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India -the frontline state in the climate change battle

How India’s battle with climate change could determine all of our fates, Guardian, Damian Carrington and Michael Safi , 6 Nov 17  India’s population and emissions are rising fast, and its ability to tackle poverty without massive fossil fuel use will decide the fate of the planet “It’s a lucky charm,” says Rajesh, pointing to the solar-powered battery in his window that he has smeared with turmeric as a blessing. “It has changed our life.”

He lives in Rajghat, a village on the border of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states, and until very recently was one of the 240 million Indians who live without electricity. In the poverty that results, Rajghat has become a village of bachelors, with just two weddings in 20 years.

“No one wants to give their daughter to me,” says Sudama, another young man. “People come, they visit, but they see the conditions here and they leave.”

For now, the technology is proving most useful to Rajesh as a way to charge his mobile phone, saving a lengthy journey to the nearest city, but he also hopes for future benefits: “I’ll use this to let my children study.”

According to an ambitious pledge by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, every Indian will have electricity, and the education, health and business benefits that follow, by the end of 2018. But how Modi achieves that, and the development of what will soon become the world’s most populous nation, matters to the entire world.

 Of all the most polluting nations – US, China, Russia, Japan and the EU bloc – only India’s carbon emissions are rising: they rose almost 5% in 2016. No one questions India’s right to develop, or the fact that its current emissions per person are tiny. But when building the new India for its 1.3 billion people, whether it relies on coal and oil or clean, green energy will be a major factor in whether global warming can be tamed.

“India is the frontline state,” says Samir Saran, at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. “Two-thirds of India is yet to be built. So please understand, 16% of mankind is going to seek the American dream. If we can give it to them on a frugal climate budget, we will save the planet. If we don’t, we will either destroy India or destroy the planet.”

This view is shared internationally: Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief who delivered the landmark Paris climate change agreement says India is “very, very important” for everybody, and the nation will play a key role at the UN summit that starts in Bonn, Germany next week………

There are signs of hope, however, driven by astonishing drops in the price of renewable energy in the last few years. Costs are falling faster than anyone predicted, with new record-low prices set this year for solar and wind. State governments can now pay less for clean energy than they pay for new coal power.

Mathur, who was the Indian delegation’s spokesman at the 2015 Paris climate summit, says that once batteries become powerful enough to store renewable energy for night time or when winds are weak, India’s energy emissions are likely to plateau and then fall. “I personally saw this happening around 2035, but in the past three years, that has shifted to 2025, driven by the news in the solar prices and the sharper than expected fall in the price of batteries.”

India’s government has now forecast that no new coal-fired power stations will need to be built for at least 10 years. By that time, Mathur argues, it will be cheaper to supply new demand using renewable power. “As [existing] coal plants retire they will be replaced by renewables, because that’s what makes economic sense.”……..

The whole world would benefit from a clean, green India and can help make it happen, says Stern, by bringing down the interest rates on the loans used to fund the low carbon transition: “The best thing the world could do is help bring down the cost of capital.” That means long term finance and help to cut project risks.

The path India’s chooses will affect the whole world and, despite the uncertainties and risks, the mood is optimistic, for a variety of reasons. “India has all the institutions of democracy and a very smart entrepreneurial class which will respond, and that gives me optimism,” says Saran…….


November 8, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, India

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