A report produced by the University of the West of England on behalf of The Converging World (TCW) explores co-benefits arising from linked renewable energy and forest restoration for the people of England and India. TCW is a charity set up to accelerate progress towards sustainability by linking development goals between the developed and developing world.
Funded by the John Pontin Trust, the research report The Converging World: The social and environmental impact of convergence was linked to TCW programmes partnering south west England with Tamil Nadu state, India, as a single notional country ‘Brindia’.
‘Brindia’ (Britain-India) is a virtual country of two parts:
- South West England, spanning 23,800 km2 and home to approximately 5 million people with cumulative annual emissions of 44.85 million tonnes CO2 at approximately 8.97 tonnes CO2 per capita; and
- Tamil Nadu state in southern India, covering 130,058 km2 and home to over 72 million people with annual emissions of 111.86 million tonnes CO2 (nearly three times that of south west England) at an annual mean of 1.59 tonnes CO2 per capita (less than 1/5 the south west England average).
Through partnering and conceptually linking these developed and developing world regions into one notional geographical unit, India’s right to develop can be promoted on a lower carbon trajectory, whilst south west England’s need to manage contributions to climate change can be promoted through cross-national partnerships as climate change impacts are geographically independent of where carbon emissions and sequestration occur. ‘Brindia’ therefore constitutes an ambitious, market-based project linking sustainability aspirations between south west England and Tamil Nadu. Already, the TCW Group (operating through a range of companies including operating branches in India) has 12.9MW of installed wind turbine capacity in Tamil Nadu, and is reinvesting a substantial proportion of operating margins from sales of renewable energy into eco-restoration of tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF).
The UWE report found ecosystem service benefits stemming from both renewable energy generation and TDEF restoration to be significant and diverse, though quantification and valuation for all services except climate regulation (the principal driver for this phase of research) was not possible within this initial phase of research. However, the ‘multiplier effect’ of annual reinvestment from wind turbine income into TDEF restoration was found to be not only substantial, but surprisingly substantial.
The climate regulation (carbon dioxide avoidance from turbines and sequestration in restored forest) benefit received particular scrutiny. Due to the multiplier effect of annual increasing areas of TDEF restoration, assumed to sequester carbon over a century as it matures to a climax community, TDEF sequestration accounts for 99.9% of overall carbon savings when added to turbine generation. The report extrapolates findings, through a set of long assumptions with inherent high uncertainties, to values for £ per tCO2 sequestered/avoided. From this, it draws illustrative implications for ‘offsetting’ by individuals, Bristol City, south west England and high CO2 emitting institutions such as universities, businesses and municipalities.
The wide range of ecosystem service benefits, particularly stemming from TDEF restoration, include more secure food, water and medicinal resource provision, and empowerment of women through freeing them from the drudgery of traditional water, fodder and fuel wood gathering and enabling them to found forest-based businesses. Cumulatively, these and other connected ecosystem service benefits – quantification and valuation of which is a priority for further research – make contributions to all seventeen of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Further potentially substantial societal benefits could accrue from extending eco-restoration to other currently degraded natural habitats within the bioregion – particularly mangroves, tanks, wetland systems and hill slopes – with implications for the water systems significant in resource security in this semi-arid region, with its increasingly less predictable monsoon rainfall pattern.
The full report can be found on the UWE Research Repository: