COP26, also known as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, UK from 31st October to 13th November 2021. A new global agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact, was reached at this agreement, which planned on setting a global agenda on climate change for the next 10 years. India expressed to intensify its Climate Action, wherein India presented the five nectar elements (Panchamrit) of its climate action.
Among the key announcements, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi stated that the country would strive to achieve net zero emissions by 2070. The COP26 agreement focused on setting the global agenda on climate change for the next decade and it was the first of its kind where different components contributing to climate change were taken into account and efforts were solicited to tweak their imprints, footprints and usage pertaining to climate change factors in order to reduce climate change as a whole.
The Glasgow Conference witnessed pledges being taken by various countries mainly the US and China – the world’s biggest C02 emitters, where India also pledged to incorporate the ideology of Pachamrit in its Climate Change, Sustainability and Environment Protection agenda. Focus was deliberately and urgently dedicated to clean technology practices, which the conference required all countries to implement in their year plans. The agreement was a moment when the countries revisited climate pledges made under the 2015 Paris Agreement and the goal was to keep cutting emissions until they reach net zero by mid-century.
As a part of COP21, India had committed to achieving 40% (150.05GW out of 390.8GW) of its installed capacity of energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030, which the country achieved by 2021 itself, ahead of the stipulated time. So, during COP26, India was already progressing in its clean technology adoption trajectory with striding steps displaying a promising future.
Objectives of Panchamrit
The five nectar elements presented by the Indian government included:
- Increasing non-fossil fuel capacity by 500GW by 2030.
- 50 per cent of its energy requirements to come from renewable energy by 2030.
- Reduction of total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now to 2030.
- Reduction of the carbon intensity of the economy by 45 per cent by 2030, over 2005 levels.
- Achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2070.
India, not only planned to achieve the Panchamrit promise but also introduced the term and mantra of LIFE (Lifestyle for Environment) in this conference, which as a whole summarises the objectives of the Panchamrit Yojana and entails the vision to live a lifestyle that is in tune with our planet and does not harm it thereby fostering Sustainable Development and Environment Conservation.
PM Narendra Modi also said, as quoted by news agency PTI, “India expects developed countries to make $1 trillion available as climate finance as soon as possible. As we track the progress of climate mitigation, we must also track climate finance. Justice would truly be served if pressure is put on those countries that have not lived up to their climate finance commitments.”
He proclaimed that Pachamrit is a strong step towards bettering the Climate change problem, but it also requires support in terms of finance as India, being a developing country, has less endowment of wealth and requires intensive capacity building to achieve its targets.
Moreover, being a developing country, it needs to focus on industrialisation, digitalisation, and employment building from its coffers leading to environmental degradation and problems achieving a secondary stature as developing countries inevitably require access to more carbon footprints in order to achieve the development indices. So, climate financing will help India have less intense carbon footprints while staying put in its path of developmental progress.
Performance and Prospects
“We are 17 per cent of the world’s population but contribute only five per cent of emissions. Yet, we have left no stone unturned in doing our bit to fight climate change,” PM Modi said in Glasgow. Owing to the Announcement, our Prime Minister presented India’s track record and proclaimed that India was fourth in terms of installed renewable energy capacity.
As far as performance is concerned there have been several Climate Change mitigating steps capturing elements of Panchamrit in place to combat the issue of environment degradation and climate change as:
- Most of the Indian commuters travel by Indian Railways and the Indian Railways pledged to incorporate the ideology of net zero emissions by 2030 focusing towards minimising India’s carbon footprints and leading to a reduction of emissions by 60 million tonnes annually.
- India has initiated the International Solar Alliance for solar energy.
- India has set up a coalition for disaster-resilient infrastructure for climate adaptation.
- India’s massive LED bulb campaign is reducing emissions by 40 million tonnes annually.
- The updated NDC framework along with important government initiatives like tax concessions, and incentives such as the Production Linked Incentive scheme for the promotion of manufacturing and adoption of renewable energy, helps in providing opportunities for enhancing India’s manufacturing capabilities and exports leading to an overall increase in green jobs.
- The announcement to intensify India’s climate action has the potential to bring investment and new technologies to support the country’s transition to a clean and climate-resilient economy.
- The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative launched by India and the United Kingdom in September to generate more resources for climate and green energy projects is a positive step in this direction.
- India’s G20 presidency which it assumed from 1 December 2022, is a crucial opportunity for India to showcase its commitment towards numerous international pledges that it has taken in various for including COP26.
- Further, the Lok Sabha recently passed the Energy Conservation (Amendments) Act in 2022 which mandated the use of non-fossil fuel sources like green hydrogen, green ammonia, biomass, and ethanol for energy and feedstock, bringing large residential buildings within the fold of Energy Conservation regime thereby enhancing the scope of Energy Conservation Building Code and establishing Carbon Markets.
These efforts by the Indian Government are testimony to India’s serious take on Climate action and its sustained efforts towards being a responsible nation on the world stage. Being in the developing stage, completely doing away with carbon emissions is impossible and unrealistic for a country like India so its gradual progress towards net zero emissions is expected to bring fruitful outcomes.
