Image credit: Anisur Rahman/The Daily Star, The site of a gas explosion in Dhaka, June 2021
Finding and fixing gas leaks is not glamourous, but it slows global warming and saves lives.
Many of us at Carbon Growth Partners have spent decades in nature conservation and are inspired by initiatives that include nature as a carbon sink. And rightly so: protecting and restoring forests, grasslands and near shore marine habitats are powerful and important means of addressing climate change and they provide enormous co-benefits to people and wildlife. In fact, nature-based solutions will need to contribute as much as 30% of the solution to climate change and must be maintained forever to ensure a safe balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The other 70% of abatement, the non-nature-based solutions, are highly diverse and include investments in clean energy, modernised industrial practices, lower energy buildings, demand destruction for fossil fuels and transformed food systems. These projects don’t have the same charisma and storytelling attached to them as nature-based solutions but they are no less important; it is easier to wax poetic about a project that contributes to protecting rare and highly endangered birds than a project that eliminates CFCs. Storytelling disadvantages notwithstanding, these “low charisma” projects are critical. They provide a compelling investment opportunity as well, with typically lower entry prices and robust end-user demand, especially when located in Least Developed Countries.
One such project seeks to detect and repair gas leaks in the ageing municipal gas systems of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Over the past three years, explosions from gas leaks have killed dozens of people in the city, including a family with kids eating dinner and 34 people at prayer in a mosque. The source of the explosions is not only deadly for people, but for the climate: methane.
Methane has 25 times more warming potency than CO2, so avoiding its release into the atmosphere is a high priority. The Titas Gas Leaks project finances network repairs through the issuance of carbon credits. This lifesaving work is tough in any city, but is especially so amongst the narrow, crowded streets and creaking infrastructure of Dhaka, and would be otherwise unaffordable in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Other projects are even messier; like those that we’ve invested in that capture methane emissions from the manure of pigs and chickens collected from small-holder farmers in Turkey, turn it into electricity and provide that electricity back to the local community. Compost is returned to the farmers as well, and this circularity is a critical piece of the economic and social development of the rural communities that are a part of it. Without the finance from carbon credits, animal effluent would end up in local waterways, causing risk to human health and to the health of aquatic plants and wildlife.
The carbon market can’t solve all the problems of climate and sustainable development, but it can drive funding to the most efficient ways of addressing climate change and create economic opportunity that improves the lives of people in developing nations. For those interested in the ESG or impact investing thematics, the carbon markets – and the businesses the markets catalyse – offer direct and measurable benefits to the climate and returns for investors. These businesses, subsidised by carbon credit revenues, play a key role in the decarbonisation of the global economy, lift people out of poverty, and save lives. Some of them are less glamourous than others, but they all need doing.