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The green middle ground

India’s approach to climate change involves steps to cut carbon emissions and harness the potential of green businesses and technologies, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2009 23:39 IST
Chetan Chauhan

There is a subtle change happening in India’s climate change approach.

Against the current approach, which doesn’t require reducing carbon emissions, Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh has advocated the new “per-capita-plus approach”, one in which domestic emissions are taken into account, thus bringing in the individual in the discourse of climate change.

“India shares the global aspirational growth of limiting temperature rise to two degree Celsius by 2050,” Ramesh said in a letter to Parliamentarians, explaining the new approach. “But this should be implemented in a manner that ensures … equitable burden sharing and doesn’t adversely impact the development plans… of countries like India.”

The new approach involves adopting measures such as a law for domestic emission reduction, energy efficiency and widening clean technology options.

The gradual shift has happened over the last four months mainly because of two factors. One, the enormous business opportunity it presents, and two, vulnerable nations such as Bangladesh, Congo and the Caribbean islands have distanced themselves from advanced developing ones such as India and China on financing emission-reduction measures.

Adopting cleaner technologies brings with it the promise of enormous green profits to corporations. The Confederation of
Indian Industry (CII) has estimated carbon credits earned through emission reduction could generate business worth $25 billion (about Rs 1,15,000 crore) to the country by 2020.

One carbon credit equals one tonne of carbon saved from emission. For one tonne of emission saved, a carbon credit is earned, which can be sold by companies to rich countries through an international carbon exchange.

The first major shift in the nation’s climate change diplomacy came in 2008, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the setting up of a National Action Plan on Climate Change, which outlined eight missions for emission reductions and adaptation strategies.

Simply put, it means India will have mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011, to which the Society of India Automobile Manufacturers has agreed. Come 2012, solar heaters in all new buildings in the country will also be mandatory.
By 2030, the government is working towards achieving a 20 per cent contribution of renewables in India’s energy mix. At present, renewables form just 7.7 per cent of the nation’s energy production.

Renewables are less polluting energy sources that are replenished naturally.

Even before the government announced this subtle shift, industry had prepared for the business opportunity it presented.

“The ability of a corporation to adopt low-carbon operations as well as sustainable business practices will be one of the key determinants of competitiveness in years to come,” said ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar at an annual general meeting in July.

The US and Australia are not part of Kyoto Protocol, under which rich countries buy carbon credits from the developing world.

If the United States joins the global climate change treaty after 2012, the potential green revenues for Indian firms could double, says Seema Arora, head of the climate change section at the CII.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty, which has binding emission cuts targets for rich countries and commitment to pay for mitigation action by the developing world.

At present, India, with an annual emission of 1.51 billion tonnes of carbon, is fourth — behind China (6.1 billion tonnes), the US (5.75 billion tonnes) and Russia (1.56 billion tonnes).

“The perfect should not become enemy of the good at Copenhagen (where a major climate conference is taking place) … We are a dealmaker not deal breaker,” Ramesh said in his letter to MPs.