A choice for humanity: Need wide-spectrum strategies for reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) to tackle climate c – Times of India
On November 6, addressing global leaders assembled at Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, didn’t mince any words that’s usually the norm in the genteel world of diplomacy. “It is either a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact. Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” said Guterres. The same evening, he tweeted, “I have just warned global leaders at #COP27: We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We need urgent #ClimateAction”.
For a country like India, which has a more than 7,500-km of coastline and glacial-fed rivers that nurture more than 40% of the population, Guterres’ warning couldn’t have been starker. Over the past decade, we have also witnessed a marked increase in extreme weather events such as higher frequency of cyclones, very high summer temperatures, erratic monsoons, and faster melting of Himalayan glaciers, to name a few. Even as the Indian economy continues to grow, pushing up consumption levels, the urgency for climate action can only be ignored at its own peril. The evidence of the devastating impact climate change is staring us in the face with more than 30% India’s coastline, which has some of the highest population density, facing a severe threat of coastal erosion due to rising sea levels.
According to the Emission Gap Report, 2022, India with a per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of 2.4 tCO 2 e (ton carbon dioxide equivalent) remains well below the global average of 6.3 tCO 2 e, which gives us plenty of room to manoeuvre. But the bad news is India’s CO 2 emission has shot up by 190% between 1990 and 2021, while the emission of total GHG has increased by a massive 335% between 1990 and 2019.
This year’s Emission Gap Report that was released just before COP27 paints a very grim picture of where we stand. “The report shows that updated national pledges since COP26— held in 2021 in Glasgow, UK—make a negligible difference to predicted 2030 emissions and that we are far from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. Policies currently in place point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century. Implementation of the current pledges will only reduce this to a 2.4-2.6°C temperature rise by the end of the century, for conditional and unconditional pledges respectively,” it says.
Being one of the first signatories of the Paris Agreement in 2015, India has its task cut out. The government on its part has taken some initiative, like in July this year, it issued guidance and asked the steel sector to lower emissions for meeting the targets committed at COP26 last year. But it is yet to come up with a holistic plan for other sectors for reducing the carbon intensity of the economy drastically. It has already been recorded by scientists that economic growth and sustainable consumption—part of the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030—are incompatible. This makes India’s balancing act even tougher. Countries around the world need to formulate wide-spectrum strategies for reduction of GHG generation based on common minimum goals for meeting the net-zero commitments by 2070.
However, it’s not the sole responsibility of the government for preventing India from becoming a global climate change catastrophe. The private sector and people need to play an equally important part in controlling the rising trend of GHG emissions. It will require the industry to invest in greener technologies and rework some of the business and manufacturing processes. It also needs to create a robust Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) framework for meeting the long-term sustainability and environmental goals. Implementing carbon capture technologies should be one of the high priority areas for large Indian companies—both in the private and public sectors—at least to begin with before MSMEs can be included into the fold.
People on their part, too, need to move towards responsible consumption, increase domestic energy saving, embrace renewable energy, and adopt greener mode of transport like public transport for intra-city travel. These changes to our lifestyle are necessary if we want to leave a liveable world for the future generations. To this extent investment needs to be made in advocacy, awareness building, and IEC, to sensitise the community at the local and grassroots level.
Mitigating the impact of climate change requires a multi-disciplinary approach because the writing on the wall is clear: we need to act now, and fast. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before the impact of climate change will start extracting a heavy price from us.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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