Need to Move from Aggregate Slogans to Sectoral Targets for Next 10 Yrs to Manage Climate Change: Montek Ahluwalia

Energetica, July 18, 2022

In order to manage climate change, we need to move from aggregate slogans to sectorally-detailed targets for the next ten years and more, said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India.

He was speaking at the webinar organised by CUTS International to discuss the paper titled “Managing Climate Change: A Strategy for India?” co-authored by Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Utkarsh Patel, Associate Fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress.

The paper highlighted the broad areas which need to be addressed in order for India to substantially reduce emissions. These include increasing energy efficiency, a greater thrust on electrification, shifting power generation from fossil fuels, expanding afforestation and developing carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies. It also stresses on the need for greater public-private partnerships to achieve the climate targets.

Emphasizing India to develop an explicit carbon tax regime, Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International and also the moderator of the webinar said “with the introduction of a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by the EU, which is likely to come into effect from 2026, India should develop an explicit carbon tax regime that will help limit carbon emissions. The revenue generated could be used for financing green energy projects.”

In many conversations on global trade, countries have raised the spectre of climate-related measures such as CBAM as potential non-tariff barriers, which would disproportionately affect developing countries.

While giving an overview of the key findings of their research, Ahluwalia flagged the need to decarbonise the power sector and pursue reform of distribution companies, and decarbonisation of industry and transport, as top priority areas for India.

He observed that a lot of technologies that may have potential applications in climate change mitigation seem too expensive today, but they may become viable in the coming decades as they achieve economies of scale.

Ahluwalia’s key message was the need to build political consensus and prepare a specific, action-oriented list of the detailed work needed to decarbonise the Indian economy in the coming decades.

Notably, experts consider the mitigation commitments part of the 2015 Paris Agreement package, as well as emissions reduction pledges at COP 26 in Glasgow, to be insufficient for achieving the objective of restricting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

If the average global temperature rises by 3°C by the end of this century, the world will see unprecedented damage, with developing countries including India being among the worst affected.

Panellists’ believed that reduction in emissions would depend upon the rate and extent of technological advancements, as well as their large-scale adoption. Green infrastructure, including the use of sustainable building material, along with a greater emphasis on energy audits are the need of the hour.

Discussions also raised the need to adopt adaptation techniques to deal with the resulting impacts of climate change, in addition to focusing on mitigation.

The need to mobilise adequate levels of climate financing to fund ambitious climate targets was also discussed. Importantly, panellists recognised that this could only be possible by the combined and concerted efforts of the public and private sectors, supported by multilateral funding agencies and international organisations. Achieving levels of climate financing commensurate with the needs remains an enduring challenge.

Notably, it was observed that India would need funds to the tune of 3% of GDP per year to meet mitigation costs alone.

Another focus area of the session was the need for well-planned urbanisation and transportation. The need for efficient and affordable rapid transit systems, strategies to incentivize more significant use of public transport, and better spatial planning to reduce overall reliance on private vehicles in daily life were discussed.

It was pointed out that a synergistic effort between national, state and local governments was needed to address the capacity constraints and enhance investments for urban improvement. Panellists also pointed out the need for a more active role for civil society and citizens in conceptualising climate mitigation and adaptation plans, which would improve how government policies are received at the grassroots.

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