India’s mission to lead the world in making itself carbon neutral has been highly successful. In May 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over, he stated unambiguously his commitments towards the green trajectory of the country. Modi shared his vision at the recent G20 Leaders’ Summit and said: “Climate change is the most important issue threatening our very existence on this planet and must be fought not in silos but in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way.”
This philosophy has been the basis for successful implementation of climate action. The Prime Minister said the “spirit of trusteeship towards planet earth will inspire us for a healthy and holistic lifestyle.”
He called for a global index in the post-corona world that comprises of four key elements – creation of a vast talent pool, ensuring that technology reaches all segments of the society, transparency in system of governance, and dealing with Mother Earth with a spirit of trusteeship.
This also gives a message to the citizens to volunteer for serving the society with complete dedication and sacrifice for the coming generation.
Along with growth and advancement, it is the fundamental duty of all world leaders to ensure that the ecosystem is preserved.
This is possible through research-based policies. One of its important aspects is that every new project needs to be assessed for its anticipated carbon footprint and adequate measures must be mandated to minimize its environmental impact. The UN has appreciated India’s leadership role in solar and industry transition. India has made remarkable efforts in achieving more than the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) path compatible with limiting warming well below 2°C. India is on its way to achieving its carbon intensity reduction, and non-fossil fuel electricity growth capacity commitments well before the 2030 target year. India took a big step forward by adopting low carbon and climate-resilient development practices and has made remarkable innovations in renewable energy including bioenergy.
The major initiatives in this direction are the ‘International Solar Alliance’ (ISA) and ‘Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure’. ISA is an international alliance of 88 countries to train thousands of stakeholders to promote research and development in renewable energy for reduction in carbon footprint.
The government has pushed renewable energy through both policy and action far more aggressively than most countries. India has set for itself an ambitious target to generate 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030; 175 gigawatts of this renewable energy target are expected to be met before 2022. This means that it will achieve about 40 per cent of its total renewable energy generation target by 2022, with almost a decade left to achieve the rest.
The Prime Minister sees $20 billion annual business in green renewable energy every year for the next decade. Change from fossil fuel, including coal, to renewable energy is being done at an unprecedented rate, though coal is life for India. The coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure has 18 countries and four international organisations to mitigate infrastructural damage caused by natural disasters.
Other important initiatives spearheaded by the Modi Government include fast-tracking circular economy; next-generation infrastructure ~ such as metro networks, waterways; replacement of normal light bulbs with LED, saving 38 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, and smokeless kitchens which have been introduced in over 80 million households.
The ‘clean India’ drive is among the largest cleaning drives in the world. Some of the other initiatives in progress are Hydrogen Fuel Cell and EV; elimination of single-use plastic, rapid expansion of forest cover and eco-design.
The circular economy initiative, capture of carbon emissions, energy efficiency and switch to green technologies are on mission mode. Government, Oil and Gas companies and technology providers will invest Rs 30,000 crore to set up 900 compressed biogas (CBG) plants.
The government has envisaged a total of 5,000 plants being set up in India by FY24, with an investment of Rs 2.0 lakh crores. Mr Modi highlighted the importance of developing evidence-based research structures for Ayurveda, for a leading global role in the 21st century.
The importance of a ‘holistic and integrated medicine system’ for the overall health and wellness of the public was well accepted worldwide during Covid-19. This led to a rapid increase in the demand for ayurvedic products during this period. Promoting Ayurvedic treatment is the right way forward to transform a high carbon economy into a low carbon economy.
Naturopathy is another boon for the world, for both curative and preventive modes of treatment found in ancient wisdom. Several visitors from around the globe take advantage of Naturopathy treatment available in India.
Most of the cosmetic industry is also gradually shifting towards natural products. This shift is asserting our steps towards nature’s economy and minimizing carbon emission.
With his conviction, the Prime Minister convinced the United Nations to accept yoga and succeeded so that we now have an International Yoga Day observed on June 21. The benefits of yoga therapy are both preventive and curative, and this is again based on ancient wisdom.
The WHO Director-General announced the setting up of a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India. Dr Tedros said that Ayurveda is an Indian heritage, and it is a matter of happiness that India’s traditional knowledge is enriching other countries also.
While India deserves a pat on the back for its solar mission, it now needs to focus on energy efficiency/intensification equally as on solar and CO2 sequestration. It is time to introduce a modest carbon tax gradually and increasing year on year to catalyze new investments.
There are benefits both in employment and diminishing health expenses with good air quality. The Private Sector now recognizes the need to reduce its carbon emission and is aware that it is high time to act upon this need.
Policymakers are now on a mission to bring down carbon emissions, as an integrated effort of the entire society.
They are committed to showing the new path of sustainable development based on ecology, nature and a circular economy. The success of this mission, however, depends on the contribution of every stakeholder, including every household and every business. Mr Modi believes in a needbased economy. Reduction in consumption is an important step in reducing carbon emission as proved by our experience during the current pandemic.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.” India is no longer defensive on climate change and is actively engaged in shaping the international debate.
Only leaders like the Prime Minister can confront situations, with some major inconvenient truths. He is leading a path of low carbon emissions, for a sustainable economy, by creating a mass movement.
World leaders will join him to create climate change as a mass movement, without which climate change goals cannot be achieved.
The Prime Minister considers the world as one family. India made available drugs to the world community despite being in short supply for its own needs. The world community joined hands as one family to fight Covid-19 in sharing information in research and developments of new drugs.
Now, the development of vaccines, manufacturing, and supply has been seen as a project for the global family. It would be appropriate to mention that ‘climate change’ needs to be replaced with ‘climate crisis’ to create a sense of urgency. World leaders will have to move faster to fight the climate crisis.
Green technologies should be made easily available at affordable cost across the globe. Transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, nuclear and hydrogen energy needs to be accelerated. However, this will only be possible if easy finances are made available to the developing countries.
The world recognizes that the consequences of climate change will be more dangerous if not checked with sincerity and speed, and collectively. It will be more devastating than Covid-19, which continues to paralyse the world community and destroy economies while we watch helplessly.
There is a need for all the countries to be united in rejuvenating and restoring the serenity of Mother Earth.
The writer is Chairman ~ Expert Appraisal Committee, Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Climate Change, Government of India. He can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed are personal.