By Dann Okoth

Farmers could be in for big business should the climate deal agreed at Copenhagen, Denmark, come to fruition.

They are set to benefit from a climate mitigation fund for developing countries agreed at the forum.

At the meeting, developed countries, which are the biggest carbon emitters, committed to providing $30 billion (Sh2.3 trillion) over three years to help developing countries contain emissions.

Two-thirds of that money is already committed. The US is on record saying it would be a willing party to expanding the spending to $100 billion a year by 2020.

Through carbon trading, Kenya could claim a significant portion of the carbon market through planting of trees and environmental conservation. Carbon trade came about in response to the Kyoto Protocol. Signed in Kyoto, Japan, by 180 countries in December 1997.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for 38 industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 to 2012 to levels that are 5.2 per cent lower than those of 1990.

Economic value

The idea behind carbon trading is similar to the trading of securities or commodities in a marketplace. Carbon would be given an economic value, allowing people, companies or nations to trade it.

If a nation bought carbon, it would be buying the rights to burn it, and a nation selling carbon would be giving up its rights to burn it.

The value of the carbon would be based on the ability of the country owning it to store it or prevent it from being released into the atmosphere. The better you are at storing it, the more you can charge for it.

A market would be created to facilitate the buying and selling of the rights to emit greenhouse gases. The industrialised nations, for which reducing emissions is a daunting task, could buy the emission rights from another nation whose industries do not produce as much of these gases. The market for carbon is possible because the goal of the Kyoto Protocol is to reduce emissions.

Already, according to Dr Alfred Gichu, Head of Climate Change at the Kenya Forest Service, many farmers are now involved in the carbon trading business.

"There are ongoing programmes in Mt Kenya, Kakamega and Kiambu escarpment," he says.

"We are working on modalities to calculate the amount of carbon captured by the trees and the mode of payments," he adds.

In his opinion, conservation has a direct link with people’s quality of health. At Copenhagen, countries were divided on carbon cuts and the rationale.

A joint report by Climate Group, an environmental body backed by some of the world’s biggest companies, including BP, HSBC and Google, said even if all the provisional offers were delivered, emissions of CO2 in 2020 would still be 5 billion tonnes higher than the atmosphere could safely accommodate.

This would mean global temperature would rise more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.