As COP26 reaches its end and the international community sincerely hopes that there is a sincere commitment from all nations, we already have a few positives. Thankfully the international community now believes that climate change is real and will affect our survival on this earth, if not addressed urgently. Clearly the 25 earlier editions have not been of much help in taking the necessary adaptive and mitigative steps. We have wasted two and a half decades in trying to build consensus on an issue which initially nations refused to acknowledge and later wasted time in holding others responsible for not just the problems but also the solutions.
Speaking of our position, India has clearly come a long way in its battle against climate change. Our Prime Minister’s address in Glasgow was extremely positive and commendable. We have already committed towards various climate change mitigation initiatives like renewables, reducing emissions and carbon intensity to achieve net zero by 2070.
The National Action Plan on Climate Change appeared very promising when it was launched back in 2008. However, it is only fair to point out that out of its eight missions, not all have been as successful as one would have expected them to be. While our missions on solar energy and enhanced energy efficiency clearly seem to have achieved a great deal through substantial progress, other missions on Himalayan ecosystems, sustainable agriculture, sustainable habitats etc., unfortunately do not seem to have achieved the goals they had set out to achieve more than a decade ago. The good part is that we continue to work on it and new schemes and programmes are being launched to prevent climate change.
It is often suggested that our country needs an institutionalised management of climate change. Does this mean that we need a new specialised authority for climate change regulation or management? The answer could have been in the affirmative if we did not already have a central ministry like the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. There was a clear intent to focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation when the name of the erstwhile ministry was modified to include ‘climate change’ in its name. However, we clearly seem to have digressed from our objectives only to realize our mistakes later and start working on it in a focussed manner. In the last few years we have made remarkable progress in our efforts to achieve our climate change goals and fulfil the requirements.
The focus on renewables, clean mobility, green hydrogen, increasing our forest cover and other carbon sinks, improving energy efficiency, compensatory afforestation and bringing environmental concerns at the heart of corporate governance has ensured that we are doing the right things. The existing law and policy framework needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and the existing institutions need to focus on the objectives for which they were established. It is only fair to amend them as we progress but we may not really need new laws and new institutions to add to our regulatory complexity. We just need to utilise the existing ones more efficiently and in consonance with each other.
With corporates already committed to the Net Zero Agenda and environment becoming an integral part of the ESG Reporting framework in India, the laws and the regulators are all meant to tame the elephant in the room. When and how smoothly this will happen will depend on each one of us and our commitment to ensure a just transition for all stakeholders across generations. It is only fair on our part to question the ‘net zero agenda’ and harp on the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ but it is also in our long-term interest to make sincere and sustained efforts to achieve our climate change goals irrespective of the nomenclature we agree to use for it as issues related to population, poverty, potable water etc. will only worsen in the years to come and climate change will hit us harder than anyone else. However, while we continue to do our bit to set our house in order, this in no manner means that the international community especially the ‘developed nations’ do not walk the talk by providing us the necessary technology and funds to support our adaptation and mitigation initiatives in battling climate change.
This article was originally published in ET Energy World on 10 November 2021 Written by: Nawneet Vibhaw, Partner. Click here for original article
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