The Big Picture- India Ratifies Climate Treaty: What Does It Mean to India & World?
The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change is on the verge of coming into force much earlier than anticipated. The world’s two biggest emitters China and US ratified it in the G 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. With India’s ratification recently, 62 countries have ratified it and it is about to reach 55% of the emitters’ threshold which will lead to the Agreement coming into force. EU is also being expected to ratify the Agreement soon.
In case of India, the process of ratification is simple. It requires Cabinet decision only therefore, it could have been ratified at any point of time. India now needs an action plan to accelerate a few things on the right track:
- All the actions that are needed in order to achieve nationally determined contributions pledged by India i.e. carbon per unit of GDP (carbon intensity of our economy) decreases 33 to 35% in 2030 as compared to 2005.
- At least 40% of India’s electricity generating capacity has to come from non-fossil fuels.
- 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be captured by trees and forest cover.
An important aspect of Paris Agreement is transparency mechanism. It means that periodically, all the countries put out in the public domain what they have been doing, what their emissions are, what is their progress towards meeting their own commitments.
Global stocktake is the proposed five-yearly review of the impact of countries’ climate change actions. Under the Paris Agreement, every country must present a climate action plan in five-yearly cycles. The first global stocktake will happen in 2023. It will assess whether the net result of the climate actions being taken was consistent with the goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature from pre-industrial times to within 2 degree Celsius. The stocktake will help the world determine whether it needs to do more. But this will be effective only when the transparency mechanisms are in place.
Therefore, the policy instruments have to be kept in place to meet the targets and the process of measuring, consolidating and reporting progress on each of the goals promised.
As far as US and China are concerned, this is one such agreement that will force these two countries to follow something but again there is no compulsion on reduction of emission and it depends on the emitter how much it aims to reduce its emission. These two countries might look up at reducing emission through those industries which they own outside their own land. Basically, the agreement is on reduction of carbon in one’s own country. If there is a focus on lifestyle etc. in these countries, the emphasis should be on carbon produced by consumption. It is estimated that a quarter of the Chinese emissions are actually because of the products being consumed. Reduction of carbon footprint is necessary which emerges out of lifestyle choices of the people and consumers.
There is a concept of supply side management and entire life cycle assessment which has come up for goods produced. Going towards these concepts can give information on where a product is produced, what is the consumption domestically and internationally and what is the impact on emission.
The aim of this agreement can be said to be pledge-achieve-pledge again. The chances of promises being fulfilled are far more when a country sets a target for itself rather than this being hammered on the nations. This would ensure chances of better success. There would be local organizations pushing their governments to fulfill their targets. It can be said to be a voluntary agreement being signed by different nations as previously Kyoto protocol and others have failed to bring out the desired results.
As far as the developed nations are concerned, there challenges lies in the fact that how they substitute power stations, the buildings they have with more efficient ones. For developing nations, the challenge is to manage growth i.e. tomorrow’s infrastructure are more robust in using and producing less carbon dioxide in future. In this regard, there are a few challenges for India
For example: Radical restructuring of electricity system i.e. use of renewable resources than fossil fuels especially coal based power plants. There are three kinds of electricity demands in India.
- There are approximately 110 Gigawatts of demand which is all the time.
- There are seasonal variations i.e. in summers when air conditioners are on, more electricity is needed.
- The base load which is increasing year by year can certainly be met by coal. The problem comes during peak time i.e. a fixed number of hours when electricity is required compulsorily.
There is a need for storage of renewable energy sources like solar and wind in the form of battery storage or other ways because electricity is needed even when the sun does not shine and winds do not blow. Proper storage is either not available or is very expensive. Electricity system has to meet these volatile demands at prices which the consumers are willing to pay.
The second issue which has not been raised in the Paris Agreement is water scarcity. It is evident from the Cauvery water dispute that this is a serious cause of concern for India. Some power plants were even shut down this summer because of water scarcity. This might even lead to migration problems in future.
Lifestyle can be improved only with the use of energy resources efficiently like use of LEDs which produce as much energy as an electric bulb but uses only 1/10th of the energy. An efficient motor provides same motive power than an inefficient one at half of the electricity consumption. This has to be used in agriculture, industries and in home appliances as well. This will solve half of the problem at least apart from producing energy from renewable sources. India can do a lot more these areas as it has all the necessary resources for that.