Climate change: Clean energy key to India’s climate action

03 Oct 2015


India is keen to attempt to work towards a balanced and comprehensive low carbon emission pathway, while simultaneously endeavoring to meet all the developmental challenges that the country faces today, minister of environment, forest and climate change, Prakash Javadekar, said while presenting India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, Javadekar said the INDC includes reduction in the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level and creation of an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. 

India, he said, has also decided to anchor a global solar alliance, INSPA (International Agency for Solar Policy and Application), of all countries located in between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.  

''Recent decisions of the government represent a quantum jump in its aspirations and demonstrate unparalleled vision'' the  minister said, adding that India's contribution represents utmost ambitious action in the current state of development.

The INDC centres around India's policies and programmes on promotion of clean energy, especially renewable energy, enhancement of energy efficiency, development of less carbon intensive and resilient urban centres, promotion of waste to wealth, safe, smart and sustainable green transportation network, abatement of pollution and India's efforts to enhance carbon sink through creation of forest and tree cover. It also captures citizens and private sector contribution to combating climate change. 

INDC outlines the post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement.  The INDC document is prepared with a view to taking forward the prime minister's vision of a sustainable lifestyle and climate justice to protect the poor and vulnerable from adverse impacts of climate change.

Ministry of environment, forest and climate change, the nodal office for preparing the INDC, has adopted the INDC through an inclusive process involving stakeholder consultations with the specific involvement of the key ministries and state governments.  Interactions were also held with civil society organisations, think tanks and technical and academic institutions of eminence.

The ministry had also commissioned greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling studies for projections of GHG emissions till 2050 with a decadal gap.

Besides, the minister stated that planned actions and economic reforms have contributed positively to the rapidly declining growth rate of energy intensity in India. The government, through its various institutions and resources, has taken steps to de-couple the Indian energy system from carbon in the long run.

''Despite facing enormous development challenges like poverty eradication, ensuring housing, electricity and food security for all, India, which has no binding mitigation obligations as per the convention, declared a voluntary goal of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20–25 per cent, over 2005 levels by 2020. A slew of policy measures to promote low carbon strategies and renewable energy have resulted in the decline of emission intensity of our GDP by 12 per cent between 2005 and 2010.''

It may be noted that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in its Emission Gap Report 2014 has recognised India as one of the countries on course to achieving its voluntary goal.

India has adopted several ambitious measures for clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, achieving lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, non-fossil based electricity generation and building sector based on energy conservation. Thrust on renewable energy, promotion of clean energy, enhancing energy efficiency, developing climate resilient urban centres and sustainable green transportation network are some of the measures for achieving this goal.

Solar power in India is poised to grow significantly with Solar Mission as a major initiative of the Government of India. A scheme for development of 25 Solar Parks, Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects, canal top solar projects and one hundred thousand solar pumps for farmers is at different stages of implementation. The government's goal of 'Electricity for All' is sought to be achieved by the above programmes that would require huge investments, infusion of new technology, availability of nuclear fuel and international support.

The energy efficiency of thermal power plants will be systematically and mandatorily improved. Over one million medium and small enterprises will be involved in the `Zero Defect Zero Effect' scheme to improve their quality, energy efficiency, enhance resource efficiency, pollution control, waste management and use of renewable energy.

Urban transport policy will encourage moving people rather than vehicles with a major focus on mass rapid transit systems. In addition to 236 km of metro rail in place, about 1,150 km metro projects for cities, including Pune, Ahmedabad and Lucknow, are being planned. Delhi Metro, which has become India's first MRTS project to earn carbon credits, has the potential to reduce about 0.57 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

The switch from Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) to Bharat Stage V (BS V) and Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) to improve fuel standards across the country is also planned for the near future.

Renewable energy sources are a strategic national resource. Harnessing these sources will put India on the path to a cleaner environment, energy independence and, a stronger economy. The renewable energy technologies contribute to better air quality, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, curb global warming, add jobs to the economy and, protect environmental values such as habitat and water quality.  Over the years India has successfully created a positive outlook necessary to promote investment in, demand for, and supply of, renewable energy. India's strategy on renewable energy is driven by the objectives of energy security, energy access and also reducing the carbon footprints of the national energy systems. It has evolved over the years through increasingly stronger commitment at federal level.

The institutional arrangement for offtake of renewable energy will be further strengthened by Renewable Purchase Obligations and Renewable Generation Obligations.

India's share of non-fossil fuel in the total installed capacity is projected to change from 30 per cent in 2015 to about 40 per cent by 2030. India is running one of the largest renewable capacity expansion programmes in the world. Between 2002 and 2015, the share of renewable grid capacity has increased over 6 times, from 2 per cent (3.9 GW) to around 13 per cent (36 GW) from a mix of sources, including wind power, small hydro power, biomass power / cogeneration, waste to power and solar power.

On normative terms the CO2 emission abatement achieved from the renewable power installed capacity was 84.92 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year as of 30 June 2015.

