Yet the case for greater ambition is compelling. It needn’t mean diminished growth, correctly measured--and it could very well mean the opposite.
continues along its current path, its emissions could more than double by mid-century. The country is already among those most vulnerable to climate change.
Melting Himalayan glaciers threaten the country’s water supply; rising temperatures and erratic monsoons could devastate crops. Climate-related costs aren’t the only danger: Choking air pollution
killed nearly 1.7 million Indians in 2019. If the U.S. and European Union decide to impose carbon tariffs, Indian exporters will have to shrink their carbon footprints if they want to compete. Delay will only make the country’s transition more expensive and more painful.
In curbing emissions, India has advantages. Most of the factories, buildings, vehicles and power plants its economy will need have yet to be built, so it can avoid locking in inefficient and polluting technologies. India is a world leader in generating cheap power from solar and wind, and it has plenty of scope to expand. A young and entrepreneurial population can help develop clean-energy innovations. Ultimately, according to the International Energy Agency, the savings from reduced oil imports would make up for the costs of the transition.
This isn’t to say the task will be easy. It might be harder than for any other major economy. India will need to shift rapidly from fossil fuels to renewables for everything from generating power to electric vehicles to cooking. That will require improving the power grid and expanding storage for wind and solar energy. For sectors such as steelmaking and transportation, hydrogen technology will have to be perfected and scaled up. Buildings and construction will have to be more efficient. Not all emissions can be eliminated, so India will have to plant millions of hectares of trees to create carbon sinks and deploy technologies to capture and store carbon.
A shift on this scale will demand clear and consistent signals from the government. Officials should set a date for peak emissions — preferably by 2030 — as well as sectoral targets for decarbonization. They’ll need to devise incentives and create a friendlier business environment
for carbon-reducing technologies and processes. The government should seek buy-in from local and state officials, and from all political parties, so policies can be sustained by future administrations. It should consider a formal price for carbon, using the revenues that could generate to support the creation of new clean jobs. And rich nations need to do their part, as well, by transferring technology and providing adequate financing and investment.
It’s a challenge, to be sure — but India can and should rise to the task. If it does, it can serve as a model for other developing countries, pioneering the right kind of policies to curtail emissions and improve public health without sacrificing growth. And this stronger commitment would greatly increase pressure on other countries, rich and poor alike, to do better. If India raises its ambitions, it can take its rightful place as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.
As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.
Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.