India is one of the countries most impacted by climate change, with large sections of the impoverished rural populace specially vulnerable to food and water scarcity from changing precipitation patterns. According to a report, India may stand to lose 1.8 percent of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050 due to climate change.
A Global Climate Risk Index, published by Germanwatch, ranked India along with the Philippines and Cambodia, as countries affected by the most extreme weather events in 2013. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that “rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events”. Record heat waves and droughts in recent years are proof of this finding. In addition to health issues related to increasing heat extremes, India is also susceptible to increases or changes in the ranges of a number of vector and water-borne diseases that thrive in warm conditions, including malaria, chikungunya and dengue. In 2014, India’s Environment Minister admitted that degradation of land and desertification had accelerated than earlier projections and nearly 25 percent of the country may eventually become desert.
Studies show that water stress is already an issue in the western and southern parts of the country where aquifers have depleted and wells have dried up. Warming temperatures will lead to decreasing yields of primary corps like wheat and rice. India’s food supply is highly vulnerable to potential changes in monsoonal rainfall patterns with 60 percent crops being rain dependent. Tea and coffee production is also projected to reduce due to change in precipitation patterns and rising temperatures. The Indian coastline is vulnerable to rising sea levels. A one meter rise could permanently submerge about 14,000 square kilometers of coastal areas across India. One study indicated that 11 million people and $1.6 trillion in assets could be at risk if sea levels rise by 50 cm in Mumbai.
India declared a voluntary goal of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20–25 percent, over 2005 levels, by 2020. Several policy measures were initiated to achieve these goals. The United Nations Environment Programme in its Emission Gap Report 2014 has recognised India as one of the countries on course to achieving its voluntary goal.
India’s renewable capacity expansion programme is very ambitious and between 2002 and 2015, the share of renewable grid capacity has increased over six times, from 2 percent (3.9 GW) to around 13 percent (36 GW). The country aims to achieve 175 GW renewable energy capacity in the next few years. The National Solar Mission will be scaled five-fold from 20 GW to 100 GW by 2022. Kochi Airport in Kerala is the world’s first airport to fully run on solar power. Solar-powered toll plazas are envisaged for all toll collection booths across the country. With an average of 300 days of sunshine, India is better placed than any other country to exploit the infinite solar energy potential. Wind energy accounts for over 65 percent of the renewable energy growth in India, with a production of 23.76 GW, making it the fifth largest wind power producer in the world. With a potential of more than 100 GW, the country aims to achieve a target of 60 GW of wind power installed capacity by 2022. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has initiated initiatives like the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) and the National Smart Grid Mission for better efficiency in distribution and utilisation. Nationwide Campaign for Energy Conservation was also launched with the target to save 10 percent of current energy consumption by 2018-19. Other initiatives include the Green Energy Corridor, Smart Cities Mission, the National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (Clean India Mission), the Zero Effect, Zero Defect (ZED) with Make in India campaign, the Green Highways (Plantation & Maintenance) Policy to develop 140,000 km long “tree-line” along both sides of national highways, etc.
In India, vulnerabilities differ among states, regions and communities due to variations in topography, climatic conditions, ecosystems as well as socio-economic diversity, and are amplified by widespread poverty and climate-sensitive sectors.
‘The Indian coastline is vulnerable to rising sea levels. A one meter rise could permanently submerge about 14,000 square kilometers of coastal areas across India. One study indicated that 11 million people and $1.6 trillion in assets could be at risk if sea levels rise by 50 cm in Mumbai’
The Government of India has introduced eight National Missions on Climate Change. Some of the schemes are Soil Health Card Scheme, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana to promote organic farming practice, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana to promote efficient irrigation practices, Neeranchal to provide impetus to watershed development in the country and the National Mission for Clean Ganga to rejuvenate the river.
India is among a handful of countries where green cover has increased in recent years from 23.4 percent in 2005 to 24 percent of the geographical area in 2013, transforming the country’s forests into a net sink owing to national policies aimed at conservation and sustainable management of forests. The government’s long term goal is to bring 33 percent of its geographical area under forest cover eventually.
‘The threat of climate change has never been more urgent, but the way forward has never been clearer. Corporate India can join hands and help power this revolution by channelising some CSR initiatives towards making people environmentally aware, understand climate change impacts and solutions, and help build a nation of responsible and conscious citizens’
All the States and Union Territories have State Action Plans on Climate Change to deal with local needs and priorities. These SAPCCs describe in detail the impact of climate and vulnerability assessment, adaptation, mitigation options and financing and capacity building needs to implement the identified interventions. Key sectors covered by SAPCCs include agriculture, water, habitat, forestry, health and disaster management.
Private Sector Contribution
The private sector is not only involved in implementation of the government’s mitigation and adaptation policy, with a key role in sustainable development efforts in India, but is also involved in numerous voluntary initiatives. The Companies Act of 2013 directive for companies with certain profit levels to spend 2 percent of their annual profit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and a significant part of it goes towards environment initiatives.
A recent draft guideline prepared by the National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has a proposal seeking all banks to allocate a minimum of 25 percent of their CSR funds for afforestation across the country. India is committed to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 by increasing forest and tree cover by 2030.
The Indian industry has been part of the voluntary Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), with an estimated reduction of 165 million metric tonnes of CO2 and the “India GHG Programme”, an initiative to develop India-specific emission norms and carbon footprint checks. Other industry initiatives include the Smart Power for Environmentally-sound Economic Development (SPEED), a renewable-based rural electrification programme, the pioneering GreenCo Rating System which assesses environmental performance of companies on 10 different parameters and the New Ventures India (NVI) to promote cleantech entrepreneurs.
The threat of climate change has never been more urgent, but the way forward has never been clearer. Corporate India can join hands and help power this revolution by channelising some CSR initiatives towards making people environmentally aware, understand climate change impacts and solutions, and help build a nation of responsible and conscious citizens.
The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project, India is an independent chapter of The Climate Reality Project founded by Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore. It aims to take climate change knowledge to the masses and explain complexities of the impacts. It is understood that sustainable development cannot be achieved by political agreements, financial incentives and technological solutions alone. We need to change how we think and act, and this is where education has a critical role to play.
Rituraj Phukan is Mentor & Presenter and District Manager, North East India of The Climate Reality Project. He trained as a Climate Reality Leader under Nobel Laureate Al Gore. He also spearheads the grassroots nature conservation activities of Green Guard Nature Organization, works with various organizations and initiatives like the Sanctuary Asia Kids For Tigers programme, The Project Foundation, Walk For Water and the Earth Day Network.