To accelerate development and deployment of renewable energy in the country, the government is taking a number of initiatives like up-scaling of targets for renewable energy capacity addition from 30GW by 2016-17 to 175 GW by 2021-22. The renewable power target of 175 GW by 2022 will result in abatement of 326.22 million tonnes of CO2 eq. /year.  The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance the capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which is expected to be scaled up further thereafter. Efforts will include scaling up efforts to increase the share of non-fossil fuel based energy resources in total electricity mix including wind power, solar, hydropower, biomass, waste to energy and nuclear power.

The range of ecosystem goods and services provided by forests include carbon sequestration and storage. Despite the significant opportunity costs, India is one of the few countries where forest and tree cover has increased in recent years and the total forest and tree cover amounts to 24 per cent of the geographical area of the country.

Over the past two decades progressive national forestry legislations and policies of India have transformed India's forests into a net sink of CO2. With its focus on sustainable forest management, afforestation and regulating diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose, India plans to increase its carbon stock. Government of India's long term goal is to increase its forest cover through a planned afforestation drive, which includes number of programmes and initiatives like Green India Mission, green highways policy, financial incentive for forests, plantation along rivers, REDD-plus and other policies and compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority.

For the first time, devolution of funds to states from the federal pool will be based on a formula that attaches 7.5 per cent weight to the area under forest. It takes into account the changing realities in order to rebalance the fiscal system of the country in a way that will incentivise greener distribution of resources. This initiative will give afforestation a massive boost by conditioning about $6.9 billion of transfers to the states based on their forest cover, which is projected to increase up to $12 billion by 2019-20.

For India, adaptation is inevitable and an imperative for the development process. India is facing climate change as a real issue, which is impacting some of its key sectors like agriculture and water. The adverse impacts of climate change on the developmental prospects of the country are further amplified enormously by the existence of widespread poverty and dependence of a large proportion of the population on climate sensitive sectors for livelihood. It is of immediate importance and requires action now.

In the INDC, the country has focused on adaptation efforts, including:

  • Developing sustainable habitats;
  • Optimising water use efficiency;
  • Creating ecologically sustainable climate resilient agricultural production systems;
  • Safeguarding the Himalayan glaciers and mountain ecosystem; and,
  • Enhancing carbon sinks in sustainably managed forests and implementing adaptation measures for vulnerable species, forest-dependent communities and ecosystems.

India has also set up a National Adaptation Fund with an initial allocation of Rs350 crore ($55.6 million) to combat the adaptation needs in key sectors. This fund will assist national and state level activities to meet the cost of adaptation measures in areas that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

India's climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources. India already has ambitious climate action plans in place. Preliminary domestic requirements to implement national climate plans add up to more than $2.5 trillion between 2015 and 2030. Substantial scaling up these plans would require greater resources. Developing countries like India are resource constrained and are already spending enormous amounts on climate change. Implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation actions would require domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries in view of the resource required and the resource gap.

Urgent efforts to reduce GHG emissions need to take place against the backdrop of a growing energy demand and urbanisation in India. With the responsibility of lifting around 360 million people out of poverty and raising the standard of living of an even greater number of people, technology is the only powerful solution for countries like India that can simultaneously address climate change and development needs. Technology development and transfer and capacity-building are key to ensuring adequate development and deployment of clean-technologies. The technology gap between rich and poor countries remains enormous and the capacity of developing economies to adopt new technology needs to be enhanced. 

Enhanced action on technology development and transfer will be central in enabling the full and effective implementation of India's INDC. Developed countries should be supportive and help in transfer of technology, remove barriers, create facilitative IPR regime, provide finance, capacity building support and create a global framework for research and development on clean coal and other technologies.

India has submitted it's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution on Gandhi Jayanti, The approach of India's INDC has been anchored in the vision of equity inspired by the Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi's famous exhortation;''Earth has enough resources to meet people's needs, but will never have enough to satisfy people's greed'' and formulated under the leadership and guidance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has called for 'convenient action' in order to deal with the 'inconvenient truth' of climate change.

Conference of Parties (COP) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at 19th Session held in Warsaw in November 2013 invited all Parties to initiate domestic preparations for their INDC towards achieving the objective of the convention and to communicate them, well in advance of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties. The concept of 'Nationally Determined Contributions', taking into account the outcomes of both Warsaw COP 19 and Lima COP 20 has to reflect the principles of equity and `Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)' and the country's contributions must be seen in a balanced and comprehensive context.

India expects a balanced agreement at the Paris convention with all components - mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance and capacity building- consistent with the principles and provisions of the Convention.

There should be new, additional and predictable flow of finances from developed and developing countries for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building, besides provision of technology development, transfer and diffusion.

The Paris Agreement must incorporate loss and damage and make operational Warsaw International Mechanism.

India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: At a Glance
India has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Some of the salient points of the INDC are:

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation;
  • To adopt a climate-friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development;
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level;
  • To achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance, including from Green Climate Fund;
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030;
  • To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management;
  • To mobilise domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap; and
  • To build capacities, create domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.

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