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Devil In The Details: A Look At India’s “National Action Plan On Climate Change”

by Jack Rosebro

India has published its first “National Action Plan On Climate Change” (NAPCC)[1], which outlines the government’s strategy and goals with respect to energy, climate change adaption, climate change mitigation, and resource management.

The plan comprises eight key areas, or National Missions: solar energy, energy efficiency, sustainable habitats, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, a large-scale tree-planting program, sustainable agriculture, and creating a “knowledge platform” on climate change. Each National Mission will be administered by the appropriate ministry.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s words “earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proclaimed at this week’s unveiling of the NAPCC that “every citizen of this planet must have an equal share of the planetary atmospheric space.

However, India’s leaders have made it clear in the past that they are not open to any global climate change policy which puts a cap on the country’s future emissions, and the report does not propose a specific cut or cap on future emissions, asserting instead that the country’s emissions per capita “will at no point exceed that of developed countries even as we pursue our development objectives.” At present, India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita are estimated to be around one-twentieth of US GHG emissions.

The G8 summit meets next week to discuss—among other issues—global emissions reductions targets, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has embarked on a two-year negotiation path, which began last December in Bali, to develop a climate change reduction plan to be agreed on by the end of next year in Copenhagen.

The success of our national efforts would be significantly enhanced provided the developed countries affirm their responsibility for accumulated greenhouse gas emissions and fulfill their commitments under the UNFCCC to transfer additional financial resources and climate friendly technologies to support both adaptation and mitigation in developing countries,” the NAPCC argues.

Northsouth_cumulative
Land-use change and fossil-fuel consumption in developed (North) and developing/emerging (South) countries, 1850-present. Click to enlarge. Source: Wheeler and Ummel (2007).

However, a working paper[2] released last year by the Center for Global Development maintains that greenhouse gas emissions of emerging economies are already large enough, and accelerating quickly enough, to endanger climate stability regardless of the amount of reductions undertaken by developed countries. “The question is not if the South will commit to emissions reductions—under any scenario it eventually must for its own sake,” the authors of the working paper affirm, “but whether it will do so in time, and how the costs of the transition are to be shared.[3]

India’s emissions challenge is largely a function of population growth as much as of its emerging economy: unlike China’s population, which expected to peak around 2030 and then decline, resulting in about 150 million more Chinese in 2050 than today, India’s population—currently 1.13 billion—is projected to increase by around half a billion between now and 2050, making it the world’s most populous country.

Although India’s GDP growth is robust, averaging 8% per year since 2004, more than a quarter of its citizens remain below the poverty line, and almost half live without electricity. Despite the country’s unprecedented economic growth since 2003-2004, India remains home to about half of the world’s hungry.

The Indian government’s Approach Paper to the Eleventh Plan—a reference to India’s eleventh five-year development plan—notes that India, and especially its poor, are particularly endangered by the potential effects of climate change, and emphasizes that “rapid economic growth is an essential prerequisite to reduce poverty.” It concludes that “development and poverty eradication are the best form of adaptation” to the effects of climate change. According to the NAPCC, the Indian government already spends the equivalent of 2.6% of the country’s GDP on climate adaptation, primarily on agriculture, water resources, health and sanitation, forests, coastal-zone infrastructure, and extreme weather events.

Eight National Missions

Solar Energy. Drawing upon India’s abundant sunshine, a National Mission on Solar Energy will be launched to encourage a “decentralized distribution of energy, thereby empowering people at the grassroots level” as well as megawatt-class solar reflector power plants. In addition, the report finds that a major R & D program to reduce costs and enable storage of solar energy would be helpful, albeit with “international cooperation.” Recommended technologies include:

  • Solar thermal power systems hybridized with biomass combustion as well as thermal storage via molten salts.

  • At least 1000 MW of domestically produced photovoltaic cells per year.

  • At least 1000 MW of new Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) facilities built per year.

The ultimate goal of the National Mission on Solar Energy would be a solar industry that is cost-competitive with fossil fuels within the next 20 to 25 years: at the kilowatt range for solar thermal and solar voltaic installations, and the gigawatt range for CSP facilities that feed into the national grid.

