By Krittivas Mukherjee
NEW DELHI, July 31 (Reuters) - India will spend some $200 million to protect its forests and will announce how much carbon emission is being captured by its green cover, the environment minister said on Friday.
Jairam Ramesh said the money would go into conserving and restoring unique vegetation, controlling forest fires and strengthening forestry infrastructure, among other goals.
"This reflects the high priority that the prime minister accords to the renewal of our forestry establishment which is critical in our climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts," he said.
Forestry forms an important part of international negotiations for a new U.N. climate change deal in December, and India says efforts to conserve and increase forest cover should be considered as vital as reducing deforestation.
Forests soak up vast amounts of planet-warming CO2 and can act as a brake on climate change.
Under an emerging U.N. scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD, developing nations could potentially earn billions of dollars by setting aside and rehabilitating their forests.
The valuable carbon offsets they earn could be sold to rich nations to help them meet their emissions goals under the scheme that is likely to be part of a broader climate pact from 2013.
Ramesh said India would announce on Aug. 10 the results of a study into how much emissions were being captured by India’s forests. The quantification could bolster India’s demand for money for afforestation efforts under REDD.
"We have for the first time estimated how much of our emission is being captured by the forest cover," he said.
About 65 million hectares, or 20 percent of India’s land, is under forest cover. Ramesh said the cover would be extended by another six million hectares over the next six years. (Editing by Alistair Scrutton)