Climate Change

CoP26: How India is paving the way towards climate action

India’s adaptation efforts have been shouldered through afforestation activities, wetland management, compensatory afforestation, etc

By Ramesh Pandey
Published: Saturday 06 November 2021

The need for urgent climate action has increased in the post-novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) era. The world has witnessed climate change impacts in the form of rising temperatures, receding glaciers, drying rivers, reduction in wetlands and aberrant and untimely weather conditions causing natural calamities and loss of biodiversity.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (CoP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to be a crucial event keeping in view the common goals towards climate action.

Among the major global concerns in the present climate deliberations are the need for serious commitment by countries in meeting their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets and recalibrating them in the present context and needs, as well as attaining a net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century.

The agenda of climate finance has also gained momentum in the last couple of months. The world is looking for a trillion US dollar finance to mitigate the impact of climate change by using clean technologies and non-renewable energy for development activities.

India has been working towards mitigation efforts through transformative steps. These include undertaking the commitment of expanding non-fossils capacity to 500 GW by 2030; augmenting initiatives such as the Ujjwala Yojana; encouraging alternate technologies in energy and power;  and envisioning a shift to green e-mobility.

The launch of the Green Grids Initiative — One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) — also indicates India’s imperative of addressing multiple important goals. These include stimulating green investments, reducing carbon footprints and energy costs and enabling climate cooperation across countries and regions.

GGI-OSOWOG is the first international network of global interconnected solar power grids by India and the United Kingdom

India’s adaptation efforts have also been shouldered through afforestation activities, wetland management, compensatory afforestation, climate education, Clean India Mission, Jal Jeevan Mission and development of appropriate disaster management infrastructure.

Approach to climate action stratagem

The emphasis of developing countries on climate mitigation mechanisms — particularly focusing deliberations on the use of clean technology, enhancing climate finance and achieving Net Zero targets by the middle of this century — indicate their apparent tilt towards climate mitigation.

This difference in approach — of emphasising particularly on climate adaptation measures — is particularly critical for fast-growing economies such as India, which has an unusual setting of having high human and livestock populations depending on limited natural resources.

In such a situation, the five-pronged strategy narrated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at CoP26, represents a straightforward outlook towards the climate adaptation and mitigation agenda of the country, which entails the following;

  • Expanding India’s renewable energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 (earlier this was 450 GW)
  • Increasing the share of non-fossil fuel energy in India’s total energy mix to 50 per cent by 2030 (previously this target was 40 per cent)
  • Reducing emissions intensity, or emissions per unit GDP, by at least 45 per cent by the year 2030 from the 2005 levels (previously this target was 33 to 35 per cent)
  • Ensuring net-zero emissions by 2070. This means that all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions must be sequestered by processes such as photosynthesis or physical removal
  • Reducing the total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes from now to 2030. This is the first time India has made an absolute quantity target in this regard

Bridging the gaps

Forests react sensitively to changing climate; climate and forest are intrinsically linked by extreme climatic conditions, dynamism in biodiversity, and changing land use patterns.

Land use, land-use change and forestry sequestered 301,193 Gg of total CO2 emissions in 2014, which is about 18 per cent of India’s total GHG emissions. Mitigation and adaptation measures can, thus, be encouraged through plantation, afforestation and reforestation programmes.

Natural climate solutions, such as land preservation and timber harvest management, are viable options for avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the magnitude of the land carbon sink. India’s potential in this regard also lies in harnessing the impact that can be created by providing impetus to Trees outside Forests.

India needs Rs 60,000 crore a year to achieve its NDC target by 2030, according to The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). However, at present, there exists a gap of more than Rs 48,000 crore towards actualising this effort due to the lack of appropriate carbon financing mechanisms.

By leveraging such mechanisms, such as those making use of agroforestry, India has the potential of mobilising Rs 50,000-60,000 crore.

TERI has undertaken a few pilot projects of this kind under a voluntary carbon mechanism, which can further be extended across regions. REDD+, a framework created by the UNFCCC Conference of Parties, guides activities in the forest sector that reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, help to sustainably manage of forests and conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

This framework, in tandem with concerted community efforts, can enable natural regeneration and usher in additional benefits through relevant forest carbon-based financing schemes.

Deliberations in common parlance

There is also a need for more awareness and deliberations in common parlance regarding ‘mindful and deliberate utilisation’ rather than ‘wasteful consumption’, since the fight towards positive climate action is also a matter of living style where the philosophy of life and consumption of natural resources comes into the picture.

The inculcation of a lifestyle for the environment by the masses can prove to be instrumental in mitigating and increasing adaptation against climate change, especially in fishing, agriculture and forestry.

Just as contemporary economic analyses involve the factoring-in of behavioural and cultural aspects of decision-making, a similar approach is also required for facilitating involvement in climate adaptation by common people.

Way forward

India has exhibited its fore-sightedness and commitment towards the world’s fight against climate change. An increasingly important aspect of the climate debate is nature-based solutions that involve integration of forests, agriculture and ecosystems for  

NDCs also need to be aligned with congruent short-term and long-term strategies at the local and regional levels in order to translate into meaningful and timely action towards common climate goals.

International collaboration and emphasis on countries vulnerable to climate calamities along with required investment of financial resources is crucial. Institutional mechanisms for an equitable and favourable transition towards green and clean technologies are the need of the hour.

Ramesh Pandey is an Indian Forest Service Officer and UNEP Asia Environment Enforcement Award awardee. Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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