INDIA – THE VOICE OF GLOBAL SOUTH FOR Climate Change?

By Pooja Nayak & Mansi Saraiya Students of SVKM’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai University.

Global South: ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, refers to India’s advocacy of ‘One Earth, One Family and One Future’, which finds its mention in the Maha Upanishad. This rooted Indian value and philosophy strengthens India’s soft power strategies in dispensing global influence. India is aspiring to emerge as a leader of the global south with its long-standing belief in peace, unity, oneness and inclusivity. “Global South” is synonymous to “Third World” and “Periphery,” mostly low-income countries. The expression Global South embarks a significant transition from a general focus on cultural dissimilarities, towards a prominence on transnational relations of power.

Why does India want to be the leader of the global south, especially in its actions for climate change? To address the uncertain, yet projected severe future climate consequences, developing countries long for a strong new leader who can fill the vacuum in climate governance. India has constantly shown immense credentials and leadership potential by taking positive actions in reducing as well as adapting to climate change. India’s position has risen quite a lot in the international hierarchy and it is on its way to be the 3rd largest economy in the world. India’s room for international activism has grown significantly. As per a study conducted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the year 2020, it has been predicted that India might bear an average annual loss of US$ 87 billion (more than INR 6 lakh crore) due to climate-induced extreme weather conditions including but not limited to heat waves, susceptible to climate change, according to a ranking conducted by HSBC, and thus, it aspires to champion the cause of Global South in relation to climate change.

What is India’s current position in the global south in matters relating to climate change? India has been ranked as the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, India tries to defend itself by stating its minuscule per capita emissions and historical emissions are low as compared to the developed world. Nevertheless, India is taking significant actions to stop as well as to adapt to climate change. If we look at the Climate Change Performance Index 2023 report, India stands at 8th position, which is 2 positions up from the last edition of the said report. In 2015, India had released its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Back then, the major targets were to increase the cumulative electric power installed capacity from renewable sources to 40%, and to bring down the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35%, compared to 2005 levels, till the year 2030. India’s carbon emissions had already been reduced by 24 percent by 2016. Thus, these targets were overachieved. The said country has recently updated its INDC where it has committed to bring emissions of its GDP by 45%, and achieve about 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from renewable resources by 2030. If we look at the electric power installed capacity from renewable sources, it is 173.14 GW, which is 42.3 percent of the total electric power installed capacity as of 30th November 2022. A report from the center for science and environment concluded that between the years of 2019 and 2021 there has been a 3% increase of India’s energy which comes from renewable resources. India is a strong example of how successful climate change could be achieved along with the country’s development.

India’s Climate Change Policies: At COP26, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sworn that by 2030, India will maximise its renewable energy capacity to 500 gigawatts, and would be using non-fossil fuel energy resources to meet 50% of its energy needs with one billion tonnes lower carbon emissions, and that, it will be net zero emitter of carbon by 2070. India has also launched ‘One Sun, One World, One Grid’ which aims to collect solar energy at places where the sun is shining, and make sure that the energy can get to the places which need it the most. India has often been criticised by the world for not taking enough measures to reduce its reliance on coal as a means for energy. In the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, India has responsibly prepared and submitted a document which has been structured separately, which is titled ‘India’s Long-term Low Carbon Development Strategy’ to the secretariat of the UNFCCC. A slew of measures has been undertaken by the government to drive domestic action on climate change including the constitution of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change (PMCCC) for constant review of all National Missions. MoEFCC has set up a National Steering Committee for Climate Change. Eight missions are being executed under the NAPCC, a few of which are the national solar mission, national mission for enhanced energy efficiency, national mission on sustainable habitat, national mission for a green India, and national mission on strategic knowledge for climate change. In addition, the Draft National Electricity Plan 2022 says that by 2031–32, relative to 2021–22, India is planning to increase solar and wind capacity by six and three times, respectively. Additionally, the Government has declared the trajectory for Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) up to the year 2030. It is also promulgating Electric Vehicles in India. Ujala is a scheme launched by the Government of India which has distributed 36.86 crore LED bulbs which have resulted in saving of 47,876 million kWh of electricity per year. Recently, the Prime Minister of India has introduced LiFE “Lifestyle for Environment” mission. India is currently leading the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. The Paris Agreement is a treaty which is legally binding and has many countries which are signatories to it including India and was adopted in COP 21 which was held in 2015. There have been many studies done by independent agencies and they all say that India’s efforts comply with the requirement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. However, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), submits that India stands poorly in limiting the warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. It says that India’s policies and actions are not sufficient. Nearly 55% of India’s energy needs come from coal-based power, even after a massive expansion of the renewable energy sector. At COP 26, India, with the help of some other countries, was successful in getting a reference to quick “phase-out” of coal changed to “phase-down”. India had argued that the usage of coal is majorly concentrated in those countries which are in their developing stages, whereas gas is mainly used in rich, developed and industrialised countries. Only considering the negative climatic consequences due to coal, shall put a huge burden on poor as well as developing countries, while providing countries with greater resources more opportunities to plan out their shift to clean energy. 

