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Climate emergency ignored? India's position not to reduce total GHG 'obstinate'

By Shankar Sharma* 

One wonders as to how long will the diplomatic nicety, as seen in two news paper links (click here and here), will be continued to be bestowed on India by the global community; especially in the context that India has clearly indicated that it may build many more coal power plants in the near future, and also in the context that it has not committed itself to reduce the GHG emissions at all even by 2040 (as stated in the draft national energy policy, 2017).
This is in stark contrast to the IPCC conclusion that the global GHG emissions should reduce by as much as 50% by 2030 as compared to 2005 level, and that there should be a net zero carbon scenario by 2050.
Is it too far-fetched to project that India will soon come under unbearable international pressure to raise its climate ambition by a considerable margin? Is there not an urgent reason for us in the civil society to draw the attention of our leaders to this precarious scenario?
Whereas India has not even accepted its own role to reduce its carbon emissions, even as late as 2021, and that it continues to stick to its claim to pollute more only due to its low per capita GHG emissions, the global community cannot be expected to continue to be silent on the ever increasing GHG emissions by India.
A large number of new coal mines and coal power plants are being planned & built; thick original forests are being destroyed; consumption of liquid fossil fuels continue to soar. In such a scenario where is the lead role for India? Even though India has announced an ambitious 450 MW RE capacity by 2030, the same has not been a part of any national energy policy document, and is also without any details as to how India will reach that goal.
If India decides "not to raise its climate ambition at the behest of developed nations", as the MoEF&CC has stated, it should at the least objectively consider the true welfare of its own people, and heed to what its own scientists / environmentalists have been saying for a number of years on the topic of the health of its natural resources and the unacceptable level of pollution/ contamination of its air, water and soil.
As one commentator has said, the obstinate position of the country not to reduce its total GHG emissions even by 2040, and/or to commit to net-zero carbon scenario by 2050, will only lead to a scenario wherein even all the money from the developed countries will not be able to rescue our grandchildren, including the grand children of our political leaders, from the worst ravages of climate change in the next few decades. One wonders whether our leaders have seriously considered this potential scenario, which will impart their own families also.
In this larger context of global climate emergency it is hard to see how India will continue to be seen as "India is a major player on a global stage", as John Kerry has said. It is true that India is the third largest emitter, and that the global efforts to combat climate change cannot succeed without India's active participation; but without India making honest efforts to reduce its GHG emissions, India cannot be a major player in any role other than being an obstructer in the associated global efforts.
What an enviable position for a large country with aspiration to become a permanent member of the UN!
Will our leaders recognise the tenuous position India is in and announce an early, suitable climate action plan?
When our political leaders feel they are confronted by the cynical views by some of our bureaucrats and some of the so called 'climate specialists' on one hand, and the global expectations on the other hand, they will do a great service to our people by objectively considering few fundamental issues:
  1. how India's claim to continue to burn lot more fossil fuels, including coal, will lead to the overall welfare of its communities, in the background that massive additions to coal power capacities since 1990s has not been able to provide electricity to all households, and to pull about 30% of our people from the clutches of poverty;
  2. how the already unacceptable pollution /contamination scenario of air, water and soil in the country will be satisfactorily addressed by such a policy;
  3. how the natural resources such as forests, rivers, fresh water bodies, mountains, agricultural fields etc. will be enhanced by such a policy;
  4. will there be any further deterioration of the overall health parameters of our communities under such a policy, and whether the same will contribute to the betterment of the nation's economy, and whether the same will be be acceptable;
  5. what will be our policies on meeting the growing demand of our people w.r.t energy, water, food, construction materials etc. in next 3-4 decades;
  6. shall we continue to ignore the UN call to declare climate emergency, and to start reducing the GHG emissions?
Will our leaders recognise the tenuous position our country is in, and announce an early and suitable climate action plan?
Our leaders should appreciate and suitably act on the fact that a high level of GHG emissions is a clear consequence of the fast deteriorating health of our natural resources; and the fact that to continue to have high GHG emissions, as we have now, is not in the overall interest of our own people; and the fact that there is a tremendous potential for us to chart out a different economic paradigm which will not only drastically reduce the total GHG emissions by 2030 but will also lead our communities to a sustainable and equitable welfare opportunity.
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*Power & Climate Policy Analyst based in Vijayanagar, Sagara, Karnataka

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