The Indian Conundrum of Domestic Growth Vs. Climate Challenge
Antara Maitra – Student, Kautilya
Memories of the scorching summers down the childhood memory lanes distinctly bring out the misfortune of having no electricity for 4 hrs/day on average for about a month every year. Annual visits to the grandparents’ home in a remote place in West Bengal had worse things to offer- no electricity plus low daily voltages. The scenario hasn’t changed much over the years. Coming of age, with having called Mumbai home, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region has never been a disappointment. The glaring disparity between rural and urban India calls for the need for sustainable interventions.
A twelve-year corporate experience with an Indian and then in a European firm with clients across the globe has exposed the need for dynamic business strategies warranting realignments to keep up with geopolitical and market events. COVID-19 has taught us harsh lessons, the most essential being the need to transition to a sustainable world- and this is where my motivation lies.
The world considers India the flag bearer of socio-economic growth in Southeast Asia. In the run-up to being the third-largest economy in the world, the progress should be holistic. Prime Minister Modi emphasized the urgency when he acknowledged the need for “Sabka Prayas.” For a diverse country like ours, the issues we face are multi-dimensional , with climate change being one of the most glaring challenges. While we gear up for a greener tomorrow, the landscape beckons us to chart a strategic road ahead. Though there have been some notable achievements, viz., total installed capacity from renewable sources has doubled in the last five years, touching the 100 GW mark within a decade, our reliance on fossil fuels and oil and gas imports is still high.
The next 20 years could be a defining moment for the country as India could emerge as an international power and set goals for the smaller nations and the developed world to follow. India’s G20 presidency at this vital juncture has highlighted to the world the merits of it being inclusive, decisive, ambitious, and outcome-oriented, echoing “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”. Embarking on a role of setting precedence and being a voice of the global south, India would be expanding to its barometer of geo-political influence. Reaching this target will need massive and dynamic participation from all sectors- industry, local governments, civil society, and academia. Housing one-fifth of the world’s youth population– presents the nation with a huge advantage of the geographic dividend needed to propel economic growth. There is a need to synergize regionally, partner with nations, and strategize to complement mutual economic progress.
India has made a commendable move by setting an ambitious target of becoming carbon net zero by 2070. Reflecting on Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where we have recently pledged to be energy-independent by 2047, our country’s growth model calls for policy interventions right at the grass root level- and this is where lies the opportunity. A push for developing and improving public services and governance through a digital platform, Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), is a welcome move by the government and will be a role model, as highlighted at the G20 conference in 2022.
The Emission Gap Report of 2022, states that, in India, between 1990 and 2021, carbon dioxide and GHG emissions have skyrocketed by 190% and 335%, respectively. The complexities of a developing world expose us to diverse problems about climate change – the need for sustainable infrastructure, reduced and regulated Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, transition to renewable energy, lucrative climate finance, ESG investments, equitable growth, and poverty reduction, to name a few. The Union Budget 2022-23 has set the stage for serious action by declaration of sovereign green bonds issuance. Revising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2022, viz., reducing the emissions intensity of India’s GDP by 45 percent by 2030, achieving about 50 percent of electric power installed capacity through non-fossil fuels, and the ‘Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE) Movement’ movement, India has ramped up its targets by setting an example for the developed world. Further, the commitments made at the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27), through the Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT LEDS) show India’s preparedness to tackle climate change.
However, issues like a detailed plan for energy transition, forest conservation, and reforestation, local adaptation plans, and mobilizing international climate finance will need to be prioritized. Time-tested policies that enable sustainable and inclusive development over the long term while addressing the country’s structural issues will be needed. As the policy domain gets more inclusive and merits participation at all levels, coming beyond the opaque corridors of the ministries and other national bodies, there is a beaming hope for the prospects India has and the long strides the nation is planning to take during the “Amrit Kaal.”
*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.