Discover more from The UnEarth Bulletin
Climate Change Conundrum - Invest Now or Later?
My Question this Week
Private members’ bills rarely pass through the parliament, but they achieve success by creating awareness among elected representatives and policymakers alike. And so, when Sujeet Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP from the BJD and an ex-IAS officer who has studied at Oxford and Harvard, and has worked globally, introduced the Net Zero Emissions Bill 2022, he is reminding us all that post the Prime Minister's commitment to COP26 to achieve Net Zero by 2070, much work needs to be done. The bill provides a wonderful checklist of actions required by the state to achieve our commitments.
However, the date 2070 is far away. And the Net Zero by 2070 is also not an unambiguous promise, the commitment is qualified and contingent upon the west making adequate funds available to India. But that is where the problem lies, even if funds are not made available, going forward India will face intense pressure on its Net Zero commitment from other countries.
And as the impact of climate change plays out more and more over time, all countries, whether developed or developing, will point to India as a major villain. At that point citing a lack of available funds, or that historically India has had low emissions, would be seen as bad excuses, especially by countries that are suffering more.
The question before policymakers therefore is, should we let future generations decide how they will achieve Net Zero, or start taking corrective actions now? The former will mean relatively sustained growth in the short run but also more thermal power plants, reduced speed of transition, a somewhat warmer planet, etc. The latter will mean a greater speed of transition to a low-carbon economy, but higher costs, perhaps greater inflation, and reduced economic growth in the short run. Which would you choose if you cared about the poor?
My Views this Week
A biodiversity pact was recently signed by 200 countries that seek to protect a third of the world’s land and oceans by 2030. For this to work well, a global monitoring frame has to be put in place followed by a mechanism for enforcing the rules. With the Arctic opening up, a greater need to mine, and an increase in economic infrastructure, the pact reflects that most countries recognize the need for coordinated global action to prevent continued reduction in biodiversity.
The Act has been set up by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency to recommend regulations and standards for energy consumption. These apply to appliances, vehicles, industrial and commercial establishments, and buildings. The Act empowers the central government to specify energy consumption (and therefore carbon emission) standards, and also the ability to trade carbon credit. While some of this already occurs in India, the Act is an indication that the government is putting in place a comprehensive carbon reduction mechanism.
The famed Chipko movement saved forests in the Himalayas from forest department-backed loggers. But in the guise of saving the forests from exploitation, the state stepped in, stopping even the villagers from collecting wood and forest products. Add to that climate change and natural disasters and now the same communities have little source of livelihood. The notion of community ownership, maintenance of commons, and the spirit of caretaker-ship are not what the modern Indian state can work well with.
The Central Electricity Authority has estimated investment requirement of Rs 2.44 lakh crore for RE transmission to meet India’s committed target of 500 GW RE capacity by 2030. The estimate includes 278 GW of RE capacity of solar and wind power and 51 GW of battery storage capacity. Given that there are 7 years left, this translates roughly to an investment requirement of Rs 35,000 crore annually. Not a small figure but well within grasp.
‘The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Air Quality Guideline recommends that concentrations of PM2.5 - small dust or soot particles in the air - should not exceed an annual average of 5 micrograms per cubic meter’. There is no way cities in India can ever manage such low levels, natural dust, pollen and suchlike in dry and dusty India will never allow such targets to be achieved. Some in the government may be tempted to completely ignore the WHO target. I would agree with them.
1. 160 UN member-states endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi to end plastic pollution and forge a legally binding agreement that will address the full lifecycle of plastic waste by 2024