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India Can Be A Low-Carbon Growth Model

The most damaging impacts of climate change have been extreme weather conditions, droughts and rising sea levels

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Energy intensive human activity, especially the rapid use of fossil fuels, has led to accumulated carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere. This accumulation, has resulted in a sharp increase in temperatures  over the last several decades and is manifesting itself in the form of changes in weather conditions. This phenomenon is popularly known as “climate change”.  

The most damaging impacts of climate change have been extreme weather conditions, droughts and rising sea levels. These developments need focused global action, which is why 195 countries signed the Paris Accord with a commitment to a climate resilient future. The signatories committed themselves to keeping average global temperature within two degrees of pre-industrial levels. They also submitted “Nationally Determined Commitments” (NDC) on actions they intend to take and targets they seek to achieve.

Climate action comprises both mitigation measures and adaptation measures. Mitigation measures seek to reduce GHG emission, while adaptation seeks to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change. India is committed to cut down carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 30 per cent to 35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It plans to do so by significantly increasing the share of renewables in its electricity mix and bringing back large areas of degraded forest under tree cover.  

Mitigation measures have primarily focused on energy and industrial activity, missing steadily rising impacts from other segments. The transport sector, for example, accounts for nearly a quarter of global energy related CO2 emissions and will play a significant role in achieving deep cuts in global GHG emissions. In countries like India, which are rapidly urbanising, transport systems are getting increasingly motorised. Pathways to reduced use of motor vehicles will go a long way in reducing GHG emissions from this sector. The emphasis on public transport over personal motor vehicles, as well as the emergence of shared and electric vehicles are developments that would help reduce such emissions.

As a first step, internationally consistent methodologies to map transport sector emissions need to evolve for facilitating sharper reductions in the years to come. Apportioning cross-border emissions remains a challenge. However, building-up momentum in this space is the recent agreement by 170 plus countries via the International Maritime Organization on halving shipping emissions by 2050. This follows the global market-based measure adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization in 2016, to cut air-transport related emissions across 190 plus countries globally. India is a signatory to both these agreements and is committed to the Paris Accord.

India’s national urban transport policy also emphasises investments in public transport and non-motorised modes rather than on road widening and constructing flyovers, which tend to encourage use of personal motor vehicles. This is particularly important as 80 per cent of the transport sector emissions are from the road transport sector. More recent emphasis on a comprehensive approach to urban mass transport systems through the recently adopted Metro Rail policy, are also steps in the right direction. The strong push towards electric vehicles, especially with the growing share of renewable sources in the electricity mix, will also help reduce GHG emissions from the transport sector.

India with its comprehensive policies on electric mobility, dedicated freight corridors, ramping-up of inland waterways – can take a lead in embracing transport-sector goals and be a torch bearer in low-carbon growth.

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.

O. P. Agarwal

The author is CEO, World Resources Institute, India

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