Enhanced Energy Efficiency. India passed its Energy Conservation Act in 2001, and it is anticipated that the effects of the legislation, plus additional measures, will result in 10,000 MW of energy savings by 2012. Added measures may include the creation of a market in which energy savings certificates can be traded, the promotion of affordable energy-efficient appliances, and demand-side management programs. Energy consumption is rising quickly in India; for example, commercial energy use in 2003 was about 250% of 1990 consumption levels.

Sustainable Habitats.The Energy Conservation Building Code will be expanded. Waste-to-energy programs and technology will be encouraged, particularly in cities, and improved public transport will be used to increase ridership as well as facilitate the growth of small and medium cities. Transport fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) has already boomed in many cities, at times as a result of legal challenges to air pollution. Although CNG-based GHG production is high, one recent report suggests that the reduction in particulates afforded by a switch to the new fuel has resulted in lower overall contributions to atmospheric warming in New Delhi.[4]

A 5% ethanol blend is already mandated in nine Indian states, and is expected to increase to 10%.

Water Conservation. Few countries outside of the Middle East have less water resources per capita than India, yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that gross per capita water availability could drop another 35% by 2050.[5] Even absent impacts from climate change, the country is already “likely to become water scarce by 2050,” according to government officials. A national goal of 20% water efficiency has been set. Technologies such as waste water recycling and desalinization will be employed, and the National Water Policy will be revisited to address variations in rainfall and river flows, as well as declining water tables in many parts of the country.

Last year, multiple potential future tipping elements in the climate system—subsystems which could unexpectedly collapse—were identified by climate researchers[6], including an instability in the Indian summer monsoon, which is Earth’s most productive wet season.

Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem. North Indian rivers are largely fed by ice and snow. About fifteen thousand Himalayan glaciers—the largest body of ice outside the polar caps—form a network of reservoirs that support perennial rivers such as the Indus, Ganga (Ganges) and Brahmaputram. The Gangetic basin alone is home to 500 million people, as well as almost half of India's grain production.

Gangotri
Recession of the Gangotri glacier, 1780-2001. Click to enlarge. Image courtesy NASA  Earth Observatory

However, glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than anywhere else the world. Last year’s IPCC Fourth Assessment Report estimated that at the present rate of deterioration, many Himalayan glaciers are likely to disappear by 2035 or sooner, with total glacier area dropping to about a fifth of the present area. The 30.2 km long Gangotri glacier has receded at a rate of about 23 meters per year between 1985 and 2001, compared to an average of 7.3 meters per year between 1842 and 1935.

Many perennial rivers are projected to become seasonal, limiting the production of energy (via hydropower) as well as food.[4] Although India became a net exporter of food in 1995, its food production is rapidly being outpaced by population growth. Indirect per-capita grain consumption, through the production of livestock, is also expected to rise as an expanding Indian middle class increasingly opt for meat-based diets.

NAPCC recommendations for the preservation of Himalayan ecosystems include organic farming and sustainable tourism, as well as best practices in land use, watershed management, development, and community-based management.

Green India. A Green India campaign had previously been announced by Prime Minister Singh, which calls for the afforestation of 6 million hectares, doubling the current rate and increasing the country’s area under cover by almost half. Degraded forests and the creation of wildlife corridors will be given particular attention. The program will be funded in part by income collected from developers who convert forested areas for non-forest use. The ultimate goal is to have about a third of the country covered in forests.

The Green India plan also envisions the planting of “fast-growing, climate-hardy species”. A similar plan has been employed in China for the past twenty years, creating a monoculture of poplars to replace lost natural forests and feed the country’s exploding paper industry. Critics charge that the practice has largely resulted in “empty forests” which often fail to attract bird and animal life.[7]

Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. A Climate Research Fund will be set up to identify challenges of climate change as well as appropriate responses, including impacts on health, demographics, migration patterns, and coastal communities. Of particular note is the poor quality and detail of climate-related data in the region.

