June 19, 2013 | 06:53 PM (BD Time)
19 June, 2013 Wednesday
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Landfill gas project: Cameroon in emissions market
Elias Ntungwe Ngalame :
Cameroon has opened its first landfill gas recovery plant, which aims to reduce methane emissions from waste and earn the country emissions reduction credits under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. The plant will trap methane generated by decaying household waste at the Nkolfoulou waste disposal site, on the outskirts of the capital, Yaounde. The gas will be stored in wells and burned off, releasing carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes substantially less to climate change per volume released than methane.
Eventually the plant's owners hope to be able to convert the trapped methane to cooking gas, creating a new source of cheap energy.
"For now our major concern is to reduce the amount of methane emitted from the solid waste disposal at the landfill site," said Michel Ngapanou, director general of the government-owned Cameroon Hygiene and Sanitation Company (HYSACAM), which built the plant.
But if sufficient expertise and funding are found, "we will be able to process the trapped gas into cooking gas," he said.
Three-quarters of Cameroon's population still uses wood for cooking fuel, according to the Ministry of the Environment.
The methane capture plant was constructed at a cost of more than two billion CFA ($4.4 million), and a second one is under construction at the company's waste disposal site in Douala, Ngapanou said.
Capturing gas from landfills is one of a number of efforts the Cameroon government is developing within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.
The mechanism gives emissions reduction projects in developed countries tradable credits that can be sold to industrialized countries, giving the developing country project cash and the wealthy country credit toward their own emissions reduction targets.
Cameroon hopes to launch other CDM projects involving agro-forestry and small scale hydroelectricity generation.
The government hopes the landfill project will boost sustainable development efforts in the area. Construction of the plant generated more than 200 jobs, according to Arlette Tchapoya, the project coordinator.
"We expect to create more jobs in the future, especially when the natural cooking gas transformation begins," Tchapoya said.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Nkolfoulou plant in late June, Hele Pierre, Cameroon's minister of environment and nature protection, said the methane capture technology had the potential to be used beyond Cameroon's borders.
"The Nkolfoulou landfill generation and recovery project is very significant … because it will set a precedent in the carbon credit generation business in the region," Pierre said.
Pierre predicts that technology transfer will lead to other African landfill companies developing their own plants.
Environmental experts are encouraging countries like Cameroon to invest in renewable energy sources to combat climate change and promote sustainable development.
Speaking at a recent World Environment Day celebration in Yaounde, Joseph Armathe Amogou, a representative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the CDM potentially offers significant economic benefits to Cameroon.
In Africa in general, more than half of waste is biodegradable and could yield profits if it is converted to cooking gas and fertilizer, Amagou said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a special report on renewable energy and climate change mitigation, said nearly 80 percent of the world's energy needs, including rising demand from developing countries, could be met through renewable sources by 2050.
In 2008, just 13 percent of the world's energy came from renewable sources.
The report concluded that governments must lead the way in setting policies that encourage technology transfer, awareness raising and finance for the projects.
At the World Environment Day celebration, Martin Abega, executive secretary of GICAM, an association of Cameroon businesses, called for a national environmental strategy to enable companies interested in the CDM to work together and seek the necessary expertise for sustainable low-carbon business opportunities.
Abega said that Cameroon possesses one of the most developed industrial networks in the Central African sub-region but that companies are not doing enough to promote sustainable development in the country and the region.
"Even though we are primarily in business, we have the moral challenge to work with government in the fight against poverty and protection of the environment so as to improve the livelihoods of the population," Abega said.
The president of GICAM, Olivier Behle, said Cameroon's small number of CDM projects was due to a lack of knowledge and expertise about low-carbon business opportunities in the country. Behle said that the development of alternative energy sources to improve living conditions was a pressing need, especially in rural areas.
"In Cameroon, for example, mobile telephone operators feed some of their relay antennas using solar energy - thus the need for companies to invest heavily in some of these low-carbon businesses," Behle said.
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