How to hit the bull’s eye: India Net Zero 2070
The buildup to Glasgow would be recorded as one of the most complicated, delicate, and rollercoaster-like conferences in modern policy history, and what hung in the balance was the entire future of the world.
A lot was riding on the world’s 3rd largest emitter of Carbon Dioxide- India. India posed a unique set of challenges, something that the so-called “developed world” has repetitively overlooked whether in dealing with financial crises or Environmental ones- the nuances and limitations arising out of the alternate perception of growth for these developing nations.
The Developed and Developing country divide
India’s case should be reviewed with two central figures in mind. One, that India is the third-largest emitter and puts out almost 2300 Mt OF GHGs in the atmosphere. Now let's be clear whatever the argument is, this is a lot and this needs to go down. But here’s the twist in the tale- this number is only going up no matter what we do and it is only fair to the Indian peoples that it does.
Now the reason for this scandalous and seemingly immoral statement lies in the second number which is India’s per capita emissions which is close to just 1.9 metric tons per capita. Now juxtapose this with those of pushing the agenda of Net Zero in Glasgow- the USA's per capita emission stands at 18.44 almost nine times that of India. Therefore a road to net-zero laid in occidental stone would never lead to the desired destination.
The developed and developing countries should not just be reviewed in temporal lenses but their policies are rooted in their own economic, political, social, and cultural realities. Developing countries for example are amping up the levels of electrification in rural areas, this they have realized leads to a more wholesome growth and has an additionally positive effect in uplifting lives out of perpetual poverty, better governance, and further access to technologies and information that the people of developed countries take for granted. No country in the world would slow down this electrification process instead of environmental damage.
Making India's Case
In my humble opinion (and increasingly the world) there is nothing wrong with this, our traditional ways of economic development have not been built with environmental protection as a central pillar and in developing countries where people even today are dying of hunger, no will pollution over profits.
Thus, there’s a need for us to remodel the western policies of Net Zero and adapt them to the Indian context. This is something that the Indian delegation to Glasgow understood well enough and being a significant voice in the negotiations and a rallying point for other developing countries who look up to India as someone who shares similar concerns and has considerable clout, we raised the issue of fund transfer for these ambitious targets to be made more robust and have a degree of continuity and trust (Both glaringly absent since Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement.)
Now, the opportunity is immense. Unlike the developed world who have burnt their coals and melted the glaciers and put a hole in Ozone, we can now carry out the same economic development without the detrimental environmental costs. However, it requires massive mobilization of all stakeholder resources. It requires successive governments to throw their weight behind the initiative, the bureaucracy to ensure that we mobilize as many funds as we can from western countries who are now making a significant contribution to environmental projects across the world (The $1.9 Bn deal with Germany is highly welcomed) and the business and working-class communities to also adhere to the same standards and push for more investments and creations of Market-Based Solutions to bring down the action and commitment deficit and create profitable ways for achieving this goal.
All of this without central consolidation and planning is not possible. Two central points of the PM’s address in Glasgow were that India would be entirely net-zero by 2070 and it would decarbonize its industries by 40% by 2030.
These are bold and ambitious declarations and we should take a leaf out of our neighbor China which has a similar population (albeit per capita emission is 5 times of India) which too announced a Net Zero target of 2060. A full-scale Emission Trading System (ETS) was launched post this announcement and in a year it has been active.
India has a lot to benefit from ETS-type policy instruments that accept the reality of emissions as a part of economic progress and mitigate it by providing monetary incentives for offsetting these emissions.
One of the best success stories comes out of Sweden, which has priced the offsets at $139/tonne (highest in the world) and since its inception in 1991, they have reduced their emissions by 25% while achieving a robust 60% growth in the economic front.
Indian ETS, a solution for India
In terms of what we are to gain by ETS, I would like to draw your attention specifically to agriculture. 60% of our population is involved in agricultural activities, rural distress and low incomes have plagued this community for generations. For India to achieve robust and sustainable decarbonization, credits generated from agriculture would be its best bet. It would not only involve more than half of the population but also increase the per capita income of farmers as they would additionally gain from selling to companies and other ETSs (Microsoft Offset all of its emissions from farm-based credits).
We have vast farm and forest resources which can be a great sink for emissions and a source for valuable carbon credits, but without central planning and intervention, there is little incentive for the private companies to make large investments in this sector.
We have a real opportunity to write our own story this time. India is losing thousands of its people every year due to extreme-weather phenomena like cyclones and floods. Draughts and water scarcity are issues tabled for the distant future but increasingly becoming our current reality. The problem of pollution, loss of biodiversity, rise of sea levels, epidemics, and pandemics are all taking a toll on Indian health and even to a large extent National Security. In the wake of all of this robust climate action is required by the government and industries at all levels.
We should announce our intention of creating an ETS and take the industries into confidence and encourage not only climate-friendly investments but also investments in climate resources. We should focus on nature-based solutions, conserving a forest and generating electricity from solar panels may both very well save equal amounts of CO2 but they have a much more varied impact on the environment, this should be factored into the heart of our climate policy. India has a potential of more than $100 Bn worth credits and can be a leading exporter of Carbon Credits to the world creating an official channel for driving in global investments driving home the points raised by the Indian delegation in Glasgow.
Moreover, we at YePrayas are striving to be an admirable company in the waste management arena and changing the face of the globe through technology and innovation, making zero tolerance on resource wastage, thus making our Earth a better place for our people.