An Open Letter to the Hon'ble Prime MinisterIndia’s position in global Climate performance

Shankar Sharma

My dear Hon'ble Prime Minister,
Greetings from Sagar, Western Ghats, Karnataka.

On the occasion of 5thAnniversary of Paris Agreement recently, the focus has returned again, may be temporarily, to a reality check as to how various signatories to the agreement have performed during the last five years, and their commitments for the future. Very many articles have appeared in the media in this regard.Few of them as below caught my attention.Your speech at Climate Ambition Summit on 12thDec. 2020 deserves special mention. PIB has reported the following messages.

“ ..I must humbly share with you, that India is not only on track to achieve its Paris Agreement targets, but to exceed them beyond expectations. We have reduced our emission intensity by 21% over 2005 levels. Our solar capacity has grown from 2.63 GigaWatts in 2014 to 36 GigaWatts in 2020. Our renewable energy capacity is the fourth largest in the world.

It will reach 175 GigaWatts before 2022. And, we have an even more ambitious target now -450 GigaWatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030. We have also succeeded in expanding our forest cover and safeguarding our biodiversity.

In 2047, India will celebrate 100 years as a modern, independent nation. To all my fellow residents of this planet, I make a solemn pledge today. Centennial India will not only meet its own targets, but will also exceed your expectations.”


Text of Prime Minister’s message at Climate Ambition Summit
UN secretary general urges all countries to declare climate emergencies
UN: World could hit 1.5-degree warming threshold in 5 years
India didn’t cause climate change: Prakash Javadekar
The Paris Agreement on climate change and India’s low-emission future
Paris Agreement turns 5: Time to demand real, drastic action NOW

While appreciating the positive sentiments in your messages, ordinary people like me would appreciate adequate clarifications in thesemessages.

1.In this context, it is worthy to repeat what the UN secretary general has said on the occasion.He has urged all countries to declare climate emergencies.Such a message indicates the gravity of the situation at global scale, and needing concrete measures by every government.At least 38 countries have alreadydeclared such a state of emergency.Recently, the UK announced that it would seek to cut emissions by 68% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030, and earlier this year, China announced that its emissions would peak by 2030, and reach net zero by about 2060.But it is sad that India has not deemed it necessary to declare a climate emergency.Does this indicate that the Union govt. does not see any serious threats to its communities, especially the poor and the vulnerable sections, from the looming consequences of Climate Change?

2.It is being increasingly recognized that the commitments to reduce emissions that countries made at Paris were insufficient, and would result incatastrophic heating of more than 3C.There is a need to do effectively much more than what was agreed at Paris. Hence, is there not a need for India to undertake effective policy decisions on various fronts, such as forest cover and fossil fuel usage, in addition to the policy on renewable energy capacity?

3. Does India’s commitment to reduce itsemissions intensity of its GDP by 33 -35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levelwill be of any really help, if the GDP of the country itself goes up by many times, as the projections are for 2030, and because of the high GDP growth rate paradigm being policy of the government?Will it not be correct to project that if India’s total GDP by 2030 increases by many times, its total GHG emissions will also be much higher as compared to the level in 2005, even if the emission intensity is reduced?What does the computer simulation of total emissions under various such scenarios, say between CAGR of 5 to 8% of our GDP by 2030, indicate?

4.Even though“Our solar capacity has grown from 2.63 GigaWatts in 2014 to 36 GigaWatts in 2020”,is it also not a fact that the installed power generating capacity of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, natural gas), as well as Methane causing hydel dam based power plants also have increased considerably in this period?Does not this scenario also indicate that due to the considerable increase in the installed capacity of conventional technology power plants, and also due to massive increase in the consumption of petroleum products in the transportation sector, the total GHG emissions of the country have increased massively between 2014 -2020?In this context, should our country not have committed itself by now at least to move away from coal power dependency by 2030/40?

5.Many countries in the world have declared net-zero emission targets for 2050. Recently China has said that it will be net-zero by 2060. Now the pressure is on all other governments, including India, to set its future target.Should India not commit itself to become net-zero in total emissions by 2050?Without such a clear commitment, can India hope to “exceed the global expectations by 2047”?

6.Sri. Prakash Javadekar has reportedly said: “... Even presently, our carbon emissions remain restricted at 6.8 percent of global emissions and the per capita emissions is only 1.9 tonnes per capita.”The draft National Energy Policy of 2017 has projected that the energyrelated Emissions per capita will increase from 1.2 tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent/capita in 2012 to 2.7-3.5 tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent/capita in 2040.Since this projection has not been modified yet, it should mean that for a projected population base of nearly 150 crores by 2040, the absolute value of the country's total emissions canbe vastly more than what it was in 2005. In this larger context should the draft ‘National Energy Policy’ and thedraft 'National Resource Efficiency Policy' (NREP), 2019 by MoEF&CCnot be reviewed urgently and diligently to correctly reflect our needs, constraints, and objectives?

