India has been an active participant since the 1972 Stockholm conference about environment and development. Prime Minister (PM), Narendra Modi, announced ambitious climate goals at the Glasgow climate conference. He called panchamrita, a series of time-bound steps that he proposed. Modi’s panchamrita include: India will get its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030; India will meet 50% of its energy requirements till 2030 with renewable energy; India will reduce its projected carbon emission by one billion tonnes by 2030; India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030; India will achieve net-zero emission levels by 2070.
Massive efforts are required to achieve each milestone. This will require a well-integrated national plan and sufficient financial resources. The National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC, 2008), which has eight core missions, must be reworked to align with the PM’s vision of net-zero emissions. As India evolves NAPCC and nationally-determined contributions (NDCs), it is well worth ensuring that under our quasi-federal polity and vibrant democracy, participatory processes involving different stakeholders, especially states and panchayat raj institutions, are involved in formulating and implementing the plans.
When developing the national action plan, it is important to consider the impact of different sectors on the economy. The energy sector is the most obvious example. The climate crisis is at its core because of its pervasive and enormous impact on development processes. The centrality of coal in the deliberations at the Glasgow meeting and the compromise formulation on the future coal were exemplified by the role of coal in decarbonising the economies the most polluting countries.
India has begun ambitious projects to increase energy generation from renewable sources. India is the third largest generator of renewable energy and third largest electricity consumer. Moreover, with its abundant sunshine, it is estimated that India’s electricity needs can be met on an incredibly minuscule land area of less than 1% of the total area.
Although this estimate is theoretical, it highlights the immense potential and possibilities. India is well-positioned to scale up solar energy production and produce green hydrogen that can be used to decarbonize sectors such as steel, iron, and other metals. The greening and regeneration millions of hectares degraded forests and other wastelands can be used to implement climate action for carbon sequestration at a low level of investment and technology intervention, while creating jobs. If the country is able to meet the enormous challenge of creating 500 GW of nonfossil fuel electricity by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2070, it will be possible.
According to the Centre for Energy Finance, India will need close to $10 trillion to reach its goal of net zero by 2070. For increasing power generation from renewable sources, and for creating the necessary transmission and distribution infrastructure, huge investments are required. Both public and private capital, as well as bulk funds from international and domestic institutions, would need to be mobilised. Developed countries need to increase their commitment to climate finance. Financial institutions like the Reserve Bank of India and Securities and Exchange Board of India need to create an environment that facilitates the flow of funds essential for the transition to a sustainable economy.
Although media attention on climate change may drop over time, it is certain that the climate challenge will not go away unless global stakeholders fulfill their commitments to act in a spirit of common but different responsibilities and capabilities.
TKA Nair is the managing trustee of Citizens India Foundation. He was previously secretary to the ministry of environment and forest.
These views are my own.
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