Written by Dr. Priyanka Kharkwal | Photo credit: bigstockphoto.com
India’s approach to climate action is proactive, ambitious and forward-looking. It is intimately linked to parallel multilateral efforts, based on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), which would enable middle and low-income countries to elicit international financial support and technology transfers to accelerate their progress towards a future of renewable and clean energy, and equitable climate governance. While India acts to achieve its ambitious targets domestically, it is also committed to work for an international Climate Change regime buoyed on responsible burden-sharing among nations. India will continue its progress on all fronts and address emerging challenges including the following-
Improving Disaster Resilience: Climate change and urban disaster risks are two of the biggest challenges to India, as it faces the consequences of unprecedented rates of population growth, urbanization, economic development and greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, India’s coastal regions have become more vulnerable to multiple risks related to climate change. Intense and more frequent cyclones such as the recent Fani, Gaja and Hudhud as well as severe floods have caused massive devastation to the country’s coastal states. While efficient disaster preparedness in many of these states has helped save many lives, there remain significant challenges in rebuilding damaged infrastructure and returning to normalcy after the disruptions.
Accessing Green Technologies: Climate change demands that technologies be more resource-frugal, less wasteful and more productive. The new wave of industrialization with a focus on digitalisation and automation, operated with smart and autonomous systems, and fuelled by data and machine learning, provide possible solutions. Examples of green technology are waste water treatment, harnessing solar energy, etc.
Meeting Energy Needs: Although the progress towards sustainable energy is impressive, it is nonetheless challenging to meet the increasing demand of economic growth, widen access for all sections of society and stem the rise in costs. The challenge multiplies as India gears up to reduce its dependence on coal for electricity generation when electricity demand is expected to triple by 2030, and coal sources account for about 57 per cent of electricity generation.
India is well ahead on the path of a clean energy revolution. Against the ambitious target of 450 GW of renewable energy generation capacity by 2030, 132 GW (34.62 GW from solar, 37.69 GW from wind, 10 GW from biomass, 4.68 GW from Small Hydro Power, and 45.7 GW from Large Hydro Power), has been already installed as on March 31, 2020 - a 75 per cent increase since 2014. Globally, India stands third in renewable power generation, fourth in wind power, and fifth in solar power. The high dependency on biomass for cooking, especially in rural areas is being corrected through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, under which 80.3 million LPG connections have so far been provided. Similarly, several programmes are implemented to increase energy efficiency in industry, business, households and construction Launched in March this year, India is one of the first countries in the world to develop a comprehensive Cooling Action Plan to address requirements across sectors and lists out actions to reduce the cooling demand. The overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society. A special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that agricultural economies like India would suffer the most from the repercussions of global warming in terms of intense heatwaves, floods and droughts, water stress and reduced food output. India recognises its challenges and pursues a multifaceted strategy to address them and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda. India is ranked among the top ten countries in the Climate Change Performance Index 2020 on account of low levels of per capita emissions and energy use, and ‘well-below-2°C’ renewable energy targets.
Jointly with France, India spearheaded the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the grouping of countries lying fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The Alliance aims at harnessing the vast potential of solar energy and reducing the cost of technology and financing. Further, India has launched two more initiatives to facilitate global climate action:
a) Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure - a platform to generate and exchange knowledge and build capacity on various aspects of climate and disaster-resilient infrastructure and
b) ‘Leadership Group for Industry Transition’ – a platform launched together with Sweden for collaboration between governments and the private sector in different countries on areas related to low-carbon growth.