The Economist News : India shows that there are more ways of cutting carbon emissions than by having grand environmental targets.

BEING green often seems to mean pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions: that is, saying that your country would emit vast amounts of carbon dioxide in 2030 if it didn’t do anything and then claiming how much less it will actually emit as a result of your wise and responsible policies. As part of negotiations for a global climate treaty due to be signed in Paris at the end of the year, almost every big country has set itself an emissions target—except one. India has promised only to limit the amount of carbon dioxide per unit of GDP: a relative target, not an absolute one. This might seem like a cop-out. India is the world’s fourth-largest emitter. It will be the biggest single contributor to new greenhouse-gas emissions in the next 15 years. Although rarely treated as such, India is one of the big beasts of the climate arena. Over the next 15 years it will have as great an environmental impact (for good or ill) as America or China.

Despite that, India’s unwillingness to set an absolute target is understandable. It is the fourth-largest polluter only because it is so populous. Each Indian emits merely one-tenth as much carbon dioxide as each American, because Indians are so much poorer. However, as they move to cities and get richer, they will drive more cars, use more air conditioners, build more houses and consume more electricity. To ask Indians for an ambitious cap on emissions risks them staying poor because of a problem mostly caused by other, richer people. That is a hard sell anywhere, let alone in a fractious democracy.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of other reasons why India should curb pollution. Smoky indoor air is one of the country’s biggest killers, because hundreds of millions of villagers cook by burning wood and cow dung. Outdoors, Delhi’s air is filthier than Beijing’s. Hundreds of millions of Indians depend on the monsoon for their food, and the monsoon is likely to become less reliable as a result of global warming. Many millions more live on coastal plains or depend on rivers that flow down from the Himalayas, making them vulnerable to rising sea levels and the retreat of glaciers. Other countries suffer some of these problems. Few have them all.

So how does India get richer while minimising the pollution that often comes with growth? The answer is to adopt policies that are needed for other reasons but which have environmental benefits, too. Consider the railways, traditionally not an environmental matter. Almost uniquely, India transports heavy goods, such as steel, long distances by road because the rail-freight system is so lousy (passenger traffic gets priority). Shifting freight onto railways would be more efficient and less polluting. Also, India is providing millions of villages with solar- and wind-generated electricity. The justification is not (as it would be elsewhere) that this replaces fossil fuels with low-carbon energy. Rather, it is that it eases poverty (by providing poor villages with power) and improves public health (by allowing villagers to stop burning dung). Oh yes, and the sun and the wind are lovely and green.

Pretend it’s all about efficiency

Reform in India is hard: the country has been trying to improve its railways for years. But explicitly green policies (such as subsidising wind farms or cutting power-station emissions) are not easy either. And India has recently reformed or removed subsidies on diesel and liquefied natural gas, showing that it can save money and curb emissions at the same time.

Other countries could learn from its experience. Policies labelled “green” don’t always win public support. Those which promise to make people richer or healthier more often do—and their incidental environmental benefits can be huge. According to a group of economists headed by a former Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, smarter urban policies could cut the cost of new city infrastructure in developing countries over the next 15 years by $3 trillion. As a pleasant side-effect, such policies (better public transport, energy-efficient buildings and such like) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 billion tonnes a year—worth having in its own right. India shows that you can be green by stealth. Finding more ways to do that would be better than any number of global targets.

Source :

SMART GRID Bulletin March 2017

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