In this era of acute fast-paced modernisation, it is the environment that has paid the cost for the horrendous activities by corporates in a rush towards expanding businesses and quenching their thirsts for profits. In such a scenario, the environment suffers leading to an increase in the production of greenhouse gases resulting in global warming. In this issue’s section of Corporate Watch, we will take you through some glimpses of ‘Methods and Results Report’ by Richard Heede (Principal Investigator: Climate Mitigation Services) and also the Final Report of the Expert Group on Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth by the Planning Commission, Government of India.
As per Richard Heede’s report, the world is on the verge of achieving the inconceivable. Significant changes to the world’s agricultural productivity, hydrology, desertification, extreme weather, droughts, heat waves, species extinctions, and rising seas are already detected and attributed to human use of nature’s abundant stores of carbon fuels. Great Economic expansion and the general rise in comfort, shelter, food, and clothing have flowed from human ingenuity, in large measure driven by ubiquitous use of convenient, storable, transportable, and powerful carbon fuels. Some of the greatest technological Achievements continue to be found in the extraordinary ways in which carbon fuels are brought to the surface from increasingly remote and hostile environments. The world’s most massive ground and marine vehicles and facilities are built to find, extract, process, and transport our fuels and derivative petrochemical products to billions of consumers. The extraction, delivery, and final combustion of carbon fuels in one billion vehicles, millions of buildings, and tens of thousands of aircraft and ships has relieved the world of much human drudgery helped feed the hungry, and made the average citizen richer and far more comfortable than in centuries past.
Human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are growing and are chiefly responsible for climate change. Being a global public good, greater effort at collective action to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels is required. Emerging and developing countries in South Asia and Africa, where there are greater needs for adaptation, particularly in view of the nature of livelihoods, are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. The sustainable development path has economic implications. India has accommodated sustainability concerns in its development path but is constrained in its efforts as many needs are competing for a small amount of resources. The UNFCCC process must gather momentum for securing the global public good.
Sustainable development is imperative for achieving intergenerational equity and as a public good has a large global dimension. There has been significant progress on the development front with 116 countries so far meeting the millennium development goal (MDG) target for drinking water, and 77 meeting the sanitation target (Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water- 2014 Update, WHO and UNICEF 2014). Energy intensity has declined world wide including in many developing countries owing to technology changes and efficiency improvements. About 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 2010 as compared to 1990. The global goal of halving poverty was achieved in 2010. Remarkable gains in access to improved sources of water, the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, improved conditions for slum dwellers in cities, enrolment in primary education, and the advancement of women have been achieved. India too has made a significant progress in this.
In the backdrop of non-achievement of MDG (Millenium Development Goals) (to ensure environmental sustainability) and growing GHG emissions, global sustainable development and climate change agendas are snowballing, hopefully towards a path- breaking climax in the agreements in 2015. Following the Rio+20 mandate, the global community is working to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) possibly to be integrated with the unfinished MDGs when they end in 2015. Simultaneously the global climate community faces a deadline for reaching an agreement in 2015,bringing in more than 190 countries to pledge emission cuts for the post 2020 period. This will be a first-ever global pact of its kind. While 2015 will be a landmark year for sustainable development and climate change policy, 2014 is the last chance for all stakeholders to introspect to be able to wisely choose the world they want post 2015.
Shifting the focus to particularly India, India like many developing nationshas not even utilized its fair share of the earth’s carbon space, norhas it achieved basic minimum standards of living for its entire Population. Per capita energy use in developing countries is only about 25 per cent than that in developed economies on average (IPCC, WG III 2014). Besides, there is the issue of access to clean fuels fora sizeable proportion of the rural population. About 400 million Indians still do not have electricity in their homes and about 800million use some form of biomass as their primary or only energy source for cooking, which is worrisome (Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation [MOSPI], Energy Statistics 2013 and World Bank).
The essence of sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The goals of economic and social development must be defined in terms of sustainability in all countries and the present and future consumption balance within nations has to be seen in relation to historical patterns of consumption. The key question, therefore, is whether countries like India are prepared to accommodate more global targets, given their domestic obligations of basic development including minimum necessary needs of the poor. The bottom half of the world can do its bit but it cannot be expected to shoulder the bulk of the world’s development, sustainability, and climate crisis burden
The Planning Commission set up an Expert Group, ahead of the Twelfth Five Year Plan, to advise and help evolve low carbon strategies for inclusive growth. In May 2011, the Expert Group submitted its Interim Report. The Interim Report outlined a menu of options that could help reduce India’s emissions’ intensity by 25 per cent over the 2005 levels, by 2020. The Expert Group also contributed to the sustainable development chapter of the Twelfth Five Year Plan. The Final Report builds on, and takes further forward, the growth policy outlined in the Twelfth Five Year Plan, namely of faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth. There is a growing concern about climate change in the world. Despite India being among the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), in per capita terms, it is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. And this impact is not just a concern of the distant future! An increased frequency and intensity of extreme natural conditions such as storms, cyclones, longer dry spells, erratic rainfall, etc. is already perceptible today. Even though it may not be possible to unequivocally attribute extreme natural events to climate change, it is now widely accepted by the scientific community that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of these extreme events in the future. An effective global compact to minimize climate change is, therefore, of utmost importance to all countries, including India.
Even though India needs to increase its levels of energy consumption to meet its human development needs, India has taken a decisive action to reduce the risk and impact of climate change. In December 2008, Government of India approved an Integrated Energy Policy (IEP). The IEP estimates that India’s primary energy supply will need to increase by 4 to 5 times, and its electricity generation capacity by 6 to 7 times of its 2003-04 levels, to deliver a sustained growth rate of 8 to 9 percent through to the year 2031-32. While this implies a primary energy supply growth of around 5.8 percent per year, commercial energy supply will need to grow at a faster rate of 6.8 percent per annum, as non-commercial energy sources will be replaced over time. In December 2009, India announced that it would aim to reduce the emissions’ intensity of its GDP by 20 to 25 percent, over the 2005 levels, by the year 2020. This is a voluntary commitment India has made to the international community, which shows India’s resolve to ensure that its growth process is sustainable and based on low carbon principles. Pursuit of this goal will require sector specific actions to reduce emissions’ intensities over the period of India’s Twelfth and Thirteen Five Year Plans.