The Big Picture- Indian Response to Climate Change
2016 will very likely be the hottest year on the record with a new high for the third consecutive year in a row according to the United Nations. It means 16 out of the 17 hottest years on record have been in this century. Scorching temperatures around the world and extreme weather shows the impact of climate change on people is coming much sooner than anticipated. The World Meteorological Organization published recently at the Global Climate Summit, Morocco found the global temperature in 2016 is running 1.2 degree Celsius above pre industrial levels which is quite close to the 1.5 degree Celsius target.
2016 has been significant because India has been bolder and more ambitious than expected. Since there is a change of Government in the United States, it is important to see now whether the new regime will have that necessary commitment for addressing the global challenge of climate change in terms of Paris accord. US has not been very enthusiastic about this after the recent elections. The Paris accord itself in the targets is not what is required to successfully address climate change although it’s a great beginning. But if the largest emitter plus the most industrialized country of the world begins to retract from its commitments, it will be a discouragement for other nations also. What US does sets a great example for many countries of the world. There is more focus on oil industries and fossil fuels in US therefore, whether clean energy options will get the kind of funding it received during Mr. Obama’s regime is a question.
Most of the processes under the Paris Climate accord have to be finalized by 2018. Climate change is not taken as something about environment. It is taken more like a business in US and Europe and this area is being given more emphasis because 80-90 percent of patents of clean energy projects are with the nations in these parts of the world. In the coming years, major deals will put a thrust on clean energy alternatives and these countries have to survive in the race.
Right now for India, clean energy alternatives are not economically viable until financial assistance or technology transfer is provided or is subsidized by western countries to make it affordable for India. In the coming years, there will be a rapid growth in the cities of India. In terms of the pollution factor, 2016 has been significant because there were different moves made in different cities across India where pollution really became the buzzword for most of the citizens such as in Delhi (odd-even rule). At least for the urban scenario, pollution has been put right in the middle of the political agenda. There is also a need to use indigenous technologies in this area rather than expecting technology transfer from other nations.
The change should come from one and all. It should come from within because only then real change can be made. But the policies made by different political bodies have to be conducive. Public transport systems have to be affordable and safe with less waiting time. Use of CNG is a good initiative. There needs to be a collective effort from all the ministers of the State Governments to have such a mechanism in the state that brings in better methods which can be easily adopted by people and can help in checking adverse effect on climate as well.
If India thinks on its own, it will end up doing the right thing. INDCs have been far better than they were expected. Our renewable energy targets are extremely ambitious. India has taken a good decision of leaping from EURO IV to EURO VI. But this decision should have been taken many years back. The lung capacity of 50% of India’s children is being affected adversely because of the new normal of air pollution levels in Delhi. There is requirement of strong radical steps to be taken like use of electric vehicles in public transport as it is viable as well in cities. Revenue subsidies can be provided, recharging stations can be there like petrol pumps and replacement of old vehicles can be done with an electric one. This would be better than having an environment cess.
There needs to be short term, mid term and long term plans which should be executed well along with coordination from all stakeholders will bring in results. There is a strong need of radical thinking. The problem lies with prioritization rather than funding which can be addressed only with collective efforts.