Envisioning a green future through green credits

Last updated on July 13, 2020

The following piece is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis, in the field of Environmental Economics, which I did in Ashoka University on “Building an Incentive Framework (Green Credits) for Sustainable Development using a Multidisciplinary, Searcher’s Approach”. ‘Green Credits’ is a reward-scheme for environment-friendly behaviour, ideated by Dr. Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint, Toronto. In the following piece, I will aim to envision a world where Green Credits is the norm, where consumption and production conform to Green Credits, where participants will receive ‘Green Credits’ for different efforts aimed towards sustainable development.

In a world where Green Credits are running successfully in all verticals using a predefined framework, an average lower-middle class income person in India, whose income, profile, electricity usage, fuel usage have been recorded by the Green Credits scheme, has allowed his electricity and gas utilities along with information about his vehicle type, mileage and diesel/petrol bills to be seamlessly transferred to the Green Credits authority upon registration. With a base-line emission level set based on information from his previous year, the participant of the Green Credit scheme now receives regular monthly updates and information from the Green Credits website about his consumption patterns, his reductions in usage, the amount of Green Credits earned and methods to reduce carbon footprint and earn more Green Credits. After receiving monthly rewards of Green Credits by reducing his electricity, fuel and water use (which is now recorded using a water meter), the participant can redeem them via cash, tax cuts, or buy eco-friendly products from the Green Credit Shop on the app which he has on his cell-phone.

Meanwhile, the participant is awarded Green Credits every time he purchases a particular brand of toothpaste, shampoo or green-labelled food items, which has low carbon, water and palm-oil footprints. The participant also earns Green Credits while buying MDC certified fish, or green-labelled vegetables from sustainable agroforestry and fishing sources, which are transferred as Green Credits to the source itself, for using those green methods. Meanwhile, while disposing waste, the participant earns Green Credits for segregating his waste into the prescribed 10 categories to earn maximum credits, after meeting the required standards. The waste-collection worker, by verifying the segregation and transporting it to the recycler, awards Green Credits to the household, as well as earns some Green Credits for himself, based on pre-defined metrics of Waste-management. The recycler of the waste earns Green Credits upon the recycling effort, and upon sale, which is earned by the buyer of the recycled product too, who is a beneficiary of the system due to his efforts in promoting the green culture. The Green Credits for each vertical, and through various ways are tabulated and recorded, with monitored methods of trading them, due to differences in values for different income groups. With a leader-board crafted for the Green Credits system across verticals, further incentive schemes and environmental initiatives can be designed through collaborative efforts of those at the forefront of the Green Credits movement (those earning the most). Small businesses upon reducing carbon footprint, can upgrade their offices by earning Green Credits and redeeming it for lower energy appliances and green technology discounted for small-businesses. An average farmer and fisherman not only receive assistance in using sustainable methods, by lump sum rewarding of Green Credits based on their already low-carbon footprint but can also accrue the benefits of Green Credits when their product produced from sustainable means is sold on the market. With proper environmental accountability, products are relabelled to reflect true environmental costs, and a national psyche underlined by green consciousness is born in this future of India with the rebuilt, modified Green Credits. With Green Credits being the common green currency for all green initiatives, it can stimulate a culture of green consumption and production, as well as limit impact on planetary thresholds while progressing on the social foundation, and consequently help India achieve its NDC targets and foster environmental protection without compromising on its development efforts or deepening poverty. Bottomup interventions and experimental pilot programs of Green Credits in other verticals constantly help modify the system, the value of Green Credits, the types of activities for which it can be rewarded, while actively engaging the masses. Thus finally, we can envision an economy where the consumer is aware of the environmental and social implications of his consumption choices, innovative policies towards sustainable development are incentivized, there is more accurate pricing (reflecting true costs) and elimination of subsidies for wasteful and unsustainable practices.

This is an economy where there is an acceleration of demand for green products, and sustainability practices are encouraged during production, and markets and producers respond to new developments in the Green Credit scheme (which is constantly updated with new research). Corporate accountability and regular feedback mechanisms regularly update the system and sustainable business practices are the norms, like “mapping of environmental footprints, re-evaluation and restructuring methods of resource extraction, sustainable redesign of products and analysis of supply chains for latent environmental impacts”. In conclusion, in order to envision an India, which has to make important choices in the realm of sustainable development and reduce its emissions rapidly, while raising the social foundation of a majority of its population, a Green Credits system might just offer holistic, all-encompassing solutions after thorough research. With rapid economic growth, rising per capita income and environmental degradation through unfettered consumption reflecting current trends in India- offering sustainable solutions to address these solutions is extremely important in order to avoid a complete collapse of the various ecosystems which define our collective sphere of existence, as well raise the social foundation. Therefore to reinforce the need for a rebuilt, modified, adapted Green Credits in the Indian context, in order to move towards a ‘just and safe space for humanity’, the defining slogan for sustainable development should be, as Meadows rightly said, “Not blind opposition to progress, but rather opposition to blind progress”. The choice is ours and we must collectively work to craft similar bottom-up interventions for measured, impactful progress in sustainable development.