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Being Sustainable Ready For Future Environmental Threats

India’s per capita emissions today are 1.6 tonnes of CO2 which because of our demographics is well below the global average of 4.4 tonnes.

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The impact of the changes man is making on nature will be more astute for today’s youth than it has been for their parents. The youth of today will be affected by sudden natural disasters, new viruses, rising temperatures - signs of which we are already witnessing today. The youth therefore needs to know about the solutions for mitigating environmental changes and be part of implementing the solutions, else it will lead to massive levels of anxiety and feeling of helplessness, besides the destruction of nature and .

Tampering with nature translates into enormous costs for the economy as well, making it a dangerous vicious circle of economic and environmental degradation that feeds in to each other. For example, air pollution from burning fossil fuels currently costs about 5.4 per cent of India's GDP. The current COVID-19 pandemic which erupted from man eating bats, is already having a wipe-off effect on the economy.

Since 2010, India has kick-started several national programs to boost cleaner economic development. These have focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean transport among others. We have done well in implementing energy efficiency policies, pushing solar energy, and replacing over 700 million street and household lights with energy-saving and long- lasting LEDs.

India’s per capita emissions today are 1.6 tonnes of CO2 which because of our demographics is well below the global average of 4.4 tonnes. It is also because of our demographics and growing economy that India is vital for the success of the Paris agreement to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius. India has therefore set a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, of which 100 GW is solar capacity addition and 60 GW is wind power capacity. Over the past decade both the energy and emission intensities of India’s GDP have decreased by more than 20%, but total energy-related CO2 emissions continue to rise in India which indicates that we need to do more.

However, India needs to be far firmer on not building new coal power plants and transitioning the existing ones to renewable energy technologies. Arunabha Ghosh of the CEEW in India and mentor at the Fellowship for Climate Action launched by Anant National University, has been advocating this for years. Building more coal plants could push India off the 1.5°C-compatible pathway. India also needs to transition to electric private and public vehicles. One of our mentors at the Fellowship for Climate Action, Chetan Maini created Reva, India’s first electric car in 1998 which was seven years ahead of Elon Musk's Tesla Motors! But use of electric vehicles are still far from popular in India. Also, the spend of only about 1.25 per cent of India’s GDP on health will not be adequate to treat the illnesses that erupt from humankind tampering with nature. Being prepared early will avoid panic later.

Currently a large part of what we hear about the effects of climate change or the solutions to mitigate it originate mostly from Europe. We read and hear very little about how climate change is affecting India and the solutions that are working in the specific context of India. The Fellowship for Climate Action to fill the evident gap of having an adequate voice from emerging economies in the current discourse on climate change in the world.

Emerging economies such as India are grappling with immediate issues such as poverty, inadequate food distribution, lack of basic shelter, besides the effects of climate change, and therefore any effective solution to adapt to or mitigate climate change in these regions must take in to account all or at least some of these challenges. These issues affect each other and need to be addressed together in solutions for it. Immediate challenges of food security, basic resources, and shelter, no longer must be an issue of conflict between the actions by the developed and developing world, but instead they need to be taken into account in to solutions developed by Indian policy makers and the private sector for the solutions to be effective and successful.

We can therefore no longer have a piece-meal approach of only fighting food security or climate change. As an international program based in India, the Fellowship for Climate Action fills this evident gap of having an adequate voice from emerging economies in the current discourse on climate change in the world. Immediate challenges of food security, basic resources, and shelter, no longer must be an issue of conflict between the actions by the developed and developing world, but instead they need to be taken into account in to the solutions in emerging economies for the solutions to be effective and successful. We can no longer have a piece-meal approach of only fighting food security or climate change. The Fellowship for Climate Action is framing this important discourse.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Dr. Miniya Chatterji

CEO of Sustain Labs Paris and adjunct-professor Sciences Po Paris. She is Director of the Centre for Sustainability and of the Fellowship for Climate Action at Anant National University, Ahmedabad

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