The climate crisis: An opportunity for India

Source: Business Standard

Relevance: Fighting climate change.

Synopsis: Global warming threat has opened a new path to growth for India that will only advance its economic prospects.

Background

IPCC’s 6th Assessment report has unambiguously stated that various significant impacts of climate change have already taken place. These may in fact be irreversible. Also, that the Indian sub-continent is and will be one of the most seriously impacted by climate change.

So the challenge now is to not only adapt to what has already occurred in our planet’s ecology, but to avoid further such consequences that threaten the fragile life sustaining systems.

India’s role

The global effort will not succeed unless India is part of the solution. Equally, India will not succeed unless global climate change is addressed at the same time.

Apart from this, India will need to be fully and actively engaged in multilateral negotiations to ensure a global regime that enhances rather than limits India’s developmental prospects.

India’s stand at the multilateral negotiations should be aligned with a significantly transformed development strategy domestically to ensure that the positions the country takes at the negotiations carry credibility.

A transformed eco dev strategy

In its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) adopted in 2008, India put forward a comprehensive strategy for environmentally sustainable development. Various components of NAPCC provides the following pointers for a transformed economic development strategy for India:

  • Shifting from fossil fuels: A strategic shift from our current reliance on fossil fuels to a pattern of economic activity based on renewable sources of energy such as solar energy.
  • Expand energy targets: India should expand its ambitious renewable energy targets, given the declining relative costs of renewable energy vis-à-vis fossil fuels.
  • Improving urban mobility and mass transportation: In a densely-populated country, the emphasis has to be on providing mobility rather than encouraging private vehicular ownership. The policy ought to be to heavily tax the possession of private vehicles and invest, on a large scale, in mass transportation networks providing affordable and efficient mobility to the ordinary citizen.
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture: NAPCC envisaged a major shift away from a water-intensive, chemical fertiliser and toxic pesticide-dependent intensive agriculture strategy to a water-frugal, micronutrient-based and non-pesticide agriculture. This would address the intense scarcity of water that is beginning to affect all aspects of our well-being, stop and reverse the declining natural fertility of the soil due to over-use of chemical fertilisers and prevent the entry of carcinogenic substances into our food-chains from the use of increasingly toxic pesticides. This shift in agricultural strategy would not only bring about major productivity gains but also address climate change since the current practices are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Way forward

India has the opportunity to pioneer a new developmental model that is aligned with the necessities of a climate-constrained world. It cannot pursue the energy-intensive and mass consumption model of advanced economies, which China adopted as well. There is no room in the world for another China-like major economy. India has no choice but to explore a different trajectory.

This will not only advance India’s economic prospects but also make it a powerful voice for persuading other countries to take on much more ambitious commitments, without which the looming climate emergency could overwhelm humanity.

Terms to know

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