Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 20 October 2023

The shape of climate justice in a warming India


“Climate crisis and social injustice are inextricably linked; our economic system must work not only for the few, but for all nations and all people, especially communities that are impacted first and worst by the climate crisis."

- Climate activist Jerome Foster (US)

Relevance: GS III (Environment)

  • Prelims: Paris Summit (2015); NDC Targets; Renewable Energy; Green Federalism; Strategic Plan for Advancing Energy Efficiency across Demand Sectors by 2030.
  • Mains: India’s Green development; Inequality matrix; Climate justice; Climate Change and Indian Targets.

Why in news?

The G­20 summit that was held in Delhi in September 2023 agreed on tripling renewable energy capacity and a voluntary doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030.

 

BEYOND EDITORIAL:

 Why tripling renewable energy capacity is needed?

  • To achieve net-zero emission: Boosting renewable energy capacity is essential to reduce fossil fuel consumption and achieve net-zero emissions, consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement.
  • To reduce Fossil fuel usage: Growing renewable resource by triple, will provide a key lever to slash fossil fuel demand, estimating that it can avoid seven billion tones of CO2 polluting the atmosphere from 2023 to 2030.
    • According to International Energy Agency (IEA) the amount of electricity coming from coal - the biggest source of CO2 – can also be halved.
  • To build renewable infrastructure: The renewable energy pledge have focused on hydrogen or carbon capture and storage technology. This can be a complete game changer during high demand of energy especially during international crises like Ukraine War.

How India can voluntarily contribute in doubling the rate of energy efficiency?

  • As a trailblazer in energy efficiency, India is driving a comprehensive "Strategic Plan for Advancing Energy Efficiency across Demand Sectors by 2030" to double the global rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030.
  • This objectives are geared towards:
    • Fostering collaboration between Global North and South G20 countries and delving into tracking mechanisms and necessary financing.
    • Implementing high-impact opportunities in India by sharing learnings, best practices, and case studies.
In this way by propelling energy efficiency within the country and assisting globally with the G20 nations, India can voluntarily double the rate of energy efficiency by 2030.

The Current Dilemma:

1) India is falling in the Inequality matrix: Variations in rainfall, temperature and extreme climate events directly impact agricultural productivity, fishing communities, etc. While the relationship between inequality and carbon emissions is complex, it is clear that addressing both environmental and socio­economic inequalities simultaneously is essential for sustainable and equitable development.

  • Unequal economic distribution: Due to unequal economic structure in under-developed and developing countries, the societal behaviours which are necessary to address climate change (such as public action and state capacity), are impeded in more unequal settings.
  • High cost of Carbon emissions: Less equitable societies and more emissions tend to have higher carbon costs based on emission outputs per unit of economic activity. Hence, there is a need to recognise and mitigate the barriers that these inequality matrices pose to effective climate action is a critical step toward a more sustainable and just future.

2) India’s Green development:

  • India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) aim to ensure that 40% of the total installed power generation capacity is clean energy.
    • The country has pledged to achieve net­zero emissions by 2070. Such an ambitious target necessitates careful study of its implications.
    • As of 2021, coal was the major contributor to the total energy supply in India (accounting for 56.1%), followed by crude oil (accounting for 33.4%).
    • Industrial sector in India: The industrial sector was the largest consumer of energy, using more than half, i.e., 51% of the total final energy consumption, followed by transport (11%), residential (10%), and agriculture (3.6%) sectors.
    • Manufacturing Sector in India: Data show that manufacturing is far more energy and carbon-intensive than agriculture and services. Consequently, any increase in the prices of energy is likely to lead to a contraction of manufacturing, which India cannot afford given its already low manufacturing level.
  • Paris Agreement (2015): The emphasis in the Paris Agreement is “taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs per nationally defined development priorities”.
    • The skill sets required and the jobs generated per unit of output in renewable vastly differ from fossil fuel industries. Many fossil fuel firms are in the public sector and act as a critical avenue for creating job opportunities for the marginalised and the lower castes in India.
  • Thus, a holistic approach that considers economic, social, and regional inequalities is crucial to adopt, as this shift should not exacerbate existing disparities. For example, regions that are heavily reliant on coal production face a unique set of challenges than other regions.

3) Greening federalism in India:

  • Coal Factor: Coal, the cheapest source of energy, is located in the poorer regions in eastern and central India while renewable energy hubs, powered by wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, are located in the relatively wealthy southern and western India.
    • Firstly, after these targets for renewable energy, the regions heavily reliant on coal production may lose revenues and livelihoods.
    • Secondly, despite the pollution it causes, the coal sector, owned by the public sector miners (85%), is the main source of revenue via taxes, royalties, and mining fees and employment for the State governments in Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.
  • Hence, India’s energy transition strategy must pay attention to these regional inequalities

 What are the major challenges for India in the future roadmap?

  • No consensus on the root cause of climate crises: The Delhi Declaration in the G20 Summit on the climate question did not find consensus on the most contentious issue, like, what is the root cause of the climate crisis of the phasing out of fossil fuels.
  • Building our capacity:
    • Infrastructure capacity: The Annual capacity additions have more than doubled from 2015 to 2022, rising by about 11% per year on average. However, a higher annual growth rate is required to put renewable sources on track to meet the 2030 capacity target. To triple the total capacity by 2030, the world would have to add nearly 1,000 GW of new capacity every year.
    • Allocation of Funds: According to the estimates, investments of about 5.3 trillion USD would be required every year, till 2050, for energy transition to limit the global rise in temperatures to within 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
  • Accountability of major economies: Generally, those countries/states/regions that contribute more to climate change are not the ones who are actually affected by climate crises. This leads to climate injustice.
  • Stronger policy actions by governments: A higher annual growth rate in equal distribution of climate justice would require a much stronger policy push from regional as well as central governments.
  • Focus on our Targets: Renewable energy, even if tripled, would be able to avoid only 7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent or less than one-third of what is required. If the tripling target is achieved by 2030, it alone would not be sufficient for the 1.5-degree Celsius goal.

Way ahead:

  • Building Climate Justice: The right strategy and equitable justice require compensation for those who are harmed. Moreover, the countries which have emitted more during the Industrial Revolution phases in past centuries need to pay for it.
  • Needs a federal Deal: India’s federal governance structure implies that sub-national governments play a significant role in addressing climate concerns.
    • There is a need to examine the sub-national responses in tackling the challenge of climate inequality mitigation. State governments need to involve actions that are related to climate justice, climate adaptation, and disaster management coordinating with the Union government.
  • Building consensus on the root cause of climate crises: Any energy transition initiative must embrace two normative ideals:
    • Internalizing socio-economic cost for each country: It requires those who emit greenhouse gases, needs to pay the social and environmental costs.
    • Involving major contributors of the world: Any mitigation effort needs to invert carbon injustice by making the richer countries, states or richer classes within a country pay for the energy transition.

Thus, we must delve into the intricate interactions between fiscal federalism and climate mitigation to understand how policy alignment and cooperation can be achieved across the levels of government.

 PYQs 

Mains:

  1. 'Clean energy is the order of the day.' Describe briefly India's changing policy towards climate change in various international forums in the context of geopolitics. (2022)
  2. Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference? (2021)

 Prelims:

  1. “Momentum for Change: Climate Neutral Now” is an initiative launched by (2018)

(a)       The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

(b)       The UNEP Secretariat

(c)        The UNFCCC Secretariat

(d)       The World Meteorological Organization

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