How an orderly transition to net zero could propel growth

Source– The post is based on the article “How an orderly transition to net zero could propel growth” published in The Indian Express on 6th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Environment

Relevance– Issues related to climate change

News– The article explains the challenges in achieving net zero emission. It also suggests the steps needed to be taken to achieve the decarbonisation path.

India’s per capita emissions are relatively low at 1.8 tons of CO2e per person, but we are still the world’s third-largest single emitter. India has pledged for net zero by 2070.

What are the challenges faced by decarbonisation and emission reduction in India?

This will not be easy. On its current trajectory, India’s emissions are set to grow from 2.9 GtCO2e a year to 11.8 GtCO2e in 2070.

It will come with a huge cost. According to a recent McKinsey report, effective decarbonisation, down to 1.9 GtCO2e by 2070, would require India to spend a total of $7.2 trillion on green initiatives by 2050. Deeper decarbonisation that would reduce emissions to just 0.4 GtCO2e by 2050 would require $12 trillion in total green investments by 2050.

Why is the decarbonisation path beneficial for the Indian economy?

An orderly transition to net zero will create an engine for growth. If India shifted to a renewable  based energy and materials system, it could save as much as $3 trillion in foreign exchange by 2070.

India is in a situation where scope for investment is large. Three-quarters of the buildings, infrastructure, and industrial capacity of India in 2050 is yet to be built. We have a choice to invest in current technologies or to invest futuristically.

Futuristic investment will need India to take urgent actions on regulation, technology development, and technology adoption. This is something that India has done before. In renewable power, it has built the right policies, strong institutions and industrial capabilities in the last decade.

India also has other advantages. For example, it has high taxation on automotive fuels. This makes electric vehicles competitive against petrol or diesel ones.

What is the way forward to net zero in India?

There is a need to set out five-year, 10-year, and 25-year national decarbonisation plans. The green technologies require higher upfront investment and.

There is a need to define a national land use plan. India can have a shortage of land for its dual goals of growth and decarbonisation. McKinsey estimates that renewable power and forest carbon sinks need 18 million additional hectares of land.

India would need to maximise the use of barren land for renewable power, urbanise vertically, improve agricultural productivity, and increase forest density. It requires establishing a national authority, in consultation with the states, to set land-use guidelines.

It is required to accelerate compliance with carbon markets. Pricing carbon creates demand signals that accelerate emissions reductions.

India needs imagination, realism, determination and a sense of urgency to achieve net zero.

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