As the world grapples with the existential crisis of climate change, discussions around sustainable development have become the global chorus of our times. However, within these discourses, a critical reality is often glossed over: the disproportionate responsibility of global emissions.
Illustration by Team Geostrata
A keen examination reveals that the nations of the Global South, like India, often portrayed as burgeoning emitters, are not the principal contributors to the crisis we face. In fact, developed nations, housing a mere 16% of the world’s populace, have been responsible for a staggering 77% of all emissions since 1850, with this inequality even starker in per capita terms. Specifically, India has per capita emissions significantly lower than the global average. India’s carbon dioxide emissions per capita are a third of the global average of 4.8 metric tonnes.
This contrast underscores the need for a more equitable approach to addressing climate change, one that acknowledges the historical carbon space occupied by developed nations and the needs of developing economies such as India and others in the Global South.
Green development seeks to balance developmental needs and climate ambitions, especially in the Global South. The green transition presents a compelling opportunity. Our endeavour has been to build a strong political and economic case for sustainable and green transformations at all levels.
Investments in human capital, natural capital and technology are crucial for this green transition, especially in the Global South. The potential for economic growth and job creation from these investments is immense.
As the only G20 country in the top 10 ranks of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), India is uniquely positioned to lead the way in implementing and advancing the new paradigm of green development. India’s commitment to renewable energy is evident as it ranks as the third largest renewables market globally, and among the cheapest.
India’s commitment to green development is not only demonstrated through its ambitious renewable energy targets and environmental initiatives but also through its leadership within the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
In recent years, the country has witnessed a surge in consumer-centric solutions like the use of distributed solar panels. Specifically, the use of rooftop solar panels has seen a staggering 30-fold increase in less than a decade. This renewable energy transition has been facilitated by supportive government policies and widespread awareness campaigns. One impressive outcome has been the rapid rise of electric passenger vehicles, achieving nearly a 5% market share in 2022. In fact, sales of these eco-friendly vehicles tripled from 2021’s number, underscoring India’s significant strides in green development. We seek to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors through green hydrogen.
Through our initiatives, we were able to achieve our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) nine years ahead of schedule. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared bolder 2030 targets, including achieving about 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy sources, curtailing the emissions intensity of India’s GDP by 45% over 2005 levels, and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.
An important addition to our NDCs has been the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) programme, which seeks to promote sustainable production and consumption, centred around individual actions to fight climate change. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that LiFE measures could reduce emissions by 20% by 2030. This success story highlights the importance of balancing development and climate ambitions, a balance that India has managed to strike effectively.
India’s strong climate action and ambition have been translated into our G20 agenda over the past year. The Voice of Global South Summit 2023 was a crucial platform where India amplified the concerns of developing countries, specifically around energy security, justice and a sustainable transition. By using its G20 presidency to give voice to these concerns, India is playing a pivotal role in shaping a globally inclusive and sustainable agenda. Issues such as LiFE have found consensus. Our action plan on accelerating SDGs has also found consensus. At the same time, we have also prepared voluntary principles on hydrogen produced from zero or low-emission technologies.
We have also taken the initiative of establishing a Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre. Through other working groups, we are working on issues pertaining to the ‘blue economy’ and ‘circular economy,’ among others.
India has also emphasized the need for an overarching green development agenda that addresses a significant and persistent financing gap. The Paris Agreement of 2015 crystallized the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," (CBDR-RC) with nations with high historical emissions and greater financial resources supporting developing countries in their transition to low-carbon economies. The pledge by developed nations to mobilize $100 billion every year to assist these countries is commendable, yet its complete fulfilment is imperative.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that climate finance from developed countries reached $80.4 billion in 2019 and improved slightly to $83.3 billion in 2020. This recurring shortfall, evident since the commitment was made in the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, underscores the challenge. The transition cost of low-carbon/green development pathways has been estimated at $4-4.5 trillion annually from now till 2050.
These are staggering numbers and indicate that public sources of funding will not be enough. Private capital must also be leveraged. Achieving this would require reforming and reorienting international financial institutions (IFIs).
Apart from direct lending, IFIs can do much more to leverage private capital through blended finance, modern de-risking instruments, co-investing and capacity creation in developing nations. Reforming multilateral development banks has been a major agenda item in both Sherpa and Finance Track deliberations.
In this complex landscape, India has emerged as a beacon of climate leadership, charting a unique course towards green development defined by ambitious goals and pragmatic actions. We can create a sustainable and equitable global economy that is resilient in the face of climate change. India continues to play a pivotal role in shaping these global narratives and driving this new paradigm of development.
As posted on Livemint
BY AMITABH KANT & ASISH SINGH
They're India's G20 Sherpa and
Engagement Director at The Geostrata respectively