Climate change and India

Climate change and India
Published: 03 May 2007

India’s planners find themselves in a fix in the wake of the fourth assessment report of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change. On the one hand, the economy is growing at a robust 9 per cent and has bagged investment grade rating by international rating agencies. On the other, it faces a huge environmental threat. The fourth assessment report projects a crisis in the making for South Asia, in general, and India, in particular, if the status quo prevails.
So what are India’s options? Does it put the brakes on economic growth? Or do we try to radically transform our manufacturing processes? The latter will not happen overnight and is not an immediate solution. The former will be paying a price for mistakes which were never committed.
Pointing fingers at India and China for increasing the emissions of greenhouse gases and forcing them to put a cap on emissions is clearly unjust. India is doing exactly what the so-called `developed’ countries did a century ago. It is true that India relies largely on fossil fuels for its energy needs. But, at the moment, they are the best option.
The way ahead must be carefully and holistically planned. Today, India is recognised as one of the world’s economic powers. Along with strong macroeconomic fundamentals, it has a strong lobby internationally, particularly in the US. It must put these to good effect to realise the objectives of making developed countries reduce their emissions of dangerous gases and take corrective action.
A former chief economist at the World Bank has developed an economic model to show that stabilising emissions to about 550 parts per million of carbon-dioxide (nearly double the quantity in the atmosphere at the start of Industrial Revolution) is possible with an investment of just one per cent of world GDP by 2050.
Along with moving to higher growth trajectories the country must develop innovative green technologies. A fillip to research in harnessing tidal wind bio and solar energy would yield rich dividends. Thrust must be given to research in developing the thorium-based third-stage fast-breeder nuclear reactor. Great emphasis must be laid on creating environmental awareness among the youth.