Nothing but The Gold Standard for Cambodia’s National Biodigester Programme

Nothing but The Gold Standard for Cambodia’s National Biodigester Programme

Cambodia’s National Biodigester Programme (NBP) has received its third consecutive issuance of tradable Gold Standard carbon credits for its nationwide programme, which has decreased greenhouse gas emissions and improved local livelihoods through the building of approximately 20,000 household biodigester units. These carbon credits are sold in the international carbon market to those wishing to offset their environmental footprint.

NBP is a government owned programme initiated by the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. NBP aims for the establishment of a self-sustaining, market-driven national domestic biodigester sector in Cambodia by marketing locally produced domestic biodigestors to rural farmers.  According to programme statistics, roughly 25% of the approximately 2 million rural Cambodian households could benefit from biogas over the next several decades.

The Gold Standard certification process is particularly rigorous and is an internationally recognised premium quality label for both the Kyoto and voluntary carbon markets. The Gold Standard certification process was designed to ensure that carbon credits are not only real and verifiable, but that they make measurable contributions to sustainable development worldwide. “In 2009 we made the right decision to opt for The Gold Standar. This meant more work for us as The Gold Standard is not only about carbon, but also about demonstrating sustainable development. Thanks to that decision, NBP is now leading the way in showcasing how carbon trading can help build up a sustainable biogas sector that can support the extensive dissemination of sustainable, clean and life-improving technology in rural areas” says Eric Buysman, independent carbon consultant, contracted by the NBP and Hivos.

One carbon credit is the equivalent of one tonne of avoided carbon emissions. From May 2009 through December 2012, NBP has reduced CO2 emissions by 154,687 tonnes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, this is the equivalent of taking approximately 32,226 cars off the road for one year. Combined, the projects undergoing Gold Standard certification are estimated to save more than 65 million metric tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by 2015.

Not only does NBP impact the environment and air quality through such carbon trading schemes, importantly it greatly impacts the daily lives of those living in Cambodia. “Carbon finance supports the nationwide, sustainable dissemination of clean energy technology that improves the livelihoods of rural farmers” says H.E. Nou Muth, programme director of NBP.

A May 2013 article featured in the The Phnom Penh Post on NBP highlights the daily impact of this programme. Rice farmer Cheng Leng used to spend hours searching the forest surrounding his Kampong Speu farm for firewood. Today, a cistern-like structure behind Leng’s home has transformed this labour intensive process. Now when Leng wants to boil water or cook food for his family of seven, all the 60-year-old farmer has to do is flick a switch and his methane-powered stove comes to life. “[With biogas] we don’t have smoke in the house like when we burn firewood; it is much better for our health. When it rains, we also do not have a problem with the firewood getting wet. We can use biogas anytime” says Cheng Leng.

"Market-based biogas sector development in least developed countries —The case of Cambodia" by Eric Buysman and Arthur P.J. Mol can be accessed in the journal Energy Policy (paywall).