Finance India continued to increase its renewables even while the majority of the world’s economies came to a standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, subsidies for renewable energy in India increased from Rs 5,774 crore in 2021 to Rs 11,529 crore in 2022, while funding for electric vehicles increased by 160%, from Rs 906 crore to a record-high of Rs 2,358 crore. This increase is the result of improved policy stability, a 155% increase in solar PV installation, and the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. In FY 2022, India gave the energy sector at least Rs 5 lakh crore in support, including approximately Rs 22 lakh crore in subsidies. Under the India-US Climate Clean Energy Agenda 2030, India and the US joined into the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD), which aimed on giving both the countries the chance to revive their climate change partnerships while dealing with their financial issues. India’s ambition to develop 500 GW (gigawatts) of renewable energy capacity by 2030 will require an investment of at least 2.44 lakh crore, or 2.44 trillion, according to a committee assembled by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). The ‘Getting India to Net Zero’ research estimates that India will require an immediate investment of $10.1 trillion in its whole economy in order to achieve net zero by 2070. It will be challenging for India to keep up its current pace of producing renewable energy if it does not receive the necessary financial assistance. It will be even harder to increase it. India emphasised during COP 26 that since 2009, the rich world has not been able to provide developing countries with the USD 100 billion goal each year that was set. The Paris Agreement stresses that wealthier nations had to take the initiative in aiding underdeveloped nations financially. Climate financing is crucial for both mitigation and adaptation because it requires substantial financial resources to cut emissions and prepare for the unfavourable effects of climate change.

Opinions: To mention External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar words, “India will take the lead in pushing for collective action on sustainable development, climate change and climate justice, often side-tracked due to more dominant issues.” The chairman and CEO of ReNew Power, Sumant Sinha said that the amount of solar and wind energy on the grid is rising rapidly and now accounts for between 12-13% of total power generation. He also stated that the intention of the Indians government is to develop a renewables manufacturing industry and become a supplier to the rest of the world. A collaboration of 14 global think tanks has said that India is the only country in G20 that has policies which are 1.5 degrees C compliant. An expert from the New Climate Institute said, “If India sticks to expanding coal-fired power generation and infrastructure to increasingly use imported LNG, it risks massive stranded assets in the fossil energy sector and an increased dependence on energy imports. India should instead focus fully on renewable energy, with international support as needed.”

Way forward: Green premium, a concept popularised in part by Bill Gates, hints that when the premium on green products disappears, consumers will naturally switch to clean products en masse. Investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, or other clean, low-carbon technology can help offset carbon emissions produced in one industry by reducing them in another. Another option is a carbon border adjustment mechanism, which would impose carbon pricing on imported commodities from nations with lower climate ambitions. This will force those countries to opt for renewable sources of energy.

Conclusion: The entire world is keen and excited to see what India has to offer following the leadership role that India has taken at COP 27 and the G20 summit. India has made the developed countries realise that if they fail to support the developing countries, the consequence of the climate crisis could possibly be devastating. The developed countries as well as developing countries will require harsher climate change policies including mire finance to address the climate change crisis in the future. There can’t be any more delay in taking affirmative actions to deal with climate change. If India, being the third largest emitter, can commit and take steps towards a zero emission, then the other countries can do so too. 


Edited By: SAIL Editorial Board.

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