As the world leaders are set to participate in COP26 to decide on the next step on the challenging climate change matter, they have to remember that the world is in the midst of a climate breakdown. We are witnessing the worst extreme weather events; cyclones, floods, heatwaves, heavy rainfall, and drought. All these extreme climatic events have become more devastating, and frequent in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, south Asian countries including India are on the frontlines of these extreme weather events. In many parts of India, we have already crossed the ‘safe limits’ of air, water and soil quality. Our air, water, land, forest, coasts, and cities are facing multiple challenges due to climate change. The first national report on the state of the climate crisis called ‘Assessment Of Climate Change Over The Indian Region’ revealed that India’s average temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees celsius between 1901-2018. India is facing extreme climate events at regular intervals. Based on the long-term data and extensive research, scientists are linking these extreme weather events to human-induced climate change. It is not only impacting nature but it also has a huge impact on human health and the economy.
Big emitters hiding behind the poor
Though this is an undeniable fact that anthropogenic climate change has a huge influence on extreme weather events, we should stop calling this a “human-induced” crisis when we know the fact that just 100 polluting producers are responsible for around 70% of global emissions. It is the rich countries and classes that have been historically responsible for emissions growth and they need to change their business and lifestyles if we are ever to tackle climate heating. We need to acknowledge that in society the most vulnerable communities are paying a higher price for impacts of climate change than the rich when they are not guilty of it in the first place.
Strong commitment on phase out from fossil fuel
While most of the governments and big corporations talk a lot about climate change on global platforms like COP, their actions proved that they are just making empty promises. This needs to change in COP26. Many activists already flagged that COP26 is going to be our last hope to achieve the ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C. After the Paris Agreement in 2015, it is going to be the biggest political opportunity for world leaders to show their strong commitment to tackling the climate breakdown.
That means they need to give clear commitment to phase out the polluting fossil fuel industry with an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel projects. Even the IEA has mentioned in its net-zero pathway that “There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net-zero pathway”.
The burning of fossil fuels has already caused huge environmental, economic, and health damages. It is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. World leaders must have to understand that development cannot continue on dead (fossil) fuels anymore, especially when science has already brought sustainable alternatives to our doorstep. Today, renewable energy is much cheaper than polluting fossil fuels. Renewables would not only ensure secure green jobs, but it would also help us to get energy sovereignty and sustainable energy for all. All countries must stop funding new fossil fuels projects both at home and abroad, ensure just energy transition to clean and renewable energy sources, and support other countries to do the same. While ensuring the 100% renewable energy transition, the phase-out plan must secure the rights of workers and affected communities including job security, healthcare, and other social security.
The broken promise
It is important to remember that most developed countries are just not doing enough on their commitment. Developed countries did not meet their commitment to mobilize $100bn per year by 2020 to support developing countries to adaptation and mitigation of climate change. In the summit, the developed countries must express solidarity to the global south by increasing the promised $100bn per year until 2025 in climate finance to countries hardest hit by the climate crisis, as well as cancel all debts for the global south and honor international aid commitments. The promised climate finance should not increase the unsustainable debt burdens of poor countries. There are cases of supporting the fossil fuel industry in the name of climate finance, it must stop now. Climate finance also needs to go into climate adaptation. Developed countries must also show commitment to fund for the “loss and damage” to the low-income countries that have been experiencing huge economic losses due to climate breakdown.
To keep the temperature below 1.5C, the world leaders need to set ambitious emissions-cutting plans to halve global emissions by 2030. The Glasgow summit is going to be an important opportunity when the governments can show their commitment by announcing their ambition to cut emissions and this announcement should have real tangible plans to meet the target.
Can India lead?
In relative terms, India has made promises to move towards clean energy. Recently the country crossed 100GW installation of renewable energy while 50GW is under installation, and 27 GW is under tendering. In the solar sector, it is taking a leadership role by institutionalizing the International Solar Alliance that supports developing countries to increase their solar capacity. But at the same time, the country has not committed to any absolute emission reduction target or even given a clear date for fossil fuel peak. As of September 2021 coal still accounted for nearly 50% of the total installed capacity in power generation.
As part of the Covid19 recovery plan, the government opened up its coal mining sector for private players and announced many new coal mines for auction. This new investment planned for coal power plants is likely to adversely impact the progress towards clean energy. Ideally, these investments should be for renewables. In the light that coal is increasingly becoming economically unviable and the cost of renewables continues to drop we need to phase out of coal soon. Along with increasing clean energy share, India must put a moratorium on new coal. It should encourage more investments in the renewable energy sector and disincentivize investment in fossil fuels.
India can set the example by announcing a just energy transition plan to phase out fossil fuels in line with the 1.5C goal. It also means that no new subsidy to the fossil fuel industry and stronger national climate plans (NDCs) goals. India should invest in its own R&D to develop clean air technology.
While assessing the economic cost of fossil fuels’ phase-out plan, there is a need to include the climate crisis-driven cost of public health, economic losses, and ecological and resource security of the country. India is already paying the huge economic cost of climate breakdown. According to the Global climate risk index 2020, India suffered an absolute loss of $37 billion due to climate change in 2018. Even the recent RBI study reveals a direct casualty between extreme weather events and per capita GDP growth. It mentioned that “A persistent increase in temperature in India in the absence of risk-mitigating policies can cause the per capita GDP to reduce by 6.4 percent by 2100”
It is clear that the developed countries have already failed us. The lack of commitment and leadership from the global north is evident. India should take leadership by taking real climate action and no false solution. It will be a win-win situation for both the Indian economy and the climate.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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.