By TS Panwar, Director of Climate Change & Energy Programme, WWF-India
Climate change is one of the most formidable challenges facing developing countries like India. High levels of poverty, an agriculture-dependent economy, and vast low-lying coastlines increase the vulnerability.
India has the second largest population in the world but it is still very low on the human development index ranking, which implies that development and poverty eradication are key priorities. Around 300 million people still have no access to electricity and 800 million depend on solid biomass fuels for cooking and heating. The per capita electricity consumption in India is less than one fourth of the world average.
India’s total greenhouse gas emissions may be the third highest in the world (after the US and China), but its per-capita emissions are much lower than the world average. And India is determined to see that its per-capita emissions level never exceeds that of developed countries.
So what has India been doing to reduce emissions and help close the ‘gigatonne gap’, domestically and internationally?
India has already taken significant measures on climate change, including the pre-2020 period.
• In December 2009 India announced its aim to reduce the ‘emissions intensity’ of its GDP by 20-25% (against 2005 levels) by 2020.
This voluntary commitment shows India’s resolve to ensure its growth is sustainable and based on low-carbon principles. A report on ‘Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth’ has since been formulated.
• In 2008 India launched a ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ (NAPCC), which identifies a number of measures to simultaneously advance development as well as climate change objectives of adaptation and mitigation.
THE ‘NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON CLIMATE CHANGE’ SAYS THE SHARE OF RENEWABLES IN INDIA’S ELECTRICITY MIX IS TO INCREASE TO 15% BY 2020.
The NAPCC has established eight priority missions, including solar power and enhanced energy efficiency. It also sets out that the share of renewable energy in the electricity mix is to increase to 15% by 2020.
• The government has increased the target for solar power from 20,000 to 100,000 megawatts by 2022, and is also aiming for 60,000 megawatts of wind power by 2022.
Other initiatives include:
• increase in the Clean Energy Cess (a tax on coal)
• a National Adaptation Fund to address climate change impacts
• setting up ‘Ultra Mega Solar’ projects across the country to promote renewable energy.
All of this indicates the Indian government’s positive approach. But with competing pressures such as high imports of fossil fuels, related energy security, as well as environmental and financial issues, we wonder if the degree and pace of actions are effective enough.
It’s vitally important that the international community also steps up its long-term technological and financial support to help India successfully transition to a sustainable, low-carbon, climate-resistant economy.
In the pre-2020 phase, the developed countries need to commit to increasing their pre-2020 emission reduction targets, as well as providing adequate, predictable and long-term finance, technology and capacity-building support to developing countries. They have to enhance ambition in terms of closing the gigatonne gap, so as not to additionally burden the developing countries in the post-2020 phase.
India and other developing countries have to build international pressure so that the developed countries deliver on closing the pre-2020 gap, and also make sure the key principles of the UN climate convention are not diluted (for instance that “Parties should protect the climate system on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”).
Having said that, it’s important for countries such as India to continue domestic efforts for mitigation and adaptation, and take effective measures so that the ambitious plans announced in terms of enhanced renewable energy and energy efficiency are implemented on the ground. An appropriate time-bound action plan needs to be rolled out. This would clearly go a long way in building momentum towards a climate-resilient future, as well as helping close the gigatonne gap.
DEVELOPED COUNTRIES NEED TO COMMIT TO INCREASING THEIR PRE-2020 EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS, AS WELL AS PROVIDING SUPPORT TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.