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Global geo-political conditions hindering efforts for adopting zero emission policy

By NS Venkataraman* 

In the recent COP 26 Glasgow Climate Meet, all the Prime Ministers and Presidents of various countries who participated in the meeting, expressed deep concern about the global warming and pledged to limit the emission of carbon dioxide and other noxious gases in their regions, to save the global climate from possible disaster.
Different countries promised and pledged that they would bring the emission to zero level in their regions with different target dates.
United States has set a goal of 100% clean electricity by the year 2035, that would result in a crucial foundation for net-zero emissions not later than the year 2050 in USA. China informed the UN General Assembly that it would aim for peak carbon emission before 2030 and would reach carbon Net Zero by 2060. Japan declared that by 2050, Japan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. Russian government has drafted a new decarbonisation strategy that sets a 2060 net zero emissions target. Indian Prime Minister had announced India's zero emission target to be achieved by 2070.
At the end of the Glasgow meet, looking at the commitments made by the leaders from different countries, many people around the world thought that zero emission would happen in the coming decades.
However, the subsequent developments in the geo political scenario in the world and consequent energy issues have created doubts and apprehension as to whether zero emission target would be achieved at any time.

Impact of climate change

The adverse impact of global warming and climate change have already become evident across the world.
In Europe, drought has threatened to make the Rhine river, which is a crucial water way for German, Dutch and Swiss trade for centuries, extremely difficult to be used. In several European countries , drought conditions have created severe water shortage and the countries are now considering plans to curtail the use of water in all possible ways. In several countries , heavy unseasonal rains and flood are throwing the life out of gear for people. China has now issued warning regarding possible drought conditions in the country and some regions in China are reported to be suffering from heat wave .
The significant regional warming leads to continued loss of sea ice, melting of glaciers and of the Greenland ice cap. The Arctic is warming three times as fast and the global average.
These conditions are alarming by any stretch of imagination.

Primary requisites

The primary requisite to achieve zero emission in the world is that the use of coal as fuel should be completely eliminated. Further, the methane emission during storage and transportation of natural gas also need to be totally eliminated. Apart from these steps, the sulphur dioxide emission from vehicle exhaust also need to be brought to zero level. These are some of the essential requisites which have to be done.
To eliminate the use of fossil fuel completely , the remedial measures that have been identified are the massive boost for the production of renewable energy from wind , solar and hydro projects and also large scale production and use of green hydrogen as energy source and feedstock source.
While there have been high focus on renewable energy projects, the ground reality is that the world over, such focus on renewable energy have failed to meet the energy needs caused by the recent developments.
It appears that dependence on renewable energy as important strategy to move towards low emission will not have significant impact, in view of the fluctuating seasonal climatic conditions and low capacity utilisation of renewable energy sector, as well as large quantity of power required to produce massive quantity of green hydrogen that would be required in the world.
While all over the world, there is lot of focus on hydrogen energy which is green energy, what is needed is the massive production of green hydrogen at affordable cost. Considering the various technological and infrastructure issues and constraints such as storage and transportation and production cost , green hydrogen as the ultimate energy source to achieve zero emission in the world appear to be little too optimistic at this stage.

Target may become difficult due to world conflicts

The Ukraine – Russia war have led to serious questions the world over on whether the zero emission targets would be attainable.
Consequent to Ukraine Russia war and with NATO countries and USA imposing various sanctions against Russia, the availability of crude oil and natural gas from Russia to NATO countries are rapidly going down. In such desperate situation, to tackle the scenario, several countries like Germany are restarting the coal based thermal power projects and are planning to restart the nuclear power plants which were closed earlier.
Many countries have started mining coal and boosting crude oil / gas production in their countries. The adverse impact of this shift towards coal, oil and gas on meeting global emission reduction target are too glaring to be ignored.

India’s dependence on coal

In 2021-22, India produced 778 million tonne of coal compared to 716 million tonne in the previous year. India has now set a target of increasing the coal production to 1000 million tonne per annum . Government of India has announced that in financial year 2023, coal production in the country is likely to record 900 million tonne.
Use of coal in India will certainly not reduce but it would only increase in the foreseeable future, if India were to maintain the industrial and economic growth and GDP growth of more than 8%.per annum. Coal will remain as the permanent baseload option for India for long time to come.

Strife ridden political scenario

If the countries behave responsibly by avoiding war, which cause huge emissions due to bombing and shooting and missile attack and energy related issues then that there could be some hope that the efforts of scientists and technologists to find a way to achieve zero emission would be fruitful.
Geo political conditions do not look like improving to ensure a strife free world.
Ultimately, one can say that the challenge of achieving zero emission should also be fought in the minds and hearts of men and women, where war and conflicts and use of arms would become a thing of the past. Will it ever happen?
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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