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Emission Control:SET PRIORITIES & MEET CHALLENGES, by Dhurjati Mukherjee, 8 October 2009 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 8 October 2009

Emission Control


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh recently stated that the country could enact an overarching legislation to guide actions to reduce greenhouse gases. He clarified that the legislative agenda would be part of the nation’s policy to take leadership on climate change and undertake mitigation actions voluntarily, domestically and unilaterally. This comes close on the heal of the European Union indicating that it was unwilling to provide funds for climate change to India and other emerging economies.

The Government has already started taking action in controlling emissions but with international pressure building up specially on India and China, a proper strategy needs to be evolved. A recent study by the management consultancy firm, McKinsey & Co. titled Environmental and Energy Sustainability: An Approach for India, argues that the country could reduce emissions by 45 per cent and lower energy consumption by 22 per cent by 2030. Nearly 80 per cent of the energy requirement would be met through fossil fuels. As a result, the emission of greenhouse gases could increase from roughly 1.6 billion tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2005 to 5-6.5 tonnes (CO2e) by 2030. 

The estimates of emission in India are based on the growth in demand that the country is likely to witness in key sectors such as power, industry and transportation with a GDP growth of around 6-9 per cent. A five-fold increase in floor space will compliment a seven-fold increase in the number of vehicles, according to the report.

“Leapfrogging inefficient technologies, adopting new technologies and practices that are more energy efficient could reduce GHG emissions to 3.1 billion tonnes carbon equivalent by 2030”, suggests Rajat Gupta, the co-author of the report. In terms of energy alone, the country would need anything between 760 GW and 790 GW of installed power capacity and, as such, a massive investment to achieve levels of emission reductions suggested in the report.

At Kyoto, it was decided that between 2008 and 2012 Annex I countries would accept legally binding reductions in GHG emissions of around 5 per cent compared with the 1990 levels. But it is now clear that most of these countries would fail to meet the deadline. Dr. Sunita Narain, member, Prime Minister’s environmental advisory panel, has pointed out recently that apart from Germany, Sweden and the UK, all Annex I countries have increased their Co2 emissions between 1990 and 2006 rather than reduce these and are now saying they will not take the cut unless India and China do so.   

According to latest Centre for Science and Environment figures, cumulative Co2 emissions in the US have been three times that of China and 14 times that of India. Although China has replaced the US as the top emitter and India is fifth on the list, they are way behind the industrialized countries in per capita emissions. The US and China in particular emit about 20 tonnes per head. The other advanced countries emit between 12 and 6 tonnes per head. Most developing countries, including India, are well below the safe level of 2.3 tonnes per head and China just exceeds that benchmark. 

Meanwhile, since the National Action Plan on Climate Change was announced there has been lot of research activity on curbing emission of greenhouse gases in different research institutions. A report has pointed out that India’s per capita emissions will be well below the global average by 2030. Four independent models, including one jointly developed by Calcutta’s Jadavpur University (released to the government on September 2) indicate that per capita emissions in 2030 will range from 2.77 tonnes to 3.99 tonnes – below the global average of 4.22 tonnes by 2005.

A fifth model from The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) predicts a slightly higher per capita figure of 5 tonnes. Clarifying the position, TERI sources informed that some western experts have projected that by 2030, India’s per capita emissions would rise to 8 to 12 tonnes, which is totally incorrect. But these findings were not backed with details of their models and the basis of the projections.

The five studies assume domestic growth figures between 7 and 9 per cent and factor in a steady growth in the contribution of nuclear power to the country’s energy basket. These were part of an effort to correctly find out Indian estimates of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the Copenhagen talks. These models take into account technology changes, energy efficiency and the behavioural response of producers and consumers. India, which has to reduce greenhouse gases, can now prove before the international community that its per capita emissions will never exceed those of the developed countries.

It is very much necessary that there has to be an agreement on a global carbon emission level of 2.3 to 3.3 tonnes per head in the next three-four decades. Obviously much of the mitigation action has to be taken by the developed countries in the form of Carbon Credit Trading System (CCTS) and this has been pointed out by Nobel laureate Michael Spence. Simultaneously, there should also be an all-round effort to introduce scientifically proven low emission technologies and mitigation activities such as afforestation.   

Even the Spence solution has outlined that the developing countries have to commit to the international agreement on the time path of global carbon emissions and join the CCTS. However, in case of India and China it may be a little different. Beijing is already quite advanced and though in India, over 30 per cent of the population lives in poverty and squalor, the country is advancing fast on the industrialization scale. Moreover, the efforts to control pollution in the country have been far from satisfactory and there is no strict monitoring mechanism. Even the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and most of the State pollution control boards are not effective and their control mechanisms are regrettably poor.   

In such a situation, there is need to undertake research on evolving environment-friendly technologies that would ultimately result in emission control. Moreover, in the energy sector, efforts have to be made to concentrate on solar and wind energy though there are limits on the amount of energy that can be generated from these sources. One may mention here that the national solar mission (to be formally launched in November) has a target of generating 20,000 MW solar power and creating 10 lakh green jobs by 2020. While the overall energy consumption will increase in the coming years with electricity reaching all the villages, it is necessary to reduce per capita consumption by increasing tariffs for consumers using far more than 300/350 units per family of five. This apart, certain benchmarks for big users in specific industries should to be laid down. The transportation sector also needs to be made more efficient even though steps have been initiated in the metro cities, which should slowly spread to all towns. Timely steps can help achieve goals. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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