7.Whereas the forest & tree cover in the country is only about 21% of the total land area as against the national forest policy target of 33%, our forest and trees are being annihilated routinelyin the name of 'development' projects; thousandsof hectares of rich original forest lands, even within the legally protected and ecologically sensitive forest lands such as Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks are being routinelydiverted to non-forestry purposes every year, whereas these tropical forests are established as the most effective and least costly options in combatingClimate Change; it is reported that"For the country as a whole, the loss of primary forest in the last five years was more than 120,000 ha,which is nearly 36% more than such losses seen between 2009 and 2013."Over 500 projects in India’s protected areas and eco-sensitive zones were cleared by the National Board of Wildlife between June 2014 and May 2018.This is in stark contrast to whatIPCC says: “Emissions from deforestation are very significant –they are estimated to represent more than 18% of global emissions”; “Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.In this larger context, shallwe not commit ourselves not to allow further degradation of the original forest area; not to divert any forest lands from the legally protected areas; to increase the total forest & tree cover to 33% of the land area before 2030; and also to increase the legally protected wildlife habitats considerably from the present 4.6% of the land area to at least 10% by 2030?

8.Even if India decides to continue to take the stand that it has much less obligations to the global community to reduce its total GHG emissions because of the historical fact of low per capita emissions, a high level of its total GHG emissions by 2040/50 as compared to 2005 should be still unacceptable, because high GHG emissions has been and will be a consequence of the over exploitation of our natural resources, which in turn will push the vulnerable sections of our society to destitution.Thedraft 'National Resource Efficiency Policy' 2019, by MoEF has said:"India, as one of the fastest growing economies with GDP at 2.6 trillion USD, has increased its material consumption to six times, from 1.18 billion tonnes in 1970 to 7 billion tonnes in2015; however this economic growth has been coupled with inherent cost on the natural environment. The material consumption is projected to more than double by 2030, in order to provide for increasing population, rapid urbanization and growing aspirations.The projected pace of economic development is going to put pressure on already stressed and limited resources and may lead to serious resource depletion and environmental degradation affecting the economy, livelihoods and the quality of life.”All these factors should establish beyond any doubt that our country, with a large and growing population along with a limited natural resource base, must urgently take a different developmental paradigm with unwavering focus on people’s sustainable welfare measures and ably supported by responsible and efficient usage of the available resources within the country.In this context, is it not critical for our country to unambiguously acknowledge the inalienable linkagebetween unabated demand for materials and energy on one hand and the Climate Change & human health/welfare on the other hand?Is there not a critical need to thoroughly review our past developmental paradigm which had focused on high GDP growth rate, and replace it with a new paradigm where the focus is on equitable development of all sections of our society on a sustainable basis at lowest overall cost to the country while continuously ensuring a healthy biodiversity base?

9.Assuming the media reports that the union govt. is considering having natural gas as a replacement to coal as a transition strategy is correct, there are very many majorquestionsneeding adequate clarificationin that regard. Where would India get all that amount of naturalgas from to replace coal power capacity?Media reports also say thatIndiahas about 83%importdependence for crude oil and 45% fornatural gas/ LNG. Even if it is feasible to import all the natural gas required to replace coal power capacity, what happens to its AtmaNirbhar Bharat aim?What will be the total volume of such natural gas?Since the usage of natural gas is clearly linked to GHG emissions, even though they are said to be less thanthat of coal and oil, what will be the total GHG emissions at the national level from the energy sector undersuch a scenario?Since the GHG associated with natural gas is largely Methane, which is said to be about 80 times more potent than CO2, how willit really assistin the global fight against Climate Change?

10.When we objectively consider all these concerns and various associated issues from a holistic perspective of the true welfare of our people, and with an objective to make our country a responsible global player, should it not become evident that our energy policy has an inescapable imperative to be vastly different to what it has been in the past, and that it should strive honestly to become really green and self sufficient at the earliest by moving away completely from fossil fuels, dam based hydro power and nuclear power, and focusing on distributed kind of renewable energy sources where the demand/ supply is scientifically determined through effective implementation of highest possible efficiencies, optimum levels of demand side management, and responsible conservation efforts without compromising on the health of the environment in anyway?

May I request that instructions may please be issued to the concerned authorities to provide suitable clarifications to these concerns/ questions, preferably through one or more interactive public information initiatives at the earliest?Such an initiative will enable ordinary people like me, who may not know the intricacies of internationalobligations and the science of Climate Change, to correctly understand the overall policy of the government, and to enable them to actively participate in building a truly “AatmaNirbharBharat”.Suchpublic information initiatives are, any way, consistent with the oft repeated sloganof the govt.sab ke saath, sab ka vikaas, sab ka vishwaas.

Also please find enclosed three discussion papers to drive home the points made w.r.t the Climate Change and our growth paradigm for your kind ready reference.

Shankar Sharma

Dated, 14thDec. 2020

Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst

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Jan 10, 2021

Shankar Sharma

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