Challenges and Mitigation
According to a study by the IMF, if emissions continue to rise in India in the current century, India’s real GDP per capita could fall by 10% by 2100. However, there are challenges that need to be kept in mind because India is a developing country and there will always be a trade-off between employing Environment saving practices and ensuring overall development in the country. These bottlenecks cause hindrances in the smooth path to development making it a bumpy road to take, hence they need to be addressed for efficient results.
Although the adoption of clean energy will accelerate the transition to net zero while saving lives, boosting fiscal revenues, and promoting energy security, heavy industries like iron and steel mostly rely on carbon fuels and constitute most of the carbon emissions of India (135.420 million tonnes of CO2 in 2016). There is a need to decarbonize these industries and make the non-fossil fuels powerful enough to provide energy requirements at par with fossil fuels.
However, implementing such practices involves huge sums of financial support which, is a shortcoming on India’s part, being a developing nation thereby creating a resource dearth to divert monetary resources in the required amount to address climate change issues and development issues respectively. This industry is hence, trying to adopt sustainable practices like Green Hydrogen and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage and numerous beneficial schemes to reduce these emissions.
Although India has made significant progress towards meeting its emission reduction targets, with the prevailing policies for a developing country like India, total GHG emissions would however increase by more than 40% by 2030, according to a report published by IMF. While a modest increase in short-term emissions is required for overall development in the HDIs, scaling up present policies rapidly can help India pursue its path to net zero by 2070. India is expected to increase investments in coal-fired power plants, but by limiting these investments, substantial irreversible fixed costs could be saved.
Moreover, early scaling up of renewable energy allows for a more gradual policy adjustment, which may be less politically costly, and for a more continual adoption of new technologies. Phasing out coal is a major problem for a developing country like India, wherein it has to drop coal usage by around 90% to achieve its decided target.
India’s enhanced climate commitments are contingent upon the availability of ample international finance and technology from the developed countries. The updated NDC does talk about the need for low-cost international finance and transfer of technology but does not make the achievement of targets contingent on their availability.
Moreover, A RE-driven regime will require better efficiencies from the distribution infrastructure — it cannot do with the current system in which about a fifth of the electricity goes to waste. However, India has pushed for better climate financing in the COP26 with the hopes of smoother progress towards turning into a developed and responsible nation.
A proclamation of Panchamrit by a country still trying to stay put in its development strategy while floundering in creating abundant resources, experiencing explosive population and witnessing an immediate need for HDI and infrastructural development is in itself a courageous and daunting step. However, India can proudly ascertain its commitment to the stated proclamation owing to its achievements in the climate arena and its dedication to the mitigation of climate change barriers in its development path.
Still, there are certain things the Indian government needs to take note of to decide a concrete way forward for the scheme:
- India needs to set up a compact and proper funding system for financing its clean technology requirements as vaccine inequity has already given testimony to the uncertainty of relying on help from other countries.
- There is a higher requirement for investment in the R&D sector thereby fostering the creation of a strategy for the development of Renewable Energy Sources capacity in the country to encourage an organised approach.
- Excluding hydro projects, India’s installed renewable capacity is about 100 GW. The private sector today owns about 48% of the capacity. For India to meet its 2030 targets, private investors will need an incentive to keep adding to this capacity.
- There is a need for governments to ensure the flow of private investments from the global north to the global south into the relevant sectors. India, being a country with a young population and showing promising economic growth has proven to be a lucrative private investment destination in recent times so, India should focus on such investments as a part of its climate diplomacy.
- A National Commission on Climate Change should be formed as a constitutional body to deal with climate change as a strategic risk and improve inter-ministerial and Centre-state coordination regarding the same.
India’s G20 presidency and its bold stance on the issue of climate change and its mitigation has been a thought move to establish its voice with ethos. India’s progress in the same is a precedent for other developing countries to make their stance on climate action. However, the country must be mindful of the bottlenecks and take strategic and calculated steps to ensure neither Development nor Environmental Protection takes a backward position owing to a major focus on achieving either of the goals.
India is on the right track but the country needs to strategise and channel their efforts in a sustained and increasing manner so as to achieve the best outcomes. India’s interests have been articulated in decisions adopted at COP 26. The announcement to intensify India’s climate action has the potential to bring investment and new technologies to support the country’s transition to a clean and climate-resilient economy. Many nations in the World have applauded the five nectar elements (Panchamrit) of India’s climate action.
There are requirements for more carbon sinks, building an ecosystem-based approach, making plans to decarbonize emission-intensive sectors, inclusion of local people in the process of safeguarding the environment, better awareness of climate change adversities and ramping up of sufficient resources to foster the achievement of the stated goals. However, given India’s response to current environmental issues, it is expected that it will emerge as a successful country in adapting and mitigating climate change.
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Samprikta Banerjee is a research intern at IMPRI.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.
Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank Aaswash Mahanta and Chaitanya Deshpande for their kind comments and suggestions to improve the article.
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