Jens- Michael Schaal
The climate change agreement has been one of the most important political and economic decisions at the international level. It symbolises global collective action which has created new platforms for cooperation, with each country offering its own climate plan. Within the past two years, the Indian government has made strides in creating policies that have facilitated clean energy initiatives. Earlier this year, vehicles running on compressed natural gas (CNG) were exempted from the odd-even rule in the national capital. The Supreme Court also ordered the Delhi government to pull 30,000 cabs off the roads as they ran on diesel or petrol rather than CNG. Power generation from renewable energy sources like solar and wind has increased to 7.54% of the total electricity generated in the country. However, India has pledged that non-fossil fuels would account for 40% of its total energy generation capacity by 2030 and therefore, still has a long way to go in order to achieve its clean energy targets.
As India stands on the threshold of a major transformation, it is crucial to look at other countries for best practice models in this area. Ontario, Canada’s largest province in terms of population and economic activity, is one such region that can present key insights to help India achieve its clean energy goals.
About 39% of Ontario’s total primary energy supply is provided by renewable energy sources. Last year, with the objective of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, Ontario also announced a new climate change strategy. As further proof of the province’s commitment to clean technology, coal went from 25% of Ontario’s supply mix in 2003 to zero in 2014. Early this year, the government of Ontario also signed 13 agreements, worth $59.4 million, with various state governments and businesses in India’s clean tech sector. It is important, therefore, to look at Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan in this regard.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, released in 2015, is a five-year plan that will help Ontario combat climate change over the long term. This new framework ensures that decision-making and infrastructure planning by the government considers ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and thereby, presents a coordinated approach to reducing emissions.
Ontario’s reduction targets are ambitious yet achievable, in line with global objectives. Based on greenhouse gas reporting data, Ontario has met its 2014 target of 6% below 1990 levels. The province achieved this goal by taking bold steps, including closing all of Ontario’s coal-fired electricity-generating stations. This to date remains one of the single largest greenhouse gas reduction actions implemented in North America.
The Climate Change Action Plan builds on Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy. It represents the foundation upon which Ontario will establish and build the policies and programs that must be put in place over the next five years to achieve its short and long-term targets, and start the shift towards a low-carbon economy.
The plan also outlines an open and transparent process for how and when Ontario will move forward. Any spending will need to be authorised under the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, and will be subject to approval by the legislature.
India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) mentions that economic development of many countries in the past has come at the cost of environment, but it should not be presumed that a reconciliation of the two is not possible. Ontario is a clear example of this, therefore, making it a natural partner for India.
North American leader in low-carbon and zero-emission transportation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released its latest urban air quality findings in May this year. The study revealed that four Indian cities were among the world’s 10 most populated cities. Moreover, Delhi’s annual mean PM2.5 levels was three times the annual national standard and 12 times the WHO standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metres, highlighting the poor air quality in the capital. Even smaller cities like Patna, Gwalior, Allahabad and Raipur showed alarming pollution levels. High-emission vehicles have consistently resulted in the decline of air quality in India.
A lower-carbon fuel emits less carbon than conventional fossil fuels such as gasoline, which can help in curbing the rising pollution levels. Examples of lower-carbon fuel include propane and liquefied gas, and gasoline that has been mixed with renewable fuel content such as ethanol. Natural gas is a credible and clean fuel that is not just cheap but also efficient than other sources. Harnessing gas in India is a need of the hour, not just to meet the peaking demands of power across the country but to overcome this looming threat. It is estimated that North America now has a 100-year supply of natural gas and Ontario’s geographic location and natural gas infrastructure puts it in a strategic position to take advantage of North America’s changing natural gas market.
Collaborate with indigenous communities
Ontario also plans to connect with First Nation and Métis communities (indigenous people residing in Canada representing 4.3% of the total Canadian population) by partnering on regular symposiums across the province. These symposiums will focus on sharing knowledge on climate change, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge and would engage youth leaders and elders to share knowledge related to climate change mitigation. Such potential areas of collaboration should also be explored by India with its tribal communities as well as the rural population.
Areas for India-Ontario collaboration
Leading Indian companies have made significant partnerships with the Ontario’s clean tech companies. For example, India-based global consulting and IT service provider Mahindra Satyam collaborated with the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy to better understand how to leverage its smart grid research capacity. The new Smart Grid Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Waterloo is building one of the largest smart grid research groups in North America.
India’s Tech Mahindra also joined forces with Ontario electric utility company Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc. to create Intelligent Electric Vehicle Charging Systems. This pilot project demonstrates the effects of electric vehicle charging on transformers by creating a real-time transformer monitoring and analytics solution. The key benefits of the solution include the ability to take corrective action before transformers get overloaded.
Ontario also has the resources to conduct research and develop new products and services. For companies in Ontario’s environmental sector, it has been a great opportunity to test new ideas and perfect breakthrough technologies for world markets, from industrial wastewater treatment to smart grid management software. Almost half of Canada’s full-time R&D personnel are within the province, with more than $14 billion annually being spent on R&D. Ontario provides both – the scope for innovation as well as market-ready clean technology models, which India can tap at this stage to achieve the goals of economic growth along with environmental conservation.
The author is counsellor (commercial) and senior economic officer, government of Ontario, Canada.
Views are personal