To understand the kind of havoc that climate change can wreak, one can exert examples from the COVID-19 spread and its implications, but for a much more extended period. The loss of lives and economic misery caused by the pandemic reflects what will repeatedly happen to the world if the carbon emissions are not eliminated. A report by Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change (2020) includes novel indicators on heat-related mortality, migration and population displacement, urban green spaces, and the economic costs of labor capacity loss due to extreme heat. The magnitude of the indicators has intensified scientific understanding of how climate affects health and puts stress on health systems. Treatment of the resultant health conditions depends mainly on healthcare sectors’ capacity, which relies on the resilience of health services, which is already overstretched.
Both COVID-19 and the climate crisis have revealed that the underprivileged and marginalised sections of society are always the most vulnerable to such disasters. According to a report by the Guardian, 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent emissions and the world’s richest 10 per cent make 52 per cent of the world’s income, who are responsible for 50 per cent of emissions; the poorest 50 per cent get only 8 per cent of the world income and are responsible for only 10 per cent of emissions. Unfortunately, those impacted the most have usually contributed the least to the root causes of the crisis.
While the innumerable intertwined crises have impacted the nation – (health, economy, inequality, and leadership), we need to infer ways to become more responsible and sustainable, as the clock is ticking.
According to a report, the green recovery could cut expected emissions in 2030 by up to 25 per cent and boost the chance of keeping temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius by up to 66 percent.
Supporting net-zero-based technologies and infrastructure, reducing dependency on fossil fuel subsidies, and promoting nature-based solutions must be prioritised. More than 189 countries have joined the Paris Climate Agreement, representing more than 81 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and developing long-term plans to decarbonise their economies.
To date, the energy sector — including electricity, transport, manufacturing, buildings, fugitive, and other fossil fuels — remains the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions over any other industry, representing 73 per cent of global emissions in 2017.
The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of transparency and leadership in building trust. Similarly, strong leadership will be needed to tackle climate change. The lessons learned from COVID-19 can be applied to address the consequences of climate change in a more informed manner.
The governments are spending a colossal amount of stimulus plans to rescue their ailing economies, mainly addressing job losses and the economic damage inflicted by lockdowns. There is massive scope to heading the cash flow towards reducing carbon emissions.
As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of India, the target for capacity addition from renewable energy is the lowest in 2019-20, indicating that the sector needs urgent policy and financial support. According to the target set by MNRE 12.8 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity has to be added from five major sources that are — wind power, solar energy, small hydro electric power, biopower, and organic waste materials.
The first annual jobs census measuring employment from decentralised renewables for rural electrification in Africa and Asia has estimated that by 2023 the sector will create 4,00,000 jobs in India – including 1,90,000 direct, formal jobs – almost double the current number, as well as 2,10,000 direct, informal jobs. Supported by Schneider Electric Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, the census (surveying India, Kenya and Nigeria) aims to spotlight the energy skills needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 ─ access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In 2018, the energy demand was 12,12,134 GWh, and the availability was 12,03,567 GWh, i.e., a deficit of 0.7 per cent.
According to the Load Generation and Balance Report (2016–2017) of the Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), the electrical energy demand for 2021–2022 is anticipated to be at least 1915 terawatt hours (TWh), with a peak electric demand of 298 GW. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a quarter of India’s energy demand can be met with renewable energy. India has set itself some ambitious targets with aiming 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity by the year 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
Along with the lower cost of utility scale projects, mass production, and awareness, attractive Government policies and regulations with regards to boosting the energy efficiency sector, will play a pivotal role in helping the country reach the goal. Every state will need to have its own unique policy blueprint for how it can contribute to climate change while also helping residents enjoy the benefits of a transition to clean energy and a low-emissions economy. Educating businesses and citizens on the benefits of renewable sources of energy adoption will be a positive step towards transitioning to clean energy thus reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Combining approaches at the government and institutional level with bottom-up approaches rooted in regional, national, and local knowledge, while encouraging Ministries for planning or financing the initiative, to be fully involved in mainstreaming adaptation is expected.
(Suresh Kumar Kotla is the Director, Energy & Environment and Divya Banerjee is Research Assistant at Institute for Sustainable Communities.)
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. 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 highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. 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 become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.