Sustainable Agriculture. Here, the term “sustainable agriculture” primarily refers to crops that are more resilient to climate change-related stresses such as heat, drought, flooding, and increased pestilence. As major rivers become seasonal, crops will have to maintain productivity even if they are exclusively rainfed. The report recommends a particular focus on the prevention of declines in domestic food production.

In a report released this month, Goldman Sachs said climate change could deplete India’s cultivable land area and productivity, reduce labor productivity and increase the threats of toxic and chemical waste in the environment.

Although such dire prognostications are premature, urbanization, industrialization and ongoing global climate change will take a heavy toll on India’s environment, if not managed better,” it said.

India’s release of its inaugural National Action Plan On Climate Change precedes the G8 summit that will be held from 7 to 9 July in Hokkaido, Japan. Climate change is front and center on this year’s G8 agenda[8], and the US in particular has indicated an unwillingness to set targets unless China and India agree to do so as well.

In 2007, China released its first climate change strategy, also without emissions targets, ahead of that year’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. However, in a marked turnabout last week, Chinese president Hu Jintao asked developed nations for help in fighting climate change, saying that “our task is tough, and our time is limited”—and that government must ”drive the idea [of emissions reduction] deep into people’s hearts.”[9]

This year’s G8 summit is also preceded by an announcement from the World Bank that it will set up two investment funds: one to help emerging economies adopt low-carbon energy technologies, and the other to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Initial donations to the two funds are expected to reach some US$5 billion, and the World Bank plans to approve the first projects and programs by the end of this year.[10] Prime Minister Singh plans to visit the G8 summit next week.

Resources

Comments

ejj

It's about time these third world countries do their part to clean up the environment. Now, on to the Chi-Coms!

MeanandGreen

India's national action plan is a good start, but the explosive growth in coal fired power generation in China and India should be unacceptable to their trading partners and the rest of the world. The CO2, Mercury, Particulates, and Radioactivity emitted from these new GW-e scale pulverized coal burning plants that are coming online weekly are a greater threat to the earth than Iran's nuclear program. The criterion pollutants from these plants are now raining down the U.S. west coast with unknown ecological and health consequences.

The OECD countries should negotiate with developing countries like China and India to cap and reduce emissions worldwide, and if these negotiations fail carbon taxes should be imposed by 2010 on the exports of any Country that does not participate in a global GHG treaty.

In addition, the operation of a coal fired power plants anywhere in the world after 2020 [without carbon sequestration] should be considered an international crime similar to violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and appropriate measures including economic sanctions, embargoes, and other appropriate measures, should be taken against any country operating such plants. Welcome to the new world order.

Neil

I know that their fertility rates have been declining to more reasonable level (2.8), but their demographic distribution is frightening to behold. Talk about a population freight train.

Chris

The per-capita emissions of greenhouse-gases is about 30 times higher in the US, Europe and Australia, as it is in India.

Now, since all humans have equal rights, why do the rich nations get to emit 30 times higher per-capita levels of green-house gases than the developing nations ?

While the developing nations need to curb their population growths, the rich nations need to cut down on their extravagant life-styles, and reduce their per-capita emissions of green-house gases.

This means that the rich nations need to re-visit their factory-farming methods of raising beef-cattle & chickens, their driving habits, their waste-recyling habits, their electricity usage-patterns, etc. While they are at it, perhaps they could look into adopting a vegetarian diet, as that would be good for the planet.

K

The idea that all humans have equal rights doesn't mean they are all identical. Or that they should be forced to be. Or that they wish to be.

Nationality is just one possible classifications. There are rich people in every poor nation who use a lot of resources. And poor people in rich nations who use little.

And there are rich people who use little by choice. And poor who pollute much due to the poor resources they must us to live.

I don't sense that you are after equal rights or equal outcome. But if you are the fastest, surest, and normal method of leveling is to make as many as possible miserable and poor. The China of 1960 seems the right model.


Good grief ... not another holier-than-thou vegetarian. We're omnivores, and if it weren't for meat, we'd still be small brained primates picking lice off of each other. Most of the anemic, unhealthy people I know are vegans.

