Reducing Carbon Footprint of India – Modi government takes committed action through ISA

During the recent visit of French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron, the International Solar Alliance (http://isolaralliance.org/) was officially founded and established on 11 March 2018. While most prominent media reports reported this, very little is really known about the background of this Alliance to the common citizens. Role of India in founding and leading this Alliance is also a very important one and which will shape the world’s action against Climate Change in the near future.

The global discussions to act against Climate Change are ongoing for the last 5 decades, its initiation can be found in the first Stockholm Conference on Sustainable Development. But in a true sense, the first global summit under United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) happened in June of 1992 in Rio De Janerio, Brazil. Since then, every few years, Climate Change Summits have dotted the 2 to 2.5 decade timeline. (http://unfccc.int/timeline/)

It is important to note that in all the Climate Change discussions, there are two groups in which countries are divided. One group consists of all the ‘developed’ nations, who have today, considerable CO2 emissions or have had them in the last few decades, which has significantly ‘developed’ these nations. The second group, is a group of countries that are tagged as ‘developing’ and where the world now expects that considerable CO2 emissions will get generated due to investments in infrastructure and energy. It is also important to note that the CO2 emissions of the ‘Developed’ countries are labeled as ‘Luxury emissions’ while CO2 emissions of the ‘Developing’ countries are labeled as ‘Necessity emissions’. This is due to the fact that, for example, an average American consumes energy and emits CO2 with use of a SUV, while, for example, an average African consumes energy and emits CO2 to earn her living or to cook food.

Low per capita emissions in India

Reaching this point in the negotiations was a hard and arduous journey for the entire world. But this was an essential component to be recognized before framing the action against Climate Change. Just imagine, if there was uniformity and targets for reducing CO2 emissions across all countries. Low per capita CO2 emission countries like Africa & India, would have had to further reduce their ‘necessity’ CO2 emissions at par with the ‘luxury’ CO2 emissions of developed countries.

However, having reached this point in negotiations as to who should reduce what CO2 emissions, China and India, two of the world’s most populous countries, began their run towards development. Despite low per capita CO2 emissions, the multiplier factor of 1.25 billion people of India, changed the entire Climate Chance action perspectives. Even for China, they added a massive CO2 contribution per capita in the last decade or so. Once again, the discussions began fervently, one one end, acknowledging the two countries’ right toward investing in development and also accepting that the massive CO2 contributions will happen and will change all scenarios planned out thus far.

China and India, the two population giants on the cusp of development threatened to derail all Climate Change imperatives and possibly forever change the Global Warming scenario. Even amongst the two countries, India is a moderate country in all respects. With the framework of democracy in place and the scarcity of land resource vis a vis her population, India represents a nation that can make or break Climate Change Action Plan for the world.

In 2014, keeping the ‘Development’ agenda for the country un-negotiated, PM Narendra Modi started making serious and actionable policies to ensure that India does not spoil global Climate Change action plans despite her push for energy generation and infrastructure building. This simultaneous push for infrastructure development, keeping in mind global climate change plans, has gone down very well with the ‘developed’ countries group. For the first time, India is making a serious commitment to curb her CO2 emissions, despite not having a legal target of CO2 emission reduction.

It is important to understand that a CO2 emissions are contributed by 2 major sectors in India. First and foremost is the energy sector, which is estimated to contribute 70% of all CO2 emissions in the country. The second sector is large industries of cement, refineries, pesticides etc that contribute significantly to the CO2 emissions. Having recognized this, in the Paris Summit held in 2015, India has taken on a very ambitious goal of installing 100 GW of renewable power. This, ambitious target by 2022, will contribute significantly in reducing the CO2 emissions caused due to thermal power plants. Further, demand side management of energy by shifting to LED fixtures and EV vehicles, will go a long way in curbing both demand side and supply side CO2 emissions.

India launches first solar powered train

The India led International Solar Alliance is one such initiative that India has followed through post the Paris Climate Change Summit in 2015. The reason that this holds importance is because collectively, these solar radiation rich countries can shape the market and the economy for Renewable energy – its technical feasibility, its cost and its distribution. It is very heartening that India is taking leadership and ownership of this initiative, as she herself is self committed to creating 100 GW of renewable energy in the next five odd years.

Traditional thought always equates Development with destruction of Environment. With development of infrastructure, there are bound to be local environmental impacts. Today global impact on Environment is measured in terms of the CO2 contribution or the Carbon Footprint. With so much of movement happening for Renewable Energy in India under the Modi government, India’s CO2 emission contribution is slated for a serious curbing and probable reduction in the next 2 decades or so. I have always maintained that environmental commitments are long term and cannot be measured nor equated with short term development goals and local impacts.

Nature has a tremendous power of rejuvenation and with proper environmental planning, local environmental impacts can be addressed. Its the global carbon footprint that needs policy intervention and a focused action plan running over 3 to 5 decades to be able to really say that the country is moving towards Sustainable Development. With a massive push for Renewable energy by the Modi government, India is on track and will soon showcase an exemplary case example of reducing its overall Carbon Footprint.

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