India faces a Carbon Catch-22

The world has put forth its pledges ahead of the Paris conference

India’s commitment to reduce carbon intensity levels by up to 35 percent by 2030 may represent a quantum leap in aspirations. But as an emerging economy with a compelling need to industrialise and service a population of 1.25 billion and counting, it faces the notorious Carbon Catch-22. Its emissions will grow in an expanding economy as millions of people are either not served or still undeserved in terms of basic electricity for social infrastructure. To believe then that it would be possible to assure electricity to the whole of India without a near 70 per cent dependence on fossil fuel-fired power is foolish.

The world has put forth its pledges ahead of the Paris conference, promising to try and slow global warming to nearer the acceptable (according to scientists) two-degree-Celsius rise level in this century. It is, however, also a fact that such ambitious targets will not be met despite all the statements of good intentions floating in Earth’s polluted atmosphere. The industrial world may have accepted that it is culpable of criminal neglect in letting things come to such a pass. The bigger issue, however, is about who will pay for cleaning up the planet, and the rich are notoriously parsimonious.

India’s target of tapping clean and renewable energy sources like the Sun, wind, biomass and smart and small hydroelectric dams to bring down dependence on coal to around 60 per cent is unrealistic. What difference would it make if the whole world is going to fail anyway in terms of stemming global warming despite the increasing danger of having to pay billions for the damage wrought by climate change? The catch here is that India, as the world’s third- or fourth-largest polluter, depending on whether we take EU as one energy entity, needs an impossible $2.5 trillion in technology and finance to help combat the emissions problem. There is no Santa Claus in the world of finance.

It is nice enough, in principle, to try and save the world even when someone else did the damage. Whether it would be practically possible to carry out the massive reforestation promised when we know that in reality India is failing to tackle unprecedented deforestation thanks to the crush of population is a different matter altogether. The target of 175 GW of renewable energy can only be met if there is political will to do away with bureaucratic hurdles as well as embark on a vast land acquisition drive for wind and solar energy. It is cynically said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We are headed to a living hell on Earth if we do not reverse climate change. Desperate remedies are needed and India’s response has been sporting. To walk the talk now is the biggest challenge.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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