IPCC climate change report shows time is running out for all, and India must act fast in the right direction

India will have to do rapid transition to replace traditional energy with non-hydro renewable energy beyond 80 per cent by 2050 to match the level of emission and the rate of absorption

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Dr Gyan Pathak

India is caught between two immediate responsibilities – bringing out millions of its citizens from extreme poverty and mitigating the vagaries of climate change that has threatened the very survival of millions in short term and the whole humanity in general in the long term. Moreover, the country cannot afford to ignore any of them, and the world cannot think of even surviving the climate change without India’s contribution.

India is the third largest emitter of the greenhouse gasses, and the Sixth Assessment Report ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ finalized by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and released on August 9, has clearly signaled the pressing need of coordination among all the countries of the world. Countries need to join the net zero emissions coalition and reinforce their promises on slowing down and reversing global heating with credible, concrete, and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that lay out detailed steps.

The IPCC has tried to make a much stronger case for immediate cuts on global greenhouse gas emission and has warned that earth will be warmer by 1.5 degree C even before 2040. Obviously, being the third largest emitter in the world, India would have to face tremendous global pressure to agree to a net-zero emissions target within a reasonable timeframe according to the perspective of the world. It would require setting up an early deadline by India by which it should be able to bring down its emissions to a level of the level of absorption by its carbon sink including its forests.

India is willing to agree to the net-zero emissions target, but has some real problems. The country has tried to meet several international obligations set by multilateral agreements among nations. Any further burden would jeopardize its efforts of elimination of extreme poverty prevailing in the country which has been further aggravated by the COVID-19 crises.

India presently houses the largest number of poor in the world, and they need concerted efforts in respect to development and financial support to survive. Therefore, the country is not in a position to further burden itself with climate change mitigation measures as the world wishes it to do.

The report prepared by WMO and UNEP may trigger a widespread call for stronger and more wide-ranging emission cuts from all countries, but India cannot do more than it has been already doing without further help and cooperation from the world community especially from the developed nations, both in elimination of poverty, and in furthering the cause of climate change.

The pressure on India is likely to increase because more than 100 countries have already announced their intentions to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of the century, which included major emitters like the United States, China, and the European Union.

Since China is the largest emitter of the fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission in the world followed by the United States, the responsibility of these two countries are even more than India which is only the third largest in emission. Even in economic development and living standard of the people, India is far behind them. Moreover, China’s contribution is world emission is about 30 per cent and the United States is about 15 per cent, while India’s contribute only a little over 7 per cent.

The IPCC has said that a global net-zero in the minimum requirement to be achieved by 2050 to keep the global warming to 1.5 degree C. Even China has a net-zero goal by 2060, and the US and EU by 2050. Presently, India does not have a net-zero target, but pressure will be mounted on it to accept 2050 as a net-zero year. And it seems that India will have no choice but to declare a net-zero target year as soon as possible.

Keeping this in mind, India will have to do rapid transition at an unimaginable speed to replace traditional energy with non-hydro renewable energy beyond 80 per cent by 2050, to match the level of emission and the rate of absorption. Most of the countries which have already agreed to net-zero emission target have planned substantial emission cut after 2035.

Countries have climate plan actions and as per Paris agreement on climate change, every country is required to update and submit their NDCs every five years. Every country has submitted plans under NDCs and has declared to the world what they intend to do by 2025 or 2030. Paris agreement of 2015 had requested every county to submit NDCs by 2020.

However, due to COVID-19, the deadline was extended to 2021, which has already expired in July. China and India are among almost half of the countries of the world who did not submit their NDC by July end.

Since India will be among the worst hit countries due to climate change risks, it is also important for the country to save its own people from loss of lives and livelihoods by taking appropriate climate actions. The IPCC report says the India may see more heat waves, droughts, and cyclones. Ecology and agricultural risks are also going to increase, not only in India but in entire South Asia. Heat waves and humid heat stress will be more intense in India, along with extreme cold conditions and devastating floods.

Moreover, according to the scientists, warming of the earth beyond 2 degree C would result in catastrophic and irreversible changes in the climate that would make it difficult for human beings and other species to survive.

Therefore, we must act decisively now to keep the global warming below 1.5 degree C expected over the next two decades. Time is running out for all, and the top largest emitters China, United States, and India must act in the right direction.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 10 Aug 2021, 9:00 PM