By Suyash Gupta
No one can dispute the climate leadership that India has exhibited on global platforms in recent times including that at COP27 at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference.
Given the seemingly continued deadlock between developed and the developing countries particularly over historical emissions vs. current emissions, absolute vs. per capita emissions, climate finance and transfer of technology among other issues, India’s walking the talk in many ways has indeed reenergized the global climate negotiations process. However, while committing itself to global goals and timelines, there is so much more that the country can do for its own sake. Admittedly, as a still developing economy, it still needs to do a balancing act between economically growing further and reducing the carbon-intensity of the process. And completely stopping all industrial, construction and domestic energy-intensive yet carbon-emitting activities is certainly not an option.
Given the direct linkage between air pollution and climate change, what more can the government do to address the issue of pollution which would also moderate the implications of climate change? And in the context of pollution, keeping in mind the enormity of emissions that stem from the transport sector, can the government scale up its anti-carbon initiatives vis-à-vis transport sector in addition to the programmes that are already underway? With fossil fuel-based energy products and sources primarily driving the transport sector and therefore being responsible for the bulk of emissions, should the government consider alternative and cleaner fuels such as auto LPG in its mobility policy?
Impressive climate change leadership so far
By all means, the government has led from the front so far. From plans to building 500 GW of non-fossil electricity capacity by 2030, to reducing carbon intensity by 45% by the same year, to the extraordinary announcement of reaching net-zero emissions by 2070 at Glasgow last year, the government has shown real intent. Its leadership of the International Solar Alliance, the success with popularizing affordable LED light and the setting up of the National Hydrogen Energy Mission for an impetus to green hydrogen have been widely appreciated.
India ranked among high performers
According to Climate Change Performance Tracker 2021, India was ranked 10th and featured among high performers for overall climate change performance. In terms of individual parameters, while it was reckoned as a high performer for GHG emissions (ranked 12th) and energy use (ranked 10th), it came out as a medium performer on climate policy (ranked 13th) and renewable energy (ranked 27th).
Yet, country faced with formidable challenges on account of climate change
Notwithstanding the above accomplishments, the country is still and increasingly faced with multi-fold challenges stemming from unfavourable climate change implications. From ever-rising pollution levels to frequent experiencing of extreme weather events including unprecedentedly heavy rains, cyclones, floods and droughts, and general hot and cold conditions prevailing across the country, the implications are so palpable. A climate change assessment report released by the Indian government in 2020 had found that both the frequency and intensity of droughts had increased significantly between 1951 and 2016. According to a report by the UN, more than 40% of India’s population would face water scarcity by 2050 even as the country’s coastal areas including big cities such as Mumbai would be affected by rising sea levels. In fact, a Niti Aayog report in 2018 admitted that India was confronted with its worst water crisis in history with about 600 million people facing high to extreme water stress and about 200,000 people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
Transport sector emissions major contributor
Nearly 15% of CO2 emissions in the country come from the transport sector. In a study carried out at Indian Institute of Science, it was revealed how transport sector had been the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions across major big cities in India including Delhi, Greater Bangalore and Hyderabad. And of transport, road transport has been the single biggest contributor to pollution. In fact, road transport has been found to have been most responsible for PM 2.5 pollution, one of the biggest threats to human health in cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Surat and Indore. In fact, a massive 92% of transport-related emissions have been attributed to the road sector.
EVs – a good policy intent, but will take time
With an eye on tackling transport-related pollution, although the government has taken a series of initiatives including vigorously pushing for an electricity-based mobility in recent times, a complete switchover to EV regime is still a long way off, practically-speaking. There have already been a series of ‘incidents’ related to the running of electric vehicles on Indian roads. In addition, given the gap in charging and other related infrastructure coupled with the acute lack of raw materials in the country, the desirable scale of investment needed is simply colossal. The ever-increasing vehicular population on Indian roads, at over 300 million, makes it even more difficult. Converting such a large fleet of existing vehicles into EVs is both logistically and price-wise would be an exacting task.
Therefore for now, the government would need to show imaginative leadership. Apart from the emphasis on EVs and the continued upgrading of Bharat Stage norms, it must consider alternative and cleaner fuel sources such as auto LPG and give immediate policy impetus to this option. Remember, auto LPG has a zero global warming potential (GWP) as compared to carbon dioxide’s 1 and methane’s 25. And we all know the umbilical linkage between global warming and climate change. What’s more, tailpipe emissions coming from auto LPG were found to be lower than even BS VI-compliant vehicles. And so if the government reduces GST on auto LPG and the conversion kits & creates a friendlier regulatory regime, it could propel a massive shift from current petrol and diesel-driven vehicles to the cleaner auto LPG-driven mobility options by common people. Recognizing conversion in perpetuity as is the norm in other countries would greatly help.
The author is the Director General, Indian Auto LPG Coalition.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).