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Towards a Cleaner Future

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By RK Singh

India assumed the Presidency of G20 on 1 December, 2022, the premier intergovernmental forum for international cooperation. India’s Presidency is marked with hopes, dreams and aspirations, particularly when the world is gradually limping back to normalcy post covid, and the threat of global recession looms large. The challenges of global warming and climate change have never been greater. The world is seeking answers to some of these most pressing issues urgently.

The Indian Presidency aims to build upon the efforts and outcomes of the earlier presidencies, while foraying into newer areas of global cooperation to build a sustainable future for all. As the theme of India’s Presidency – ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ or ‘Vasudhiava Kutumbakam’ suggests, we are committed to work towards healing our ‘One Earth’, creating harmony within our ‘One Family’ and giving hope for our ‘One Future.’

India remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Notwithstanding the fact that it supports almost 17% of the world’s population, we have done considerably well in managing growth and in mitigating climate change. India’s per capita emission of 2.46 tCO2e (in 2019) is just half of the global average of 4.79 tCO2e. In the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), we have been ranked amongst the top 5 performing countries.

India is also leading the world in the transition to a low carbon economy. We have already achieved our commitment on non-fossil fuel capacity addition, made in its Nationally Determined Commitments (NDC) much ahead of the targeted year of 2030 and has since updated its targets. As per the updated NDC, India now stands committed to reducing Emissions Intensity of its GDP by 45 percent by 2030, from 2005 level and achieve about 50 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.

With a young population, growing urbanization, digitalization, and big-time adaptation of technology, mushrooming of start-ups, India’s primary focus has been to provide universal access to affordable power in a sustainable manner. The country has made significant strides in recent times in turning things around. We are now a power surplus nation, from a deficit one a few years ago. We have established an integrated national grid, strengthened the distribution network, emerged as a significant player in renewable energy, and achieved universal household electrification.

India’s energy mix is quite a diversified one. The power generation happens through a multitude of sources that include coal, lignite, natural gas, oil, hydro and nuclear to increased contribution of renewable sources solar, wind, and biomass. The government is sharply focused towards increasing India’s capacity to produce clean electricity through new technology and innovation.

Usage of renewable energy is growing at a faster rate in India with new capacity additions to double by 2026. The share of solar and wind in India’s energy mix has grown phenomenally. The country is also one of the world’s largest producers of modern bio-energy. Green hydrogen will play a vital role in decarbonizing the economy and the country aims to become a global hub for green hydrogen production and exports.

India has emerged as a country with the fastest-growing Renewable Energy (RE) capacity in the world.  This has also made it the most attractive investment destination for renewable energy.

These efforts are helping India meet its own needs while also contributing to global efforts at reducing CO2 emissions worldwide.

The challenge now lies in making energy affordable even as commodity prices are rising, and tight market conditions are increasing energy security risks.

While focus on policy measures and mitigation are important, it is imperative to focus on individuals and communities to bring concrete/measurable change. India has demonstrated significant successes in driving development, and societal and behavioural changes through large-scale collective action in initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Ujjwala Scheme or Give It Up Campaign.

India is well-poised to take forward the global initiative – LiFE or Lifestyle for the Environment – introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 at Glasgow in 2021. LiFE calls upon individuals and communities to drive/build it as an international mass movement towards ‘mindful and deliberate utilization, instead of mindless and destructive consumption’ to protect and preserve the environment. LiFE puts individual and collective duty on everyone to live a life that is in tune with the Earth and does not harm it.

As a large developing economy with over 1.4 billion people, India’s climate adaptation and mitigation ambitions are not just transformational for India but for the entire planet. India’s impressive progress in transitioning toward renewable energy shows that countries can succeed by making smart choices about using their resources to meet their needs.

India’s G20 Presidency will share, collaborate, and build on the sense of trusteeship amongst the member countries to build a sustainable future for all.

(RK Singh is Union Minister of Power and MNRE)