New Delhi: “The risks of climate change are the strongest negative externalities that affect India and other countries,” said the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget 2022 speech. She said that we have entered into ‘Amrit Kaal’, the 25-year-long leading up to India@100. Ms Sitharaman further said that the government aims to attain the vision of promoting energy transition and climate action during the ‘Amrit Kaal’, and laid emphasis on this vision by putting the same as one of the important priorities of the country going forward.
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Allocations For Environmental Projects
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change got a total allocation of Rs 3030 crore, as compared to last year’s Rs 2869.93 crore, a 5.6 per cent increase. Of the Rs 3030 crore, Rs 460 crore are allotted towards control of pollution, which is Rs 10 crore less than last year’s Budget.
The Finance Minister, in her speech, underlined India’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, saying the Budget proposes several near-term and long-term actions accordingly.
As the Prime Minister said at the COP26 summit in Glasgow last November, what is needed today is mindful and deliberate utilisation, instead of mindless and destructive consumption. The low carbon development strategy as enunciated in the ‘Panchamrit’ that he announced is an important reflection of our government’s strong commitment towards sustainable development. This strategy opens up huge employment opportunities and will take the country on a sustainable development path. This budget proposes several near-term and long-term actions accordingly, Ms Sitharaman said.
The budget was increased for National Mission for Green India from Rs 290 crore in the last financial year to Rs 361.69 crore this year, with the national afforestation programme being allotted Rs 300 crore, compared to last year’s amount of Rs 235 crore.
The allocation under the heading of ‘climate change action plan’ remained the same as the previous year, at Rs 30 crore.
Budget 2022 reduced the budgetary allocation for the statutory body Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), which works for air quality management in the national capital region and adjoining areas, from 20 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 17 crore in 2022-2023.
Control of Pollution has been conceptualised to provide financial assistance to Pollution control Boards/Committees and funding for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched in January 2019.
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Other Allocations And Announcements For A Green India
The FM also proposed an additional allocation of Rs. 19,500 crore for to ensure the domestic manufacturing required for achieving the goal of 280 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030.
Moreover, in line with the government’s green commitment, Ms Sitharaman announced that the government aims to promote the use of public transport in urban areas. She also announced a Battery Swapping Policy due to the constraint of space in urban areas for setting up charging stations at scale.
Further, the FM highlighted the importance of a ‘Circular Economy’. She said,
The action plans for ten sectors such as electronic waste, end-of-life vehicles, used oil waste, and toxic and hazardous industrial waste are ready.
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Environment Experts Take On Budget 2022
Chandra Bhushan, President & CEO of the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST) tells NDTV that this is ‘probably the most ambitious energy transition budget that we have seen.’ He says,
There is huge investments in solar manufacturing, batteries, hydrogen, electric vehicle, renewable energy. So, India has announced certain targets at COP26 to be achieved by 2030, and this budget does reflect that. The budget also provides a roadmap for clean energy and climate mitigation. From that perspective, it is an extremely bold and ambitious budget. There are concerns in environmental field, for the river linking. However, I personally welcome single window clearance, which FM has announced in which environment, wildlife and forests are combines together. I have personally advocated it for a long time, I do not see it as a dilution, rather I see it as a making it less bureaucratic process. This will reduce corruption and we can build strong institution mechanism.
Sunil Dahiya, Analyst, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) expressed his concerns that the budget doesn’t reflect any specific allocation for National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) or other air pollution reduction schemes. Mr Dahiya said,
Being a long term and complicated issue, Air Pollution needs continuous attention and budgetary support, which was missing from the union budget. The reduction in air pollution over the past couple of years can’t be the reason for not paying attention to the issue now as the last two years were unusual because COVID-19 led to fluctuations in industrial consumption and output along with longer than usual monsoons.
Mr Dahiya further says that the government’s focus on coal gasification is a red flag to the energy transition, as it still ‘tries to keep coal alive when we know that for the energy transition to be meaningful coal usage in any form should be phased down and stopped ultimately.’
Also, coal gasification has been explored for a long time in India and globally but have failed to be an economical and environmentally friendly alternative especially when renewable energy and Green-hydrogen has huge scope to take over the traditional energy sources, Mr Dahiya added.
Vivek Adhia, India Country Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities said that the Budget 2022 lays out clear directions for climate action, energy transition, productivity enhancement and inclusive development.
Defining moments of the budget including Natural zero-budget and organic farming to streamline agri-space; efficiency improvements and infra spend to enhance focus on renewables; exploring co-investments, energy as a service and green bonds to unlock investments; operationalising the mobility goals via electric vehicles battery swapping, grid-scale storage and dense charging infra; to reducing thermal power and industrial carbon intensity via biomass and coal gasification – form the core, of the AmritKaal roadmap towards India@100.
Dr. Akshay Singhal, Founder, Log9 materials spoke about the government’s push for Electric Vehicles. He tells NDTV,
The Central Government’s constant push for EVs and climate action is commendable, and the same outlook has been resonated in this year’s Union Budget as well. The openness showed by the Government to accommodate new-age business models like battery swapping are a welcome step, and the push to encourage battery- -as-a-service and energy-as-a-service business models will provide further thrust to emerging homegrown startups in these areas. At the same time, financial decoupling of batteries irrespective of swapping has the potential to enable faster adoption. Going ahead, it would be exciting to see some great climate focussed debt lines initiated from blended finance. However, bringing EVs and batteries into priority lending sector was also expected this time, but was missed in this Budget, which is albeit disappointing to note.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.