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​NITI Aayog-commissioned report unveils hypocrisy of Modi govt's climate concerns

Power and climate policy analyst Shankar Sharma writes to the chairman and members of the NITI Aayog:
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May I draw your kind attention to an objective analysis of the recently commissioned NITI Aayog Report, as in the web links here, which calls it the hypocrisy of Modi government’s 'climate concerns'. Few other articles/ reports in these links indicate very serious issues confronting our people not only in the immediate sense but also in the long term; they are so especially in the sectors of environment and energy.
But sadly, the concerned authorities seem to be completely oblivious to these developments (or is it that they are completely ignoring them), and to the associated credible concerns of the people of this country. Hence, they are being blamed for continuing with a Business as Usual (BaU) scenario of relentless industrial and commercial growth, without rationally considering the enormous negative growth because of the social, ecological and health impacts of such an irrational policy.
Some of the highlights in the news links can clearly point to such conclusions are:
  • "A research brief prepared by Australian energy experts and published by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering (ATSE) has called for an acceleration of the deployment of renewable energy, arguing the technologies needed to decarbonise Australia’s energy system are already available. Australia has the technologies to avoid a future crisis, but we must act now to lay the foundation of a truly modern energy system,” the former head of engineering and system design at the Australian Energy Market Operator, Alex Won has, said at the launch of the report."
  • “If we can have a coordinated effort around it, it should be possible to have all new homes electrified rather than having gas delivered. It would be better not to be making investments in gas infrastructure now in homes.“Every time you buy a new appliance, buy the electric version. Ditto cars and other parts of your infrastructure at home and at work,” “Every time you make that decision, you buy electric… it’s about making those decisions on a daily basis.”
  • "Despite climate change warnings issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1990, global emissions have continued to rise in the last decade, reaching their highest point in history. Drastic cuts to fossil fuel use. Growing forests and eating less meat. These are just some of the actions needed in this decade to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial temperatures, as per a major report by the UN climate science agency. At this point, only severe emissions cuts in this decade across all sectors, from agriculture and transport to energy and buildings, can turn things around, the report says. Even then, governments would also need to bolster efforts to plant more trees and develop technologies that could remove some of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere after more than a century of industrial activity."
  • "Almost two-thirds or 163 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable power capacity added last year had lower costs than the cheapest coal-fired power plants in G20 countries, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed."
  • "Renewables are by far the cheapest form of power today," said Francesco La Camera, director general of IRENA. "Renewable power frees economies from volatile fossil fuel prices and imports, curbs energy costs and enhances market resilience, even more so if today's energy crunch continues."
  • "Without shrinking energy demand, the report notes, reducing emissions rapidly by the end of this decade to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius will be almost impossible. Accepting a lower consumption lifestyle is almost the only fast-acting policy move we have left to prevent the disastrous impacts of climate change," said Daniel Quiggin, an environmental researcher at the UK policy institute Chatham House. This demand-side mitigation, as the report puts it, places the onus on governments to pass policies that incentivise sustainable choices.
Can the people of this country hope that the concerned ministries/ departments, bureaucrats and advisors take true cognisance of these developments/concerns, and on the basis of the same there will be urgent and effective course corrections to our policies and practices?
Without such urgent course corrections, our communities will not only face existential threats in many cases because of the consequences of Climate Change, but will also face the serious implications of denial of access to natural resources, which are much needed even to meet our basic needs. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) says that about 50 million people directly depend on the natural riches of Western Ghats alone.
In this context, the resources associated with our natural forests are of great relevance to a few hundred millions of our people; but deplorably the same forests are being allowed to be abused/ destroyed with the connivance of the governments at the states and centre. The humongous costs to our country because of irrational investment in conventional technology energy sources and the associated infrastructure will only escalate such concerns.
In this larger context, three areas requiring urgent and effective policy perspectives are: (i) a diligent review of the high GDP growth rate paradigm in our economic policies, keeping in objective view the true welfare of our people not only in the immediate term but also in the long term; (ii) a diligently prepared National Energy Policy keeping in view the needs of our people and the constraints of our country by 2050/60; (iii) the updated National Action Plan on Climate Change.
It will be a serious let down of our people, not to take cognisance of a large number of such concerns being expressed by civil society in recent years.

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