Climate Change – the India story

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Over the last four years, India has retained its spot in the top 10 best performing countries in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), but it is a real delight to see that India has now jumped two spots higher to rank 8th as per the CCPI 2023, released by German Watch, New Climate Institute and Climate Action Network International based in Germany. The latest report of CCPI, released at COP27 in November 2022 shows Denmark, Sweden, Chile, and Morocco as the only four small countries that were ranked above India as 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th respectively. The first, second and third ranks were not awarded to any country. In effect therefore, India’s rank is the best amongst all large economies.

China, the biggest current polluter, figured at 36th position while the second most current emitter, the US, was at the 53rd spot in CCPI 2023. The CCPI is an independent monitoring tool for tracking climate protection performance of 60 countries and the European Union (27 countries) every year since 2005. It aims to enhance transparency in international climate politics and enables comparison of climate protection efforts and progress made by individual countries. The performance of these countries, which together account for 92% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is assessed in four categories – GHG emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. India earned a high rating in the GHG Emissions and Energy Use categories, while a medium for Climate Policy and Renewable Energy. The aggressive policies of India towards rapid deployment of renewables and robust framework for energy efficiency programs have shown considerable impact. As per the CCPI report, India is on track to meet its 2030 emissions target.

There is a tendency in the climate change debate to focus on the big picture pledges, such as India’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2070, but the attention should be on the actions that will actually happen by 2030. It’s also clear that if the world is to meet the aim of keeping warming to less than 1.5 degrees, what happens in the three major coal producing and consuming countries of China, India and Indonesia will have a huge influence. These three countries have a combined population of just over 3 billion people, or about 40% of our global population. All three countries are heavily reliant on coal for electricity and industrial uses and the future trajectory of coal usage will determine their independence from coal. It is clear that Asia, and particularly the big three consumers, are still looking at coal to provide much of their electricity for decades to come even as coal power is likely to rapidly close in most of Europe and will decline in the United States as well. That makes near-term commitments by the big three Asian coal consumers far more important than long-term pledges at dates so far into the future that hardly any of the current crop of political leaders will be alive to see it come into fruition.

India has some impressive goals for 2030, aiming to boost generation from renewable energy to 450 GW by 2030. India’s Intended NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) is now its first NDC under the Paris Agreement. Some of the important points from India’s updated first NDC under Paris Agreement are worth capturing here.

  • To adopt a climate friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce Emissions Intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 50% 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 (GCF).
  • 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 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.

India’s NDC is ambitious, and it is a significant contribution towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and it reaffirms its commitment to the UNFCCC on Climate Change. India is making this arduous effort, despite the reality that our contribution to the world’s cumulative emissions so far is less than 4% and our annual per capita emissions are about 1/3rd of the global average.

When electricity is produced by variable renewables, greater system flexibility is needed to consistently balance supply and demand, whether over short timescales or seasons. India’s New Energy Landscape needs more electrification, decentralization, more flexibility, more connectivity and software, change of behavior and business model and also some demand-response modelling. More than 40% of the actions and technologies required to close the gap with a 1.5-degree Celsius path are available and cost-effective. Some of the actions include additional push for clean electrification, focus on energy efficiency and a broad drive to cut methane emissions from fossil fuel operations.

Our New Energy Landscape leads to a dual way of handling electricity by type of players. One is for Grid to Plug which includes grid operators, retailers, electricity traders and the second one is for Plug to Grid which includes electricity users such as residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and factories, modelling electricity local generation, storage and usage. These leads to the two-way energy market; the wholesale energy market and infrastructure consisting of central generation and grids and the decentralized energy usage and generation through Microgrids, energy storage and usage technologies.

At the end, for a country like India with 1.4 billion people, a topic like Climate Change won’t have much of an impact till the time the common citizen isn’t involved and engaged actively. There are several pockets of excellence which exists in our country fighting climate change in their own way related to agriculture, farmers, soil, water conversation, waste segregation, reduced consumption, reducing plastic usage, but these will have to be publicized, rewarded, accelerated, and brought to the mainstream for massive adoption. This is the time to see the birth of climate enthusiasts and a positive climate activism in India.

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