What are India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) on climate change going to look like? This question has been the subject of much speculation in the past weeks.
In an exclusive interaction, ahead of the Narendra Modi-Barack Obama meeting in New York, in which climate change dominated the talks, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar told The Hindu : “India’s INDCs will contain an emissions reduction target, as well as a target for reducing energy intensity.”
The Minister said the reductions may not be as far-reaching as those of China. Details are set to be announced on October 2.
In July this year, China proposed to peak its emissions around 2030 and increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 per cent by the same year as part of its INDCs. Further, in a joint statement with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that his country would launch a nationwide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions from 2017.
Explaining India’s stance vis-à-vis China’s, Mr. Javadekar said India is no match to its populous contender when it comes to economic growth or GDP per capita. India has to put economic growth before committing itself to cut down emissions, which will slow down the economy.
Mr. Javadekar was circumspect when confronted with the possibility of India emulating the Western ‘model’ of development at home.
Further, in a joint statement with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that his country would launch a nationwide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions from 2017.
Mr. Javadekar is circumspect when confronted with the possibility of India emulating the Western ‘model’ of development at home, which encourages a market-driven consumer culture.
“Indian value systems do not encourage us to replicate the same consumer culture that is rampant in the West,” he asserts. “That is why we have chosen to postpone our declaration of the INDCs on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, as the man signifies Indian values of frugality and sustainable development.”
Elaborating on what he means by Indian value systems, he gives the example of how families in India still make younger children wear the clothes worn by older children in the house, not because of poverty, but because Indian value systems encourage ‘recycle and reuse’ of material goods at home.
This response is significant in the context of the adoption of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York on September 25. Mr. Modi also participated in the event. The SDGs emphasise the importance of “responsible consumption and production,” one of the 17 goals.
“Our cumulative emission is only 3 per cent, compared with countries such as the U.S. where the emissions are way higher, due to the American lifestyle,” says Mr. Javadekar.
“Here in New York, people use energy for everything, from operating lifts to heaters to air-conditioners, but in India, we do not lead such lavish lifestyles,” he says, pointing out that the climate change debate must lead to a debate on unsustainable consumption and lifestyles such as those of the average American.
As vehicular pollution is an important source of greenhouse gases, the Ministry has already taken a serious note of it. The Ministries of Transport and Petroleum are ready to support the switch to Euro 6 emission standards for vehicles, but industry is not ready for it yet, he says.
“I have personally interacted with Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and both are eager to introduce this much-needed upgrade to emission standards, but industry is not ready, which is why we are unable to take the next step,” he says.
Given that the Environment Ministry has continued to give clearance for projects, like the Mumbai coastal road, which are by the sea and are potentially vulnerable to the impact of climate change, such as a rise in the sea level or cyclones, Mr. Javadekar says that though he believes in science, he is not “a climate change doomsdayer.” Giving environmental clearances for projects like the coastal road is only helping to decongest the city, reducing vehicular traffic, which is good for addressing vehicular emissions, he argues.
As per figures presented in the Lok Sabha, more than one lakh hectares of forest land have been diverted for industry in the past three years. Doesn’t this affect India’s ability to absorb the carbon it produces? To this, Javadekar said that private industry give back the same size of land they acquire for projects, and they also pay for the plantation, management and growth of the forest lost, paying for the value of the tree lost as well, which is called net present value. “Now, even Coal India is operating its new mines underground, which means we are not cutting trees any more, to open new mines. That is what we call sustainable development.”