From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Net-zero through sustainable well being
With current per capita emissions that are less than half the global average, India’s pledge to reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2070 has cemented India’s credentials as a global leader.
Implication of net-zero by 2070
- The political implication of the date 2070 is that the world should get to ‘net-zero’ by 2050.
- For that, the rich countries will need to do more and step up closer to their share of the carbon budget.
- India’s stand also signals that it will not act under external pressure, as requiring equal treatment is the hallmark of a global power, and will have an impact on other issues.
How focus on coal harms developing countries
- The subject of oil was not touched at COP26, even as automobile emissions are the fastest growing emissions, because it is a defining feature of western civilisation.
- Most abundant source of energy: Coal is the most abundant energy source, essential for base load in electrification, and the production of steel and cement.
- Its use declines after the saturation level of infrastructure is reached.
- Declining role of G-7 in rule setting: That India and China working together forced the G7 to make a retraction has signalled the coming of a world order in which the G7 no longer sets the rules.
- Specific language on finance and adaptation: After 40 years there is more specific language on both finance and adaptation finally recognising that costs and near-term effects of climate change will hit the poorest countries hardest.
Feasibility of the goal of ‘net-zero’ by 2070
- Seeing the challenge in terms of the scale and the speed of the transformation of the energy system assumes that India will follow the pathway of western civilisation.
- Transition to electrification: India is urbanising as it is industrialising, moving directly to electrification, renewable energy and electric vehicles, and a digital economy instead of a focus on the internal combustion engine.
- Most of the infrastructure required has still to be built and automobiles are yet to be bought.
- Investment vs. incurring cost: India will not be replacing current systems and will be making investments, not incurring costs.
Challenge for the West
- The consumption of affluent households both determines and accelerates an increase of emissions of carbon dioxide.
- This is followed by socio-economic factors such as mobility and dwelling size.
- In the West, these drivers have overridden the beneficial effects of changes in technology reflected in the material footprint and related greenhouse-gas emissions.
- The West has yet to come out with a clear strategy of how it will remain within the broad contours of its carbon budget.
- And increasing inequality and a rise of protectionism and trade barriers imposing new standards need to be anticipated.
- This knowledge is essential for national policy as well as the next round of climate negotiations.
Way forward for India
- Climate change has to be addressed by the West by reducing consumption, not just greening it.
- Shifting the consumption pattern: Consumption patterns need to be ‘shifted away from resource and carbon-intensive goods and services, e.g. mobility from cars and aircraft to buses and trains.
- Reducing the carbon intensity: Along with’ reducing demand, resource and carbon intensity of consumption has to decrease, e.g. expanding renewable energy, electrifying cars and public transport and increasing energy and material efficiency’.
- Equal distribution of wealth and affordable energy use: Equally important, will be achieving a’ more equal distribution of wealth with a minimum level of prosperity and affordable energy use for all’, e.g., housing and doing away with biomass for cooking.
- Focused research group: The Government now needs to set up focused research groups for the conceptual frame of sustainable well-being.
- It should analyse the drivers of affluent overconsumption and circulate synthesis of the literature identifying reforms of the economic systems as well as studies that show how much energy we really need for a decent level of well-being.
Role for legislature
- Fundamental duty: After the Stockholm Declaration on the Global Environment, the Constitution was amended in 1976 to include Protection and Improvement of Environment as a fundamental duty.
- Use of provision under Article 253: Parliament used Article 253 to enact the Environment Protection Act to implement the decisions reached at the Stockholm Conference.
- Enabling new set of legislation: The decisions at COP26 enable a new set of legislation around ecological limits, energy and land use, including the efficient distribution and use of electricity, urban design and a statistical system providing inputs for sustainable well-being.
Consider the question “Examine the feasibility of India’s ‘net-zero’ target by 2070, also suggest the way forward for India to achieve the target by focusing on sustainable well being”
For India, in parallel with the infrastructure and clean technology thrust, the focus on a decent living standard leads to behavioural change in the end-use service, such as mobility, shelter and nutrition — for change modifying wasteful trends.