Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020 | Last Update : 03:58 AM IST

  Cut Carbon, not growth

Cut Carbon, not growth

Published : Nov 23, 2015, 10:47 pm IST
Updated : Nov 23, 2015, 10:47 pm IST

Are countries which have not been responsible over decades, perhaps even over centuries, for huge greenhouse gas emissions, promoting global warming now obliged to cut on their CO2 emissions in global

Are countries which have not been responsible over decades, perhaps even over centuries, for huge greenhouse gas emissions, promoting global warming now obliged to cut on their CO2 emissions in global interest Even if they were, aren’t Western industralised countries morally and politically obliged to provide technology and funds to enable India and other industrialising countries to meet their goals — self-imposed or otherwise — of emission cuts India’s recent promise, for example, to lower its emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels is expected to cost around $2.5 trillion. India about just cannot afford it.

In 2009, the United Progressive Alliance government made a bold policy statement, on cutting India’s CO2 emissions in response to continuing worldwide concern on global warming. Historically India was not responsible for carbon emissions and its per capita emissions was one of the lowest, not warranting any mitigation action.


Yet, the government declared its intention to reduce CO2 to GDP intensity by 15-20 per cent in 2020, with reference to 2005 levels. A “National Action Plan for Climate Change” was also brought into being along with eight major missions, including missions for energy efficiency, solar, agriculture, and sustainable habitat.

The present government’s equally bold, recent declaration of its “intended nationally determined contributions” towards climate change mitigation are both ambitious and realistic. It has now agreed to CO2 emission cuts by 33 per cent to 35 per cent in 2030, from 2005 levels, and aspires to achieve 40 per cent power generation from non-fossil fuel sources. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) also recognises the need for adaptation in agriculture, water resources, health and disaster management. It makes it clear that emission cuts will not affect government’s commitment to “sustainable development”.


India is at a crucial stage in its developmental trajectory. Its the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter after China and the US, although its per capita emissions (two tonnes per capita) are well below those of the US (20) and China (9).

For example, India’s per capita electricity consumption is a measly 800 kilowatt per hour as against that of China (3,500 kWh), the US (13,000 kWh) and Brazil (2,500 kWh). Nearly 50 per cent of our rural households lack access to electricity. Clearly we will take a long time catching up with Brazil, let alone the US and Europe.

So how does India achieve its twin objectives of sustainable development and lifting millions out of poverty, while at the same time not significantly adding to global carbon emissions


Does development necessarily imply an energy infrastructure that is totally dependent on coal and oil China paid a heavy price for such a growth model as several cities in China have disturbingly poor air quality escalating mortality and morbidity rates.

This is in addition to the thousands of deaths from coal mining disasters. We are already witnessing the rapid deterioration in air quality standards in Delhi and other metros here in India.

Can we explore an alternate development paradigm which decouples growth from carbon emissions In a recent study, for the first time we explored such a paradigm in Karnataka by collaborating with leading national and international research institutions, including Global Green Growth Institute, South Korea.


It examined how the state could plan a “green growth” trajectory which maximises the uptake of energy efficiency, clean technologies and also develops climate resilience in agriculture, water and forestry sectors, particularly crucial to Karnataka’s equitable economic and social development. It concluded that such a growth trajectory is in the long-term interest of the state and should also be scaled up to national level.

The present INDCs provide an opportunity for India to demonstrate such an alternate development paradigm based on the principles of energy access, energy security, efficiency and environmental standards.

Energy efficiency needs to be adopted across all sectors, considering that nearly 50 per cent of India’s infrastructure is yet to be built. There is a business case for energy efficiency, since most interventions are cost effective and recover investments within a short duration. The ambitious push for solar and wind will help alleviate the energy crisis in Karnataka. In addition, it will also generate a large number of jobs in the country. Solar energy has the great advantage that it can be generated close to the loads, thereby minimising transmission and distribution losses. It can electrify thousands of villages, which, as of now, receive intermittent power supply — a fact that has been a major trigger for farmers’ agitation.


Karnataka’s agriculture consumes about one-third of all grid-supplied electricity carrying a subsidy of `48 billion in 2012. Yet, the quality of power as well as regularity of supply continues to create restlessness amongst farmers. Our study has identified a list of green growth opportunities for this and other sectors so as to minimise carbon emission.

The INDCs are ambitious and require strong policy support for successful implementation. It is in the states’ own interest to actively participate in framing effective policies, which to help reach these targets. If a country of India’s scale and size were to demonstrate an alternate development model, it would be an example for other developing countries as well. And it would be India’s great contribution to the world in solving a complex problem.


The government has recognised the firm opinion of those who have advocated that the INDC cannot, however, compromise on India’s aspirations for right to development and a fair share of the global carbon budget. In aggregate terms, it announces commitment to eradication of poverty which, in any event, is a political compulsion on the government whatever be its colour. The INDCs also send a clear message that India is a responsible nation and conscious of its important role in reducing global carbon emissions.

The writer is chairman, Bangalore Climate Change Initiative