By G. Srinivasan
A little highlighted fact during the recent visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China is the intensified cooperation in non-fossil-fuel sources that New Delhi sought from the Middle Kingdom and succeeded in securing. Academic scholars contend that 2014 was the second year in a row in which China added more generating capacity from non-fossil-fuel sources than from fossil-fuel ones. China augmented its ability to generate electricity from fossil fuels by 45 gigawatts to reach a total of 916 gigawatts. At the same time, it also enhanced its capacity to produce electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 56 gigawatts, achieving a total of 444 gigawatts in which wind, water, and solar power plants added 51 gigawatts of generating capacity.
As a result wind, water and solar power today accounts for 31 per cent of China’s total electricity generation capacity, up from 21 per cent in 2007, while nuclear power accounts for another two per cent. What is astonishing is that these goals exceed the target established by China’s 12th Five Year Plan, which projected that power generating capacity based on non-fuel sources would account for approximately 30 per cent of the country’s electricity system by 2015, according to the scholars Mr.Hao Tan, New Castle Business School, University of Newcastle, Australia and Mr. John A. Mathews, Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney.
Considering the fact that China has been accused of emitting the greenhouse gas(GHC) to render atmospheric pollution appalling in cities like Beijing over the years, the slow but steady gear shift in official thinking to do mid-course correction to drive development at the new normal pace of seven per cent growth per annum is but understandable. For India, which is not in the same league of China, in terms of its incredible achievements on the advancement ladder with the attendant reckless disregard for human consumption or health hazards, the lessons are obvious to get imbibed even before it accelerates its development speed to catch up with the best or the rest who had overtaken it long ago.
That is the reason why the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while unveiling manufacturing mantra as a route to India’s high growth path for development coined a bewitching phrase that India intends to glide on the high growth trajectory with “zero defect” and with “zero effect” on environment. There is a universal concern growing that the world is belching out noxious and polluting greenhouse gases (GHGs) that threaten to put at peril the very survival of humanity, if drastic moderating action is not put in place to stem the smokes, both literally and figuratively.
Prime minister Modi in his address in the UN General Assembly in September last also responded to concerns being expressed by many advanced countries that all countries must bear due responsibility in this common task by recalling that “the world has agreed on a beautiful balance of collective action—common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)”.
India’s stand in the ongoing negotiations for a global climate change agreement to be cobbled together in Paris before the end of this year has been guided by the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. India has been contending that the climate change agreement of 2015 should weigh “a whole gamut of issues including adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency of action and support in a balanced manner and loss of damage in addition to mitigation.”
Be that as it may, this has not detracted or distracted India from doing its mite to plump for green technology as the need for doing so has become overwhelming, given the high-level of atmospheric pollution in cities and the associated health hazards this poses to a large swathe of the population. The latest scientific findings reveal that out of the global carbon budget (carbon dioxide emission) of 2,900 Giga tones (Gt), only 1000 Gt remains to be used between now and 2100 in order to limit the global temperature to two degree Celsius. Most of the extant and cumulative carbon budget has been used by the developed countries in the past for the prosperity they relish now in terms of high living standards and relatively better quality air ambience. As such it is also germane to keep in view the World Resources Institute estimates that if emissions continue unchecked, the lingering budget will last just for 30 more years only.
Hence, the key point for designing emission reduction commitment is how the balance of carbon budget is to be apportioned with a fair burden-sharing mechanism so that countries in the lower ladder of material advancement do not get their well-laid development plans derailed. Prime Minister Mr. Modi’s call for such a fair burden-sharing body needs to be viewed against this ground-level and well-grounded perspective. Moreover, India’s contribution to cumulative global CO2 (1850-2011) was a measly three per cent as against 21 percent by the United States 18 per cent by the European Union.
It needs to be noted that the government of India has an ambitious but achievable target of 100 giga watts (GW) of solar energy against the current 2.5 GW and 50 GW of wind (current 26 GW) power by 2022, in the wake of crash in crude oil prices that rendered the renewable energy competitive, given the right spurs and fillips. The country has also drawn up a National Adaptation Fund with an initial corpus of Rs. 100 crores last year to countenance adaptations actions to combat the challenges of climate change in significant sectors like agriculture, water and forestry. It can be recalled that India launched its National Action Plan on Climate Change way back in 2008 and is in the process of revisiting National Missions in the light of new scientific evidence and technological advances.
India’s total renewable power installed as on 31st December 2014 has reached 33.8 GW. Wind energy continues to dominate this share accounting for 66 per cent of installed capacity followed by biomass, small hydro power and solar power. Under India’s National Solar Mission in the next five years proposals are likely to generate business opportunities of the order of 160 billion US Dollars in the renewable energy sector. Some of the country’s major immediate plans on renewable energy encompass scaling up cumulative installed capacity to 170 GW and setting up a National University for Renewable Energy.
India has also put in place the clean energy cess on coal in 2010 which very few nations in the world have done. This has been doubled to Rs 100 per tonne last year which has been further doubled to Rs 200 per tonne in the latest Union Budget. The aggregate collection so far under the National Clean Energy Fund(NCEF) has crossed Rs 17,000 crore and till end-September 2014, as many as 46 clean energy projects at a cost of Rs 16,511 crores had been put up for funding out of this corpus.
The government has rolled up a plethora of plans to introduce clean fuels such as biodiesel, bio-ethanol and electricity for public transport vehicles and for school buses in big cities to minimize air pollution. Both public and private automobile makers have plans up their sleeves to make these unconventional fuels viable through minimum engine modifications and providing efficient storage to tackle transport problems.
The global community particularly the rich countries which had the prime-mover advantage in advancement should come forward to share the cost of emerging economies and developing ones to move up fast on the green growth ladder by transferring funds and cost-effective technology in a holistic manner to maintain the ecological equilibrium without any adverse fallout to flora, fauna and humans.