Opinion

Stepping stones to a greener world

Dr Naoko Ishii | Updated on December 19, 2014 Published on December 19, 2014

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Smoked out Emissions in India spiked in 2013

The recent climate change meet at Lima has paved the way for a pragmatic pact on emission reduction

The UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru, concluded with 196 countries agreeing to collectively combat climate change by individually incorporating greater environmental responsibility into their national development plans. How these countries march towards a formal agreement in Paris 2015 will determine the fate of our planet. As the world’s third largest economy (in purchasing power parity) and home to 18 per cent of its people, India will play a pivotal role in combating climate change.

The most important building block of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the announcement of each country’s intended, nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As advised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report, to keep average global warming below 2 degrees C the world needs to cut GHG emissions about 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 and get the global economy on track to full decarbonisation by year 2100. Connected to growth

I recognise that for India, rapid economic growth takes precedence. Some people believe this means we should put climate change on the back-burner, but actually the opposite is true. Better growth and better climate are possible with strategies that facilitate job creation and poverty reduction along with a marked reduction in carbon emissions.

As Filipe Calderon, chairperson of The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said in Lima, and authors of the New Climate Economy report in their assessment, to raise growth it will be necessary to improve resource efficiency, promote a new round of technological innovation, and close the infrastructure gap; all of which can help tackle climate change.

The Global Commission’s New Climate Economy report emphasises that in order to achieve sharp reduction in GHG emissions, countries must transform three key economic systems: they must modernise their energy systems, build sustainable cities and optimise land-use management.

That India has made a concerted effort in recent times to transform its energy systems by facilitating the shift to renewable energy is commendable. The country’s progress in improving energy efficiency has been impressive but sporadic. India’s metro cities, that have begun to lower their carbon footprint with better urban transport planning and transport investments that reduce local air pollution and traffic congestion, can become more sustainable and resilient with increased focus also on integrated urban design, planning and management.

India’s role

India must also actively work on reducing deforestation and improving land-use management. As outlined in the country’s first National Action Plan on Climate Change, a 10 per cent expansion of forest cover by 2017 — from 23 to 33 per cent of India’s territory — is an achievable target. More work needs to be done on the development of climate-resilient crops, expansion of weather insurance mechanisms and development of financial instruments for adaptation especially for the rural poor.

The Indian government’s recent decision to amend a number of green laws that will yield substantial climate co-benefits and put India on a low-emission growth trajectory is a step in the right direction. I agree with Prakash Javadekar that the stepping stones towards a climate agreement that is comprehensive, balanced, equitable and pragmatic have been put in place in Lima. His assurance that India is ready to play its part in the global fight against climate change is most welcome. As the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and home to a third of its poorest, what India submits as its INDC will certainly receive the world’s attention.

Dr Naoko Ishii is the CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which funds projects related to the global environment, and a former deputy vice-minister of finance, Japan. She will be writing an exclusive monthly column for BusinessLine

Published on December 19, 2014
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