Climate Action: Getting back on Paris climate track

March 24, 2021 6:30 AM

The new AIPA committee could coordinate climate co-benefits for health and economy

The various co-benefits that accompany climate action link the missions and mandates of several ministries.The various co-benefits that accompany climate action link the missions and mandates of several ministries.

By Neha Pahuja & Sebastian Helgenberger
With the formation of the new Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA), India is again strengthening its global leadership role in combating climate change. At the same time, India, along with many economies around the world, is being severely affected by the spread and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The good news is: Recovering from the economic shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, and avoiding severe future shocks triggered through the climate crisis, do not represent conflicting interests but instead a mutually-reinforcing coping strategy. India has tremendous potential for a ‘green recovery’ from the impacts of Covid-19: The decarbonisation of India’s energy sector has a strong role to play in reviving the economy and the health system by boosting employment, fostering rural electrification as foundation of local value creation, and unburdening national health systems by reducing the prevalence of respiratory diseases.

The various co-benefits that accompany climate action link the missions and mandates of several ministries. The new AIPA committee, with members representing 14 ministries, is, therefore, perfectly suited to not only “generate a coordinated response on climate change matters,” but also to maximise and coordinate the multiple social and economic co-benefits that accompany ambitious climate action.

For example, India can significantly boost employment by increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. Renewables tend to be more labour-intensive than conventional energy technologies; by 2050, more than 3.5 million people could be employed in the renewable energy sector—five times more than the entire Indian fossil-fuel sector (coal, gas, nuclear) employed in 2020. These are the findings of a recent Policy Report for India by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam, Germany.

The report also finds that India can markedly improve the livelihoods of its citizens by reducing ambient air pollution. In a business-as-usual scenario, during 2020, almost 500,000 people will die prematurely due to exposure to particulate matter (PM10), increasing to 830,000 premature deaths during 2050. By moving to a more ambitious decarbonisation pathway (NDC PLUS), more than 200,000 premature deaths can be avoided.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden recently renewed their cooperation against climate change, making it one of the highest priorities of their bilateral partnership. PM Modi agreed to participate in a climate change summit to be hosted by President Biden in April. A strong climate partnership would strengthen the relationship between both the governments and advance geostrategic interests. Looking to a closer neighbour, China has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060. Such ambitious decarbonisation plans could also provide a blueprint for countries like India to announce net-zero plans soon.

But as John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, stated at an event to mark the US re-joining the Paris Agreement: The big emitters of the world—which include India—need to be very clear about the steps they will take right now, not only in the long run until 2050. On the same note, Prakash Javadekar, the Union minister for environment, forest and climate change, addressed the United Nations Security Council in February, saying that countries should fulfil pre-2020 commitments to tackling climate change and that climate action should not be adjourned to the 2050 goalpost.

In strengthening its climate leadership, India is elevating this friendly race to the top of the political agenda, together with the US under President Biden, China, and also the EU with leading economies such as Germany. Against the background of the restored commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement under the Biden administration, there is optimism that the forthcoming COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow will send a strong signal for this race to further accelerate.

PM Modi stated last month at the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) hosted by TERI: “The road to fighting climate change is through climate justice, and this requires us to be large-hearted by thinking of the bigger and the long-term picture.”

Given the growing scale of investment in the new energy world of renewables and green economies, it is likely that international climate leadership in these areas will translate into industrial leadership and successful economies. The AIPA committee and the Prime Minister will not pass up the opportunity to make the Paris Agreement a success for the planet and for the people of India.

(The COBENEFITS Policy Report for India was developed in the context of the international COBENEFITS project, financed by Germany’s International Climate Initiative with TERI as the lead Indian partner.)

Pahuja is a fellow at the Centre for Global Environment Research at TERI. Helgenberger leads the COBENEFITS project at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

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