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Towards a Low-carbon Future

India is the third-largest emitter of CO2 globally. As businesses put in place measures to increase their green presence, policies need to meet economics to help the country become energy efficient
Anup Jayaram | Print Edition: May 30, 2021
Towards a Low-carbon Future
Illustration by Nilanjan Das

India is stuck between the devil and the deep sea as far as meeting net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) is concerned. Net-zero emissions refer to an overall balance between GHG emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere. Over 100 countries have already pledged to get to net-zero emissions in the next 30 years.

Can India also announce a target year like other countries? That's not that simple since the nation still needs to industrialise rapidly to meet the hopes and aspirations of its own population. Over the next two decades, India's energy demand is expected to grow sharply. Agreeing to a hard deadline could mean cutting back on consumption and economic growth - or raising the cost of production dramatically because of the need to use technology to curb emissions. India is among the most vulnerable countries as far as the impact of climate change is concerned since more than two thirds of the population, such as farmers, are dependent on climate-sensitive sectors for their livelihood.

The country has made considerable progress in efforts towards decoupling economic growth from GHG emissions though. In the third Biennial Report to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) submitted, India disclosed that the emission intensity of gross domestic product has been cut by 24 per cent during 2005/16, which is within and before the target of 20-25 per cent by 2020.

This special issue captures the enormous efforts taking place across the economy to match climate goals with the need for industrialisation to meet the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. We start off with how some of India's biggest corporate houses including the Tatas, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group, ITC and Mahindra, among others, are working overtime to reduce carbon emissions at their plants - be it by shifting to renewable power, reducing water usage, improving energy efficiency and recovering waste heat.

Some of the biggest polluters are coal-based thermal power plants. As India's energy demand is projected to shoot up from 170 GW in FY20 to 430 GW by FY37, things could get difficult. That's where the Centre's push to building a renewable energy base comes into play. The country had set a target of 175 GW of renewable power by 2022, and 450 GW by 2030. At the end of 2020, the nation had installed 89.63 GW with another 50GW is under implementation.

India's largest employer, the Indian Railways is working to be a fully-electrified network by 2023. In other transportation, the recent vehicle scrappage policy is quite disappointing and the road to green investing is still thorny. There is an interesting case study on how the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat has over the years turned green. As you turn the pages you will realise how important it is for the nation to move towards a zero-carbon world.

@anupjayaram

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