India’s pledge towards net-zero by 2070 paves path towards a sustainable future
The global community was taken by surprise when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the commitment that India will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. While the target has been set and commendably so, achieving it will require some serious and sustained commitment and efforts from not just the government but each of us. In simple terms each of us need to curtail our wasteful consumption and be conscious of our carbon footprint. We need to constantly remind ourselves and those around that everything that we do has a direct bearing on our natural environment which in turn affects our own well-being. That we are a developing economy is also a blessing in disguise and a great opportunity for each of us to grow responsibly.
To achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, we need appropriate funding and transfer of technology by the more resourceful developed nations. We have wasted two and a half decades highlighting this at various COPs but not much has changed. There seems to be a clear contradiction in what some of the developed nations preach and practice. They really need to walk the talk now and if not lead by example at least follow us and make real commitments. Their statements in the media cannot be in contradiction to the stand they take in closed door climate negotiations.
India is already making serious efforts towards climate change adaptation and mitigation. By the year 2030 we have already committed to exceed our non-fossil fuel energy capacity target which includes meeting 50% of our energy requirement through renewable energy, reducing our carbon emissions by one billion tonnes, reducing carbon intensity in our economy by 45%, making Indian Railway, the world's largest railway carrier achieve net zero carbon emissions, saving 40 billion tonnes of emissions through LEDs etc. For a developing economy this is no easy task and a huge sacrifice in the collective global interest.
Since the developed nations have only made promises towards technology transfer and climate finance thus far without contributing anything, we cannot only rely on them to achieve our targets. The private sector like always will have to step in and contribute significantly. We will have to reimagine ways to reduce the emissions by energy-intensive sectors. Clean mobility, not just private but more importantly public, is the only way forward. We need to sustain our focus on improving energy efficiency and continue the already commendable work that we are doing in this regard.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change needs to focus much more on climate change and devise strategies and programmes to achieve the net-zero target we have set for ourselves for 2070. This may not require creating new institutions or enacting new laws but it will definitely require revising our existing laws suitably and making their implementation stronger. The regulators have to empowered financially and technically to take necessary steps and work proactively towards reducing our emissions, conserving and increasing our forest cover to one-third of our total area, if not more, protecting our once rich and precious biological diversity, cleaning our air and water bodies and managing our waste more efficiently.
A lot of these things are easier said than done but then we neither have the luxury of time, nor do we have adequate resources. Some may call it over-commitment on our part but then it is only in our interest and the interest of our future generations to make sure that we do not waste any further time and strive for our survival, strive to save humanity. While at it, we must also make sure that we do this while improving the living standards of the poor and ensuring that the quality of their lives improve. Whether this also means rethinking our pollution-control strategy could be a discussion for another day but we definitely need to make sure that our rush towards achieving net-zero also ensures equity and quality life for a major percentage of our population which has unfortunately been deprived of it for ages.
(Nawneet Vibhaw is a Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co and a member of International Union for Conservation of Nature World Commission on Environmental Law. He specialises in environmental advisory and environmental disputes. Views expressed are personal.)