Good grief ... not another holier-than-thou vegetarian. We're omnivores, and if it weren't for meat, we'd still be small brained primates picking lice off of each other. Most of the anemic, unhealthy people I know are vegans.

DAVID GHOSH

I think,INDIA is a such a country in the world,the minister and officers are talk much but do nothing,otherwise ISREAL within 60 years is global leadre in every respect and INDIA after 60 years++ is world's bagger,why?

ejj

Chris - if India was a global defender of democracy and spent billions of dollars in foreign aid each year.....

http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/31987.pdf
(goto page 14 - kind of dated, but still relevant)

....then they'd be in more of a position to be lax in some of these other areas.

Personally, my view is that until some of these third-worlders start pulling their own weight & start cleaning up their own environments, they won't have any standing with respect to criticizing the US on environmental issues.

Jonas

Good that they focus on solar a bit, because this remains a much underdeveloped sector in India.

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energies:

In 2007, India had only 2MW of solar online, in contrast with wind (7,660MW), bioenergy (1,255MW), small hydro (2,014MW), waste-to-energy (56MW).

Potential for renewables in India is as follows: solar (unlimited), bioenergy (66,881MW), wind (45,195MW), small hydro (15,000MW), waste-to-energy (2,700MW).

Ministry of New and Renewable Energies.

richard schumacher

We can hardly ask or expect India and China to keep a per-capita emission rate much less than that of the West. This gives the West an added incentive to reduce its per-capita emissions rate, and an incentive for everyone to share the technologies and the costs of shifting to an economy free of fossil carbon.

It's surprising that this document doesn't mention nuclear power. Perhaps it was prepared before the Indian government's internal argument over the nuclear deal with the US was settled.

Peak_Oil_Hopeful

"they are not open to any global climate change policy which puts a cap on the country’s future emissions"

I understand why India would feel that way. But if we all agree that emissions is causing climate change, then this statement is ludicrous. Everyone needs to cap and reduce emissions.

Ya gotta hope peak energy will save the planet.

arnold

India's attitude mirrors the similar 'independent' attitude to nuclear proliferation. They claim to be honest and trustworthy - maybe so but the refusal to partake in multinational agreements does little to reassure the international community.
These recalcitrant attitudes are cause for Australia to refuse sale of Uranium. It complicates diplomacy and frustrates the good will amongst it's trading partners.
Population as a factor of poor education, cultural norms etc is ultimately within the responsibility of good government, not an "inevitable determined by nature." It is wrong for the govt to place the populous between a rock and a hard place.
Govt's that claim the right to populate and increase pollution in the name of 'fairness' should realise that they are a long way down the list of ethical concerns.

Axil

@Peak_Oil_Hopeful

Ya gotta hope peak energy will save the planet.

I fear this is not true.

I think that the first world has lost the opportunity to impact the global warming situation because of the large number of coal fired Asian electric generators in service or to be placed in service in the near future.

It’s hopeless; we in the new world are at the mercy of the Asians. They will say that it is their turn to leave their mark on the world. The opportunity to set an example that we should have set is lost. The technology that we should have developed isn’t there.

Our western forests will burn.

The mountain snow cover that has always provided summer water in the west will quickly melt off in the early spring to leave the inhabitants of the west without that water in the summer.

The great western reservoirs on the Colorado River will slowly drain baking the land back to desert.


The low lands of Florida will submerge slowly under the Caribbean.


All the beautiful beach front houses along the Atlantic seaboard will wash away in multiple great storms before their owners realize the Atlantic in its inexorable rise can’t be ignored.


New York City will flood and be no more.


Great dust storms will claim the mid west again, and the days of vast grain and grass lands will be at an end.


It can’t be stopped, America can only adapt to the inevitable.


The price of inaction will have been paid in full; and more than full.


Our young will look back in their history books and read about the golden age of America and ask why it was taken away from them and their children.


And yet, there will still be those who deny the real cause of the tragedy and blame it on the will of God; not on the hand of man.

Busch Walker

"Our young will look back in their history books and read about the golden age of America and ask why it was taken away from them and their children."

Well, good thing we'll apparently still have an educational infrastructure, complete with academic publishing sector and students to read said books.

