While the frequency of climate-related events has increased manifold in the last decade or so, we as a world community have failed to do anything to address this crisis. The Paris Agreement is yet to bear any results and we have lost half a decade without achieving anything as some important countries have refrained from making any tangible commitments thus far. The virtual climate summit of forty world leaders was an excellent initiative to get started and move quickly to regain the lost ground. It called for an unprecedented global cooperation and a shared sense of urgency and ambition. Most participating countries have made voluntary commitments and the host has already committed billions of dollars every year to achieve this target besides taking active voluntary steps to reduce emissions substantially by 2030.
India being the second most populous nation and one of the major economies is naturally expected to commit to the ‘net zero target’. While the advocates of climate justice would argue otherwise, India has already taken active voluntary steps to reduce its emissions. The focus on renewables, electric mobility, energy efficiency, compensatory afforestation etc. will help India move closer to the ‘net zero target’. India already appears committed to achieving its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Its per capita carbon footprint is sixty percent lower than the world average. To further show its commitment and solidarity, India and US have launched the “India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership”.
The partnership has a two-fold purpose to focus on. Firstly, it would focus on the clean energy partnership and secondly it would target climate action and finance mobilisation. As per the statement, the goals are to “mobilise finance and speed clean energy deployment; demonstrate and scale innovative clean technologies needed to decarbonise sectors including industry, transportation, power and buildings; and build capacity to measure, manage and adapt to the risks of climate-related impacts”. Provision of funds and deployment of clean energy under the partnership will help facilitate India’s solar targets for 2030 if not for 2022.
To support its international climate change commitments there is a greater need for India to ensure that its environmental law and policy is in consonance with the international commitments and helps achieve the targets within the stipulated time. This would also mean that the environmental law and policy is consistently interpreted and implemented. The regulatory authorities need to have complete clarity on the powers at their disposal and how such powers will help them preserve and protect India’s environment. This also means empowering and educating the environmental officers for a transparent and effective implementation. There is also a need for the law makers to ensure that the changes in the law, be it through amendments or consolidation are only limited to plugging the holes and addressing the shortcomings and not diluting the laws.
Climate action is an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and India is committed to it. India has also made it mandatory for the top 1000 companies by market capitalisation to report as to how they fare on the environment, social and governance (ESG) parameters. This would ensure that all such companies make sure that they are sustainable in their practices and do not cause any environmental harm including any emissions contributing towards global warming. ESG is a great tool to boost economic growth as it will minimise environmental costs and promote overall well-being.
The shift to sustainability and the cost to move towards compliance is still a challenge in India, especially for the small and medium enterprises. There is therefore a need to project the shift to sustainability as a long-term opportunity instead of a short-term cost. We will very soon see vehicles and industries dependent on combustion disappear and efficient buildings and infrastructure all around. What might have happened in a few decades from now, will now possibly happen in half a decade. However, there is also a need to ensure that neither the legislature nor the judiciary, in any manner, hamper India’s march towards reducing emissions and achieving the ‘net zero target’. The recent order by the Supreme Court of India in the case of M K Ranjit Singh, which calls for power lines to be laid underground, is one such example. While no one intends to harm or endanger any species intentionally, this Supreme Court order might just result in developers filing a number of ‘change in law’ claims before the electricity regulatory commissions seeking compensation for additional costs and delays in project schedules.
This article was originally published in The Economic Times on 26 April 2021 Written by: Nawneet Vibhaw, Partner. Click here for original article
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