India an exemplar in fight against global warming : The Tribune India

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India an exemplar in fight against global warming

Climate activists need to use platforms such as the upcoming World Sustainable Development Summit to focus on the downward trajectory of per capita emissions.

India an exemplar in fight against global warming

Call to action: Limiting global warming requires a swift reduction in carbon emissions by giving up the use of fossil fuels altogether. File photo



Ajay Shankar

Distinguished Fellow, TERI

THE goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as required by the scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), seems beyond reach now. During the COP28 (Conference of the Parties) summit in Dubai in November-December last year, IPCC chairperson Jim Skea had said: “We are heading towards global warming of 3°C if we carry on with current policies.” This would spell disaster.

Limiting global warming requires a swift reduction in carbon emissions by giving up the use of fossil fuels altogether. There have been national and international declarations for reaching the target of net-zero emissions by 2050. But total carbon emissions are yet to peak. The per capita emissions of the advanced economies have to fall rapidly and reach net zero. The developing countries have to decouple growth from emissions and see that the rise in their per capita emissions slows down, peaks and declines to net zero. It would be illustrative to look at the three countries with the largest emissions: China, the US and India.

The US has emissions of 14.44 metric tonnes (MT) per capita. China, the largest exporter of manufactured goods, has emissions of 8.85 MT, slightly higher than Germany’s 8.16 MT. India has a per capita emission of only 1.91 MT. China and the US together account for about 45 per cent of the total global emissions. India, with 18 per cent of the world’s population, has the third largest emissions.

Clearly, the US needs to bring down its per capita emissions the most, first to European levels and then to net zero. The US is the global leader in technology development and innovation. It also has the resources (one has to only look at the over $75-billion assistance the US has given to Ukraine). Within the US, California has set two major goals to reduce the bulk of its emissions. These are to have carbon-free electricity by 2045 and the prohibition on the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles from 2035. All American states can do the same. The EU is acting to achieve similar goals. It is also funding the development of the green hydrogen economy for the hard-to-abate sectors so that achieving net zero becomes technically feasible.

But the problem in the US is the entrenched position of the Republicans against any meaningful action on climate change. This position is sustained, presumably, by the enormous financial power of the fossil fuel industry, whose interest lies in preventing, or at least delaying, real action. The modest reductions in emissions in the US so far have been the result of the switch from coal to gas. In his presidential campaign, Joe Biden had promised carbon-free electricity by 2035. This will remain only a campaign promise even in the final year of his presidential term; he has been unable to get the support of enough Republicans in the two Houses. Whatever President Biden has been able to get through has been the result of difficult negotiations and compromises between the Democrats and Republicans. This includes climate-related spending approvals in larger expenditure programmes on infrastructure and inflation reduction. As the Democrats are unlikely to have both the presidency and the majority in the Houses in the foreseeable future, those concerned about climate change in the US and the rest of the world need to persuade the Republicans to agree to immediate action. Without this, there is little hope for success in limiting global warming.

China has indicated that it will achieve net zero by 2060, a decade later than the West. Its per capita emissions have been rising. But at the same time, in all technologies needed for reaching net zero, the Chinese have acted strategically and with admirable success. Between 2005 and 2012-13, they took over from the Germans the leadership in the production of solar panels and have since dominated the global market. They lead the world in electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries. They have an ambitious green hydrogen economy programme. They are well placed technologically to get to net zero by and even before 2050. The EU’s new regime of linking import duties to the embedded carbon (carbon emissions in the entire chain of production) in a product is a step in the right direction and would provide an incentive to stakeholders to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

India is now an exemplar for the developing world. It is undertaking its energy transition away from fossil fuels at a pace that is a surprise to all. It aims to create 500 GW of fossil fuel-free capacity by 2030, reducing per unit carbon emissions from electricity. EVs are rapidly gaining market share. India has an ambitious and well-designed National Green Hydrogen Mission. It is well placed to acquire the ability to replace fossil fuels in hard-to-abate sectors in the coming decade. The country has reduced its carbon emissions per unit of its GDP through energy efficiency. It is decoupling growth from carbon emissions.

In an optimistic scenario, the advanced industrial economies will reduce their per capita emissions rapidly in the coming decade. The developing world will get help to use new carbon-free energy sources, which are now cheaper, with climate finance and assistance for capacity-building. India’s push for the creation of the International Solar Alliance was a timely act of leadership. Climate activists, when they meet at COPs, the forthcoming World Sustainable Development Summit (February 7-9) in New Delhi and similar gatherings across the world, need to focus on the downward trajectory of per capita emissions and mobilise public support to ensure immediate action. Time is running out. A change in the attitude of the Republicans is a must so that the US acts and leads by example.

#Climate change #Dubai #Environment


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