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Low-carbon future through sector-led change

  • IASbaba
  • April 21, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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ECONOMY/ ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • GS-3: Issues relating to growth & development, Environmental Conservation.

Low-carbon future through sector-led change

Context: In the build-up to the ‘Leaders’ Climate Summit’ organised by the United States this week (April 22-23), there has been a flurry of articles about whether India should announce a ‘net-zero’ emissions target, and by when

What is the dilemma faced by India?

  • Taking only modest steps until richer countries do more is not viable in the context of a global climate crisis. 
  • Yet, announcing an Indian 2050 net-zero commitment risks taking on a much heavier burden of decarbonisation than many wealthier countries, and could seriously compromise India’s development needs

What should be the strategy to overcome the above dilemma?

  • We should focus on concrete, near-term sectoral transformations through aggressive adoption of technologies that are within our reach, and an earnest effort to avoid high carbon lock-ins. 
  • This is best accomplished by focusing on sectoral low-carbon development pathways that combine competitiveness, job-creation, distributional justice and low pollution in key areas where India is already changing rapidly
  • This approach is directionally consistent with India moving towards net-zero, which should be our long-term objective. 
  • Over time, India can and should get more specific about future economy-wide net-zero targets and date
  • We will take the example of Electricity Sector to understand the above path. A similar approach should be adopted for other sectors.

Electricity Sector

  1. Decarbonise Power Sector
  • To achieve net-zero emissions, a key piece of the puzzle is to decarbonise the electricity sector, which is the single largest source (about 40%) of India’s greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • So far, our efforts in the electricity sector have focused on expanding renewable electricity capacity, however one need to go beyond expanding renewables to limiting the expansion of coal-based electricity capacity. 
  1. Ceiling for Coal Sector
  • A first, bold, step would be to pledge that India will not grow its coal-fired power capacity beyond what is already announced, and reach peak coal electricity capacity by 2030, while striving to make coal-based generation cleaner and more efficient
  • Such a pledge would give full scope for development of renewable energy and storage, and send a strong signal to investors.
  • India will need to work hard to become a leader in technologies of the future such as electricity storage, smart grids, and technologies that enable the electrification of other sectors such as transportation.
  1. Multi-stakeholder Just Transition Commission
  • The next necessary step is to create a multi-stakeholder Just Transition Commission representing all levels of government and the affected communities to ensure decent livelihood opportunities beyond coal in India’s coal belt. 
  • This is necessary because the transition costs of a brighter low-carbon future should not fall on the backs of India’s poor.
  1. Improve energy services
  • Air conditioners, fans and refrigerators together consume about 60% of the electricity in households. 
  • Today, the average fan sold in the market consumes more than twice what an efficient fan does, and an average refrigerator about 35% more.
  • India could set aggressive targets of, say, 80% of air conditioner sales, and 50% of fan and refrigerator sales in 2030, being in the most efficient bracket. 
  • In addition to reducing green house gas emissions, this would have the benefit of lowering consumer electricity bills. 

Conclusion

Such a sector-by-sector approach empowers India to insist that developed countries complement their distant net-zero targets by enacting concrete near-term measures that are less reliant on unsure offsets.

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