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India is not historically responsible for climate change, but India is taking steps to reduce emission as a responsible country, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on the eve of the fifth year of Paris Climate agreement. Paris Climate Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, by 196 parties. It became effective from November 4, 2016. At present, India is contributing only 6.8 per cent of global emissions and per capita emission is only 1.9 tonnes per capita. In comparison, the emission of the United States is 13.5 per cent of the global emissions and per capita is 15.52 tonnes. China contributes 30 per cent to global emissions while the European Union including the UK contributes 8.7 per cent. Meanwhile, the latest Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2021 has placed India among the top 10 countries to have adopted substantial measures to mitigate climate change. This is for the second consecutive year India has been placed in the top 10. However, there is a cause for concern for India, according to a study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), about three in four of India’s districts are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, drought, heat and cold waves. The study calls for building climate resilience.

CEEW Study:

  • Over 75 per cent of Indian districts, which are home to over 638 million people, are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, droughts, heat, and cold waves, according to a first-of-its-kind independent study released today by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
  • The frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of these extreme events have also risen in recent decades. While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 extreme weather events post 2005 alone.
  • The study also found a shift in the pattern of extreme climate events such as flood-prone areas becoming drought-prone and vice-versa in over 40 per cent of Indian districts.
  • The current trend of catastrophic climate events results from a mere 0.6 °C temperature rise in the last 100 years.
  • India is already the fifth most vulnerable country globally in terms of extreme climate events and it is all set to become the world’s flood capital.
  • Access to finance and technology along with democritisation of weather and climate-related data is critical for building climate resilience, especially for vulnerable countries from the Global South like India.
  • Embracing risk assessment principles will be equally crucial to safeguard Indian agriculture, industry, and large-scale infrastructural projects from the vagaries of climate change.

Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change:

  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The Action plan covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): State governments have drafted climate strategies aligned with the eight National Missions under the NAPCC. The strategies focus on issues ranging from climate mitigation, energy efficiency, and resource conservation to climate adaptation.
  • FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.
  • UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission

A path for India without compromising for Developmental Activities:

  • First, that the prospects of effective global action required to address climate change are so weak is extremely bad news for India.
  • We are a deeply vulnerable country to climate impacts. It would behove India not to be a status quo player in this context, but to argue for enhanced global collective action.
  • Second, India has the potential to show the pathway to accelerating action on climate change even while pursuing its development interests.
  • A notable example is its energy efficiency track record, which helps limit greenhouse gases even while saving the nation energy.
  • However, there are inconsistencies in India’s story as a climate champion. India is justifiably recognised for promoting renewable energy, yet also muddies the waters by sending mixed signals on future coal use.
  • The choice of Houston — the U.S. oil capital — for the Indian Prime Minister’s recent public event, risks signalling that India sees its energy independence as tied to enhanced fossil fuel use. While some increase in fossil fuel is inevitable for India, the messaging is incoherent at best.
  • India needs domestic energy policies that are more clearly and coherently tuned to a future low carbon world.
  • Third, such a domestic message would position India to be a true global climate leader, rather than a leader only among climate laggards.
  • India and China, both jostling for influence in African nations but also both losers from climate impacts, jointly help ensure that Africa’s development is powered by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels and based on an energy efficient future.
  • Such an agenda could bring together economic, environmental and political gains.
  • The pathway to enhanced action is unlikely to override entrenched national politics, powered by international suasion.
  • Instead, the aim should be to make accelerated climate action congruent with an enlightened notion of national interest by focusing on key actions in rapidly changing areas such as energy and urbanisation.
  • India can build a diplomatic approach on a firm domestic foundation that takes seriously climate change as a factor in its future development pathway.

Way Forward

  • Localized Climate risk atlas at national scale level.
  • We have technology but need to work on R and D to reach our targets.
  • Democratization of climate data.
  • The real challenge is to get other developed countries on board.
  • Wealthy nations like the U.S., and those of the EU argued that emissions from developing countries are consistently rising and they need to commit to more serious emission cuts. A consensus needs to be developed at the earliest.
  • Ban on single use plastic will be one of the game changer
  • The ‘developing versus developed country’ schism needs to be diluted at the earliest and Developed Countries should avoid watering down the CBDR principle envisaged in earlier agreements.
  • We should not treat climate change as an environmental problem but need to address it as developmental challenge.
  • Investment in R&D is needed to spur innovations in sustainable climate-friendly and climate-proof productivity, and the private sector can help on this.
  • India’s ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions require strong political will, meaningful engagements and sustainable plans.
  • Climate finance can prove to be a compelling financial tool to align India’s growth with various climate change measures.