Top climate change negotiators across the world are grappling with a new disruption -- US President Donald Trump's dislike for the United Nation's climate change programme. Trump has called it a hoax perpetrated by China, a cruel tax on US companies, and threatened to withdraw. If the world's largest polluter takes such a step, it will make efforts to bring 190-odd countries to declare their Intended National Determined Contributions, or INDC, meaningless.
But Indian citizens and businesses can take heart. The country has decided to go ahead with the implementation and execution plan, irrespective of what happens at the global stage. "It is not India's commitment to the world, it is our government's belief that we have to grow in a sustainable way. All our big programmes are designed to reduce carbon footprint," says Piyush Goyal, minister for power, coal, mines and new & renewable energy.
Not that India has much of a choice. In January, a Greenpeace India report blamed pollution for 1.2 million deaths. Its cities are a municipal mess, large stretches of its rivers are becoming sewage dumps, ground water is fast vanishing due to bad agriculture practices, and monsoon is becoming more and more erratic because of depleting green cover. All this is hitting lives and livelihoods.
The United Nation's Global Compact, an initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, is working with state governments to draw development plans in accordance with India's INDC commitment. "We understand that most of the execution and last-mile connectivity happen at the level of states," says Kamal Singh, Executive Director, UNGC Network India.
These efforts are throwing up opportunities for cutting-edge technology and service providers. There is a great investor rush for solar/wind energy projects and a huge interest in technologies for transport, water management and farming. In an April session of the UN climate meeting in Germany, a research report that was tabled said India, along with China, should easily exceed its targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. India is targeting 40 per cent non-fossil fuel contribution in its electricity mix by 2022.
Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is also pushing new technologies to cut vehicle emissions. This entails, apart from encouragement to bio-fuels, a shift to BS VI emission norms by 2020, skipping the BS V stage. This will require oil companies to pump in Rs20,000 crore. "We will manage," says Pradhan. There is also a grand plan to push electric cars. For instance, the surface transport ministry and the science and technology ministry are working to improve access to cheaper lithium ion batteries. The government also intends to ensure that all cars made in India after 2030 must run on electricity.
The following reports bring to you how a new India is rising up to the challenge of proving that economic progress need not be polluting. While the report on solar and wind power talks about how India is on track to meet its targets much before time, former HSBC banker Naina Lal Kidwai writes about how India can integrate good environment practices in planning for the future. E. Kumar Sharma brings you five start-ups that are using technology to build a cleaner India, while Bibek Debroy, Member, NITI Aayog, and head of a committee to reform the railways writes on challenges before India in integrating its various forms of transport.