If the gloom n' go prophecy you're putting up on blocks here is true, Axil, ain't anybody going to be around to read about the missteps of the Doom Generation. That's pretty much Endgame. String up some wire from an exposed pipe and get out while you can.

Unless you're like most Epoch Thinkers, who stay off the suicide bandwagon because they're closet optimists or at least clinging to the hopes that their religious fanaticism to Doomsday is actually just current, media-fed groupthink.

Personally, I wouldn't think that you can have it both ways. But that's just me. :)

Axil

@Busch Walker

You are very perceptive in detecting a religious epoch flavor to my post. It hearkens back to the descriptions of doomsday and its torments that the scriptures describe to the non repentant and stiff necked sinner; to the consequences of his errant ways; to the sacrileges that he has committed; and an implied hope of repentance and redemption if the path of righteousness is followed.

But unlike scripture, many of the plagues of Armageddon are beginning to be felt. In the far distance, the thunderous hove beats of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death are just now reaching our ears. That vague uneasy feeling of the end of days can be felt in the California wild fires and the floating houses of the mid west; the multiple tropical storms, precursors of the epic storms of destruction, that are marching their way across the Atlantic from their African spawning grounds having never been seen so early in the season.


But the Chinese and Indians have only just started. They have much work to do before they approach the standards of their mentors whose example they worship, whose profligate consumption of natural resources they covet, and whose environmental ignorance and disregard that they think is virtue.


Yes, there will be children with books. There are always those top three percent that make it through. But for most, in this Darwinian universe, there is certain justice for wrong behavior in the timeless and indifferent march of species over the earth.

Re pentacaust

Good God Axil, how do you write this with both hands writhing with serpents? We haven't heard a thumper of your caliber since mighty Jim Baker went to the big house! - (eventual home of all charlatans!)

Axil

There is nothing more disconcerting to the recalcitrant contrarian then the certain and irredeemable realization of their irrelevance.

After a hundred years of control over the affairs of men, their stewardship of the planet is passed to others. They are impotent to impact the course of the future.

Down deep in their soul a spark of doubt flares that maybe there is something wrong. Things are not quite what it should be. Maybe nature is not as resistant to abuse as they thought. Maybe it is too late to reverse the dye that has been cast.

They’ve built their own “Big House”, year by year, stone by stone, in which the freedom to act is no longer possible. They have trained and empowered their apprentices who are now calling the shots.

Maybe those they thought were charlatans had a grip on reality that they so casually dismissed with a laugh and a nod.

They wonder powerless and helpless about the future course of events and can only watch the world turn through the bars of their self made prison built so unwittingly and naively for so long through their indifference and neglect.

fakebreaker

Axil, Litesong and Aym - the three musketeers of DOOM. Hey, least it pays well!

sjc

Air quality concerns in the upcoming summer Olympic games in China may do a lot to increase world awareness of excessive fossil fuel usage and its consequences. It is one thing to talk about emissions and another to actually see what you have to be breathing.

Axil

@fakebreaker

Its because of people like you that the most sainted optimists losses faith in humanity and falls into irretrievable depression; you: witless, irretrievable, and hopeless.

Angela

I hope they'll realize that their country is being ruined before it would be too late.
I've been there recently and the skies look really polluted.

aym

@fakebreaker,

Didn't even really post here but I'm glad I'm in your craw. Frankly, I like posting stuff to the denylists, mostly because they are myopic, goal only viewers that see only what they wish to see. Unfortuneately, I read way too much, and I hate it when bad, biased or incomplete info is passed. If it doesn't fit in their view of the universe then they take it personally.

Fakebreaker, watch a documentary called the Day the Universe Changed by James Burke, esp. the last episode.

Doing nothing is itself a choice. Ignoring a possible and plausible future is incompetence of the highest degree. Your doom is more likely to come from that than anything else.

You don't like my views, tough. As the Burke said, those that bring up different views are ofter portrayed as charletons, liars and heretics. You, I view as biased. Do I expect to change your mind. Heck no, but I'm also not willing to let you have an unchecked forum.

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