have lower levels of GHG emissions than permitted.

The CDM was brought in to encourage countries and companies to limit their carbon dioxide emissions.

The Director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyen Van Tai, said the carbon market is believed to be a tool in reducing GHG emissions by being economically beneficial to the participating countries.

The country now has 164 CDM initiatives, ranking it fourth in the world for registered projects, he claimed.

Deputy director of the Institute for Climate Change Research under Can Tho University Dr Le Anh Tuan explained that CDM projects are mainly implemented at hydroelectricity plants and national parks.

He noted that the generation of carbon credits at gardening households mainly targets helping farmers limit fuels and electricity and discharge animal waste into the environment.

“The biogas model is able to solve the existing problems; hence, it has been selected as a key method for the project. Farmers are benefiting a lot from the project and have an increased awareness of environmental protection,” he added.

Many experts believe that low-cost mitigation opportunities in agriculture are abundant and comparable in scale to those found in the energy sector. They are mostly located in developing countries and have to do with how land is used.

By investing in projects under the CDM, countries can tap these opportunities to meet their own Kyoto Protocol obligations.

The Kyoto Protocol under the UNFCCC comprises 37 developed countries aiming to reduce GHG emissions by 5.2 per cent under the first phase between 2005 and 2012.

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