Countering criticisms about the global net-zero targets, India's declaration of net-zero by 2070 is both ambitious and realistic, and the country's approach towards setting both long- and shorter-term targets is a step in the right direction.
The targets of reducing 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions and reducing emissions intensity by 45% by 2030 are in line with the commitments and progress from the Paris Agreement.
But what India Climate Collaborative (ICC) - India's first-ever collective response from Indian philanthropies to accelerate climate actions - is seeing in terms of the other two, 50% of the energy requirement from renewables and 500GW of non-fossil electricity capacity, is even a stronger ambition towards moving India to a low-carbon future. And these targets would have seemed almost unbelievable just a decade ago.
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"Although there has been international pushback on 2070 being too late a target, it's actually in line with the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), which has been a mainstay of Indian negotiations," Shloka Nath, Acting CEO, India Climate Collaborative told Business Today.
"If mid-century is set as the target the world needs to decarbonise by, then it's only fair that developed nations - who have used up most of the carbon space to further their economies to the point where transitions have become more affordable - should commit to bringing emissions down to zero a decade or two before that, to keep space for developing nations to transition at a reasonable pace," she added.
While the ICC appreciates India recognising the need for sustainable, low-carbon development, it believes that the most important part of these commitments is yet to come.
"It's the ambitions from non-state actors that we're going to see on the ground, the ambitions that our businesses and civil society will strive to deliver on. In our position as an organisation that works to mobilise funds to the climate ecosystem, it's critical to realise that this is the time for Indian funders to step up and fill in vast deficits that we're seeing," explains Nath.
"So, both PM Modi's commitments and the developments at COP26 are a clarion call to domestic funders - climate change is already happening, claiming lives and livelihoods on the ground, so it's time for us to come together and act now," she notes.
However, India's path to net-zero will have a lot of challenges too and the ICC believes India can focus on three areas to start with - funding, collaboration, and capacity.
Be it developments on the technology front or policy or ground-level capacity, funding (money) is the starting point to enable action, which will be a primary lever to enable change.
But as funding alone can't solve the issue, India also needs to have a strong ecosystem of actors working on climate in the country.
"There are fantastic organisations that are excelling in research, advocacy, working with industry, policy, and more but we do end up working in silos. And it's going to take this ecosystem coming together, cross-integrating with itself to really make the systemic shift we need to move into a low-carbon future," adds Nath.
In addition, the country also needs to build capacity at the ground level to respond to climate shocks. And this doesn't mean prescribing solutions - it's about working with communities and grassroots organisations to co-create context-specific solutions.
With the vastness and variedness of India's geography, the ICC says climate impacts will play out very differently at local scales. So, it will be about identifying the specific risks that communities are facing and capacitating them with the resources they need to protect themselves against the perils.
"These challenges have informed the way we structure, the work we do - with an emphasis on building collaboration, catalysing nascent sectors, and building capacity at the ground level, by curating opportunities for funders and channelling funding into the spaces with the highest capacity for impact," adds Nath.
Some of the key initiatives undertaken by ICC includes supporting its partners, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), to develop and launch the Climate Vulnerability Index., launching India Clean Air Connect, the first-ever initiative to map the diversity of efforts to tackle air quality across the country, to understand how future work can be aligned and better supported. ICC has also been working to develop the funding ecosystem in India, which involves hosting roundtables and closed-door sessions with Indian philanthropists and curating fundable opportunities for them.
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