In my zeal to increase my blogging output, I have been writing on various aspects. However, somewhere in this race for quantity, I felt as if my blog was losing its quality and its essence, i.e., empathic libertarianism. So I thought of exploring it once again.
Climate change and global warming, it seems are the ‘in’ words. No discussion seems to end these days without a faint reference being made to them. Here, I am not going to elaborate on these discussions of the intelligentsia or the masses but will succinctly show, where India stands in all this and explore the options it have.
Global warming is a common problem for the humanity (and sadly, of the humanity and by the humanity too). Who-so-ever might be responsible for it, it has to be tackled by everyone in unison. Take the example of the global economic meltdown. It originated in USA but engulfed all the world economies disproving amongst others, the decoupling theory. We all are facing the repercussions and we all have to act together. Ironically, in the middle of this economic crisis, the harbinger of the problem unleashed a protectionist regime; unlearning the Smithsonian legacy, it so avidly advocated to others, all these decades.
Coming back to global warming, India’s stand on its mitigation has been quite myopic. It has been using its low ‘per capita carbon emission’ figures as a justification to continue with the high growth rate of carbon emissions (three times the world average, as per an estimate).
Statistically, it’s true that our total emissions per person are way below the industrialised nations'. But the simple question here is can we afford to take such a micro view. After all, who will be more adversely affected by the climate change, the countries with high population density or those with low?
When the coastal areas (like our cities of Mumbai and Chennai) get submerged and people move inwards, the pressure will be felt most by the countries like India. USA with a size, 3 times larger than ours and population, 3.5 times lower, can easily afford moving the people inwards. But can we?Here, I put it in very simple terms taking just one example. However, to elaborate, I'll add that whatever be the negative consequences of global warming; unbridled climate change, receding glaciers, drying up of perennial rivers, drop in agricultural output, complementary floods and famines or the submergence of land as already mentioned; it will be felt the hardest by a country like India which supports a sixth of the world's population on just 2.3% of the total land mass.
Sadly, it has been authenticated that the Himalayan glaciers are fast receding and the islands of Gangetic delta in West Bengal are already loosing their land mass. Even if the recent flood havoc by the Kosi river in Bihar is a distant example for many of us, it can not be denied that the summer this year is getting a bit too hot than the previous years. Hence, our policymakers need to take a much wider view of the situation.
However, with this argument, I don’t intend to absolve the developed world from all the sins they have committed all these years. As per an estimate, today the rich nations of the world, with just 20% of world population, already occupy three quarters of atmospheric space. These nations have to take the responsibility and provide the developing world with technologies and resources to tackle their emissions.
Clean Development mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol wherein industrialised countries can invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries, is such an arrangement. However, it tends to give such rich nations a license to continue emitting unabated. Hence, further safeguards are needed within the CDM too.
On India’s part, no time should be lost in developing better mechanisms for controlling climate change and the country should vociferously ask the richer nations for financial and technological aid for itself and fellow developing nations.
Search for better alternatives to carbon-emitting fuels should be taken up seriously by both government and the civil society at large. At the same time, efforts must be made to attenuate the various carbon sources and develop appropriate carbon sinks. For example, better public transport, if made available to the people, will automatically act as a deterrent to private vehicular traffic and the associated pollution and carbon emission. Along with it, demarcating 'green zones' in the city precincts or growing trees along the roads will help in reducing the impact of pollution.
There have been some welcome moves in this direction in recent period.
- In June 2008, the foundation was laid for a 2-MW solar power plant at Asansol in West Bengal and this marked the inauguration of work on the first grid connected solar power plant in India. Other states like Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan are also taking steps in this direction.
- India's first tidal power project is slated to come up in Durgaduani creek in the Sundarbans in West Bengal with 90% of the funds being sanctioned by the Central government. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2010 and will help in developing further capabilities in the Gangetic delta of Sunderbans as well as Gulf of Khambat and Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat.
- Delhi Metro Rail Corporation became the first railway project in the world to be registered by the United Nations under CDM which will make it possible for the corporation to claim carbon credits.
- Project Green was launched as a joint initiative of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI of Rajendra Pachauri fame) and Bharat Petroleum wherein farmers are being provided elite planting material, technical help and training. They are also being organised into groups for local decentralised expelling of oil. This oil is proposed to be used both locally and for the production of biodiesel.
One has to hope, more such initiatives are taken up not only to develop alternative sources of energy but also develop a common understanding of the problem and a strong commitment to its mitigation among the government officials, private sector and above all the people at large.
Update (June 24, 2009)Image Courtesy:
Nearly a year ago, on June 30, 2008; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released India's first National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlining existing and future policies and programmes addressing climate mitigation and adaptation.
The plan identifies eight core 'national missions' running through 2017. These missions cover the areas like solar energy, improvement in water use, enhancing the energy efficiency, ensuring sustainable habitat, conserving Himalayan ecosystem, afforestation, sustainable agriculture and developing strategic knowledge for Climate Change.
The existing programmes enumerated include those dealing with power generation, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
It is yet to be seen if these initiatives just remain on the paper or are religiously implemented by the concerned ministries.