By -Dr. Anupam Saraph

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query, confessed that it had  not issued any notifications or orders to any union ministry, state governments or any others to make them aware of India’s legally binding commitments for arresting climate change to the international community.

In its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2nd 2016, India has set ambitious goals to make contributions to arrest climate change. The MoEFCC has not made any of the union or state ministries aware of their responsibility and contributions to accomplish the commitments, or directed them to use existing laws to accomplish the goals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes by 2030, a ten fold increase over India’s existing capacity.

According to the First Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Ministry of Environment & Forests Government of India submitted in 2015 (https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/indbur1.pdf) India’s carbon removal capacity in 2010 stood at 0.31 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent. This is an increase of 0.07 billion tonnes from 0.24 billion tonnes in 2000 as reported by the Ministry in the Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment & Forests Government of India submitted in 2012  (http://envfor.nic.in/downloads/public-information/2ndNational_Communication_2_UNFCCC.pdf).

Given the rather poor increase of 0.07 billion tonnes in 10 years, and no active efforts on part of the various union ministries and state governments, the Cabinet Secretariat seems to have taken the commitment of the Prime Minister very lightly. If business as usual continued India would at most accomplish an increase of 0.14 billion tonnes by 2030.

Neither the Cabinet Secretariat nor the Ministry of Environment have even identified existing laws that result in loss of forest, mountains, rivers, agricultural land or that result in increased paving of land with cement, settlements or industries. They have no information about existing laws that can be actively implemented to protect existing carbon removal capacity of the country.

According to the documents submitted to the UNFCC by the Ministry of Environment in 2012 and 2015 respectively, India’s forests stood at 0.69 in 2000 and 0.79 square Km in 2010. According to the document submitted by the Ministry in 2012, India’s carbon removal capacity comes from 1.76 million square Km of land used for agriculture 0.67 million square Km of land under forests 0.38 million Km of grasslands, 0.017 million Km of settlements and 0.446 million Km of other land.

A 0.10 million square Km increase in forests in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010 increasing the carbon removal by only 0.07 billion tonnes suggests a heavy de-densification of forest. It is evident that India cannot multiply its forest land 42 times to accomplish the additional 3 billion tonnes carbon removal target.

To increase India’s carbon removal capacity, therefore, India will have to multiply the carbon removal per Ha by ten to fifteen times. This can only happen if the existing trees are protected and a ten fold higher density of trees is planned. In reality every 100 Km of national highways is destroying at least 20,000 mature trees as also every mobility and development project in settlements is destroying upto 10,00,000 trees for every 10 square Km projects.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also committed to reducing the carbon emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.

In 2000, India’s carbon emissions stood at 1.53 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent. With India’s GDP standing at Rs. 20,10,338.58 crores (20,103 billion) in 2000 the Carbon intensity of the GDP stood at 76 Kg CO2eq/1,000 Rs. However according to First Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Ministry of Environment & Forests Government of India submitted in 2015 (https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/indbur1.pdf) the emission intensity of GDP (excluding emissions from agriculture) was 35.14 kg CO2eq/1,000 Rs (at constant 2004-05 prices) in 2005, which declined to 31.01 kg CO2eq/1,000 Rs (at 2004-2005 prices) in 2010.

Since economic activity results from use of energy, and carbon emissions from energy contribute over 64% to the carbon emissions, increased GDP will result in increased carbon release. While the aggressive targets to renewables of 175 GW by 2022 will increase the share of renewables from 13% to about 40% at the projected increase of primary energy demand of 7% per annum, it will still be insufficient to alter the 2015 emission contribution of the energy sector. The growth in the primary energy demand will peg the non-renewable capacity required at 261 GW as against a non-renewable capacity of 188 GW in 2015. This means that the carbon emissions of the energy sector will not reduce, but on the contrary, increase despite renewables.

It is evident that to accomplish India’s commitments India will have to not only have an even more aggressive renewable strategy, it ill have to reduce the primary energy demand. Furthermore it will have to focus on reducing the carbon emissions in transportation, industry, agriculture and waste.

Unfortunately neither the Cabinet Secretariat nor the MoEFCC have identified existing policies or laws that result in increased transportation, waste or primary energy demand. It has not issued any orders to any government ministry, department or agency to ensure their projects or activities do not increase primary energy demand let alone set reduction targets. It has not issued any orders to any government ministry, department or agency to ensure their projects or activities do not increase transportation or waste, let alone set targets to reduce these.

Shockingly the MoEFCC has not tasked any officials with the responsibility to protect the existing carbon absorption capacity and to monitor the projects that would contribute to its increase. The MoEFCC does not have any dashboard at the settlement, district, state and national level to monitor these goals and activities driven by different ministries that alter the carbon emissions or their absorptions.

Dr. Anupam Saraph, is Ph.D., Professor and Future Designer

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