Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed of the day] The wheels to a low-carbon transport systemMains Onlyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Improvement in Transport Sector


CONTEXT

Congested streets and polluted air are common experiences in India’s metropolises, although the average Indian contributes only minuscule amounts of transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to global climate change. Patterns of road transport, however, diverge wildly between cities and districts. Delhi tops the charts and emissions are more than twice as high as other Indian megacities, such as Mumbai, Bengaluru or Ahmedabad.

Poor Conditions

  • Studies show that India’s road transport emissions are small in global comparison but increasing exponentially.
  • In fact, the Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast as the global rise in 2018.
  • Globally, the transport sector accounts for a quarter of total emissions, out of which three quarters are from road transport.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions of road transport leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban areas.
  • Climate action also requires an understanding of how emissions vary with spatial context.
  • In India, we find in our new study (published in Environmental Research Letters), that income and urbanisation are the key determinants of travel distance and travel mode choice and, therefore, commuting emissions.

Public Transport’s Role

  • The way cities are built and the design of public transit are critical for low-carbon mobility systems.
  • The study is based on the most recent results of the Indian Census in 2011.
  • Average commuting emissions in high-emitting districts (Delhi) are 16 times higher than low-emitting districts (most districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh).
  • Average per capita commuting emissions are highest for the most affluent districts, which are predominantly urban, and that heavily use four-wheelers for commuting.
  • This is a surprising result, as in other parts of the world such as the United States, commuting emissions are low in urban areas but high in suburban or ex-urban settings.
  • In contrast, average per capita commuting emissions are lowest for Indian districts that are poor, and commuting distances are short and rarely use three-wheelers.

Suggestions To improve

Two policy implications follow.

1.Organise cities around public transport  –

  • First, mayors and town planners should organise cities around public transport and cycling, thereby improving mobility for many, while limiting car use.
  • Uptake of non-motorised transport emerges as a sweet spot of sustainable development, resulting in both lower emissions and better public health in cities.
  • According to the recent National Family Health Survey (2015-16), nearly 30% of all men are overweight or obese in southwest Delhi, but only 25% in Thiruvananthapuram and 13% in Allahabad.
  • These data correlate with high reliance of car use in Delhi and low demand for walking.

Effect on Health

  • Addressing Chronic Diseases – Another of our studies that investigates data from the India Human Development Survey shows that a 10% increase in cycling could lower chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for 0.3 million people, while also abating emissions.
  • Car use, in contrast, correlates with higher rates of diabetes.
  • Therefore, fuel price increases, congestion charges or parking management could be a strategy that improves the well-being of individuals living in urban areas.
  • In contrast, fuel price increases would be detrimental in poorer rural areas, impairing mobility where there is a lack of alternatives.

2.Technology transition

  • Electric Vehicles – Second, India should double down in its strategy to transition to electric two and three-wheelers.
  • A recent study reports that India has 1.5 million battery-powered three-wheeler rickshaw (over 300,000 e-rickshaws sold in 2018).
  • Rampant Growth – In the coming years, experts judge that the electric three-wheeler market is expected to grow by at least 10% per year. In 2019, nearly 110,000 electric two-wheelers were also sold, and the annual growth rate may be above 40% per year.
  • Make in India – India is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers in two- and three- wheelers and Indian companies can take a leading role in switching to electric vehicles. This will also help in transforming India’s vision of ‘Make in India’.

Way Forward

  • Compact cities improve accessibility and reduce emissions from transport and even the building sector.
  • Most Indian cities are already very dense, with few benefits expected by further high-rise.
  • Short routes and fast access – City managers should ensure that existing urban areas provide short routes and fast access to schools, hospitals and jobs, otherwise, residents would be required to travel long distances.
  • To achieve this aim, mayors and decision-makers need to rethink how to deliver basic services such as education and health.
  • Achieving low carbon development – Building schools and hospitals matters especially for informal settlements and are critical in achieving low carbon development as well as improving the quality of life.
  • Access to public service Centres – Providing access to public service, choosing rapid transit over car driving in cities and supporting the rise of electric two and three-wheelers will help drive India to a modern and low-carbon transport system fit for the 21st century.
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