India unveils blueprint for green development (to go with ‘Solar energy to be chief weapon against climate change: PM’)

June 30th, 2008 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) India needs a national strategy to adapt to climate change and to enhance the ecological sustainability of its development path, says its National Action Plan on Climate Change. The plan was released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Monday. “With an economy closely tied to its natural resource base and climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water and forestry, India may face a major threat because of the projected changes in climate,” says the long-awaited plan, which is now up for public debate.

The plan, prepared by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change after deliberations that went on for around a year, recognises that India has wider choices in its developmental pathway “precisely because it is at an early stage of development”.

The plan promises that India “will engage actively in multilateral negotiations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a positive, constructive and forward-looking manner”.

But in the as-expected absence of any binding commitment on India’s part to mitigate its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the fractious debate between industrialised and developing countries on how to combat climate change is likely to get more shrill.

GHG emissions, mainly of carbon dioxide, are leading to global warming, which is already showing its effects through reduced farm productivity, more frequent and more damaging droughts, floods and storms, glacier retreat, sea level rise, coral die-out and melting of polar ice. The tropics and sub-tropics are bearing the brunt.

The plan reiterates India’s adherence to the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and relative capabilities, enshrined in the UNFCCC” in the combat against climate change.

To drive the point home, the plan says: “The success of our national efforts would be significantly enhanced provided the developed countries affirmed their responsibility for accumulated GHG emission and fulfil their commitments under the UNFCCC, to transfer additional financial resources and climate-friendly technologies to support both adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.”

“India is determined that its per capita GHG emissions will at no point exceed that of developed countries.” Right now, India’s per capita GHG emission is about five percent of the US and less than 10 percent of Europe.

The plan includes setting up eight national missions for India’s sustainable development: missions on solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, creating a “green India” through a large tree-plating programme, sustainable agriculture and establishing a knowledge platform on climate change. Solar energy development is to be at the forefront.

The plan envisages a big jump in the share of solar energy in the national energy mix. The mission will launch a major research and development programme for more affordable and more convenient solar power systems.

The plan anticipates that the energy efficiency initiatives already undertaken will result in a saving of 10,000 MW by the end of 2012. It is adding four new initiatives: a market-based mechanism by which industry may trade energy savings certificates; making energy-efficient appliances more affordable; financing demand management by capturing future energy savings; and developing fiscal instruments to promote energy efficiency.

The mission on sustainable habitat is meant to improve energy efficiency in buildings, to manage solid waste and to shift from private to public transport. There will be an energy conservation building code. Developing power from waste will be a focus area. It will also look at adapting to climate change by developing community based disaster management systems and improving extreme weather warning systems.

The national water mission will be about conservation and more equitable distribution between parts of the country. It will use differential pricing to improve water use efficiency. It will also look at recycling of waste water for urban use and desalination plants for coastal cities. The plan envisages rainfall and river flows will change due to global warming, and the mission will develop strategies to deal with it.

The mission on Himalayan ecosystems will study in more detail the retreat of glaciers due to climate change, an ongoing phenomenon that threatens India’s major perennial water supply source.

The “Green India” mission is about tree plantation on degraded forest land. Six million hectares are earmarked for this already, with the aim of enhancing India’s forest cover to 33 percent from less than 23 percent now.

The mission on sustainable agriculture is about developing new crop varieties that can better withstand climate change effects such as weather extremes, long dry spells and flooding. “India will spearhead efforts at the international level to work towards an ecologically sustainable green revolution,” says the plan.

The mission on strategic knowledge is about research on causes and effects of climate change at the physical and socioeconomic levels. The mission will create a climate science research fund.

Each mission will prepare specific objectives and programmes that go up to 2017. These programmes are to be prepared by the end of this year, says the plan.

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