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India's GHG emission may 'soon' become second largest in world: CJI told to intervene

Counterview Desk 

Shankar Sharma, a senior power and climate analyst based in Karnataka, in a letter emailed to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, even as expressing concern over “climate emergency” looming large over India, has said that there is a “massive societal concerns over the pollution/ contamination of air, water and soil in the country.”
Referring to his earlier emails to the Supreme Court as also senior officials of the Government of India on “concerns of the people over the alarmingly deteriorating environmental condition in the country which can be associated with potentially enormous consequences”, Sharma apprehends that while India’s total GHG emissions is already the third largest, the current growth trajectory suggests “India can soon become the second largest emitter after China.”
According to him, while China, UK, EU, Japan and South Korea have joined over 110 countries that have set net zero green house gas (GHG) target for mid-century, “there is not a single projection or policy of our country which may even remotely indicate that India’s total GHG emissions will be reduced even by 2040/50.” 
On the contrary, he says, “The draft national energy policy, 2017 projected that energy related Emissions per capita will increase from 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent/capita in 2012 to 2.7-3.5 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent/capita in 2040.”

Excerpts:

The UN secretary general has recently said on the existential threats associated with climate change. He has urged all countries to declare climate emergencies. Such a message indicates the gravity of the situation at global scale, and needing concrete measures by every government. At least 38 countries have already declared such a state of emergency.
Recently, the UK announced that it would seek to cut emissions by 68% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030, and a few weeks earlier, China announced that its emissions would peak by 2030, and reach net zero by about 2060. But it is sad that India has not yet deemed it necessary to declare a climate emergency or a commitment to reduce its total GHG emissions even by 2040. This scenario throws up the question whether the Union government does not see any serious threats to its communities, especially the poor and the vulnerable sections, from the looming consequences of climate change?
China, UK, EU, Japan and South Korea have joined what the UN estimates is now a total of over 110 countries that have set net zero targets for mid-century. Together, they represent more than 65% of global emissions and more than 70% of the world economy. One environmental observer has noted: "To stand a reasonable chance of hitting the 1.50 C target we need to halve total emissions by the end of 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
The UN says it wants to see coal phased out completely, an end to all fossil fuel subsidies and a global coalition to reach net zero by 2050. This scenario requires at the global level that on an average every country (certainly the larger polluters like USA, China, EU, Russia, Brazil, India) has to halve the country level emissions by 2030.
But there is not a single projection or policy of our country which may even remotely indicate that India’s total GHG emissions will be reduced even by 2040/50 (at least, such indications are not visible in the public domain). On the contrary, the draft national energy policy, 2017, had projected that “Energy related emissions per capita will increase from 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent/capita in 2012 to 2.7-3.5 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent/capita in 2040.”
For a population of about 1.35 billion, which is expected to reach about 1.5 billion by 2050, such a projection shall mean that the total GHG emissions of the country can be about 2.0 - 3.0 times more than what it was at 2012. It is safe to state that there is no single economic policy indication on the horizon that in a business as usual (BAU) scenario, the total GHG emissions of the country by 2030/40 will be anything less than that in 2012.
In view of the fact that since this draft national energy policy has not been finalised yet with modified projections, or since there are no policy statements to show that the consumption of fossil fuels will be considerably reduced by 2040/50, it is but natural to project that India’s total GHG emissions will not be consistent with the global requirement. India can be said to have failed to seriously consider an economy-wide-net-zero target, which will be a major concern very soon in the international arena.
India’s total GHG emissions is already the third largest, and with the same growth trajectory and because of its vastly growing population, India can soon become the second largest emitter after China in the context of total GHG emissions. Such a scenario can neither be in the interest of global efforts in combating climate change, nor in the true interest of our own communities; because such a vast level of GHG emissions at the country level should also clearly indicate the alarmingly deteriorated status of natural resources, on which our communities depend so much for their day-to-day needs.
There is no single economic policy indication on the horizon suggesting total GHG emissions of the country will go down by 2030/40
There will also be massive international pressure on India to reduce its carbon footprint, and in such a scenario the country will be forced to take drastic, urgent, and unpopular measures to reduce its total GHG emissions, which will bring enormous misery to our people. Hence, there is a critical need for the country to gradually but resolutely move away from coal/fossil fuel reliance as early as feasible, and to take the stakeholders into confidence on all the associated policy implementation measures.
In this context, it can be safely stated that even if our political leaders refuse to objectively consider safeguarding the true welfare of our communities from the looming threats of climate change, India cannot afford to continue to ignore the consequences of enormous pressure from the international community w.r.t our GHG emissions.
The above mentioned concerns of the people are supported by the relevant provisions of our Constitution:
(i) as per the sections 48 (a) and 51 (a) (g) of our Constitution it is the duty of the STATE and every citizen to make honest efforts to protect and improve our environment by protecting and improving rivers, lakes, forests and living beings;
(ii) the letter and spirit of the water Act of 1974 and the Air Act 1981 are hard to notice in their compliance in the power sector;
(iii) even if we consider the relevant Acts of the Parliament pertaining to the electricity sector in isolation of the other sectors of our economy, it is almost impossible to notice the compliance of the letter and spirit of Indian Electricity Act 2003, and National Electricity Policy as far as salient features such as efficiency, economy, responsible use of natural resources, consumer interest protection, reliable supply of electricity, protection of environment are concerned.
The various associated concerns expressed by some of the leaders of our country such as yourself, the Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, and some of the Union ministers, while also advocating an early move for our country from the existing over reliance on coal power to a green energy-based economy, may not lead to any discernible action at the national level because of the continued reluctance/ insensitivity of the government to objectively consider such advises.
Many representations to the Union government. in this regard have not evoked any response so far. It is becoming increasingly evident that the looming and dire consequences of the fast-deteriorating environmental conditions in the country can be satisfactorily addressed if and only if the hon’ble SC of India intervenes urgently so as to make the government take adequate and urgent actions to minimise the GHG emissions as required by the UN.
In this larger context, may I request that this email appeal may kindly be treated as a public interest litigation, and that the Union government be asked to declare climate emergency as called for by the UN Secretary General, and also to implement adequate policy measures to minimise the total GHG emissions in the country, thereby also protecting the natural resources in the country?

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