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Road-map for India’s climate issues in Paris

Road-map for India’s climate issues in Paris
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Road-map For India’s Climate Issues In Paris, From Lima, the capital of Peru, to Paris, what will be India’s role in the global debate on climate...

From Lima, the capital of Peru, to Paris, what will be India’s role in the global debate on climate change and emissions? For India, the big question ahead of the Paris talks is: decline to cut emissions and risk the pain of isolation among the comity of nations, especially the most powerful, or succumb to external pressure?
Considering the European Union as one unit, India is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) and emits a quarter of China’s and a third of the US levels. Russia emits as much as India, yet the focus of China, the US and the EU is on India.

In percapita GHG emission terms, India is far behind not only countries from the developed world but even developing countries like China, Mexico, Iran, Brazil and Indonesia. India also happens to be the country where a third of the worlds poorest reside, a third of its population still lacks access to electricity, and the prevalence of underweight children is highest in the world, double that of sub-Saharan Africa.India contains 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, with Delhi topping the list. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rates India as one of the country’s most vulnerable to climate change. Uplifting millions of poor while limiting GHG emission is one of the biggest challenges India faces.The Paris talks on climate change will unfold this December and it is time for India to prepare its Road Map for climate issues.

Indian strategy
The government appears to be sceptical about adhering to the emission intensity targets pledged in the Climate Summit in 2009. India had then undertaken to cut its emission intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. The level achieved is 18.6 per cent thus far, with hardly any scope for further reduction. Hence, India is hesitant to propose 25-30 per cent emissions figure for 2020-30.

The emissions-cut pledges do not bind India for a cut in Paris. Emission calculations are based on fossil fuel use, not renewable energy. The latest global energy reports suggest that increasing the share of renewables will prevent a lock-in on fossil fuel-dependent technology. It is in India’s interest to enhance the share of renewables in the energy mix. Paris will see pressure on India as the energy superpowers will want pledges of huge cuts. As things stand, there is no reason why we should. But this line of argument may cut no ice. So, what do we do at Paris?

India’s Options:
· Let there be no reduction until India achieve economic stability. India has a young population and it could expand emissions until or even after 2050, when the urban transition and industrialization will almost be complete, and carbon emission will stabilize.

· India could propose to peak emissions by 2050, and commit a 25-30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2025.

· Increase the share of renewable energy to 20 per cent, same as China, in total energy consumption by 2030. Solar, wind and biomass electricity can enhance renewable contribution from 6 to 18 per cent by 2030. An important rider to this will be to switch from the highly extract agriculture, euphemistically called the Green Revolution, to organic farming. Kerala is set to go completely organic by 2016, others can follow.

· Increasing coal cess to four times its earlier value, pushing an aggressive energy efficiency programme, and setting up the National Adaptation Fund and National Clean Energy Fund.

· ‘Fresh Air, My Birthright,’ ‘Save Water, Save Energy,’ ‘Grow More Plants,’ and ‘Urban Green’ — wants to lead the developing nations with greater stress on need-based.

· India must demand firm timeliness and financial commitments from the super rich and super emitters for climate control strategies. This will help the poorer land-locked nations and island nations around the country to come closer to India. Lastly, we must relentlessly press the US, China and the European Union, the biggest polluters, to curb emissions by 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 over the 2010 levels.

The perception in the world community as well as domestically is that India is taking a minimalist approach and would continue with its business as usual scenario. Such an approach will be dangerous from the perspective of not only climate change but also human health.

Actual Scenario
The hard reality is that while India’s growth is non-negotiable, it can’t work in the long term if it’s not environmentally sustainable. India will have to take strong and determined actions for bringing the pollution level to safe limits, for its own sake. However, as the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ principle is the heart of the climate negotiations, Indian submissions can’t be compared with the developed world or other developing countries with higher per capita emissions.

India has ambitious targets for renewable energy. It also has one of largest reserves of coal, which at present fulfills 60 per cent of our energy needs, and will continue to form a substantial portion of energy base for India’s growth. The phasing out of present sub-critical coal power plants and shifting to super-critical and ultra-super-critical ones — that could reduce coal usage by 15 per cent — simultaneously investing in Clean Coal Technology will be a balancing act.

Further, laying down stringent emission-related regulations for industries and its strict implementation, shifting the public transportation to CNG in at least all the tier 1 cities, moving to Bharat Stage IV norms for vehicular emission for the entire country and targeting Stage V swiftly, curbing excessive use of artificial fertilizers while turning to sustainable agriculture would make a serious dent in GHG emissions. In fact, GHG emission cuts can help in job growth and improve productivity of the economy, through sustainable disposal and conversion of solid waste, for example.

A bottom-up approach of wide-scale stakeholder and public participation in determining the INDC has not been adopted. This would have reflected the level of existing domestic concern on the matter. Hence, while India must push for a fair and equitable climate deal, it must shoulder its responsibility for the sake of the planet and the poorest in the world.

By G.Rajendera Kumar
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