Climate change and energy usage are the need of the hour in India. Energy, in particular, renewable and sustainable energy, is becoming increasingly necessary due to India’s exponentially increased levels of population, pollution, international presence and trade over the past few years. In fact, it is safe to say that the way India handles energy development will determine the long-term health of the economy. While it’s easy to say that India should adopt sustainable growth, implementation comes with multiple challenges for policymakers, the Centre and state governments.
For starters, the Centre needs to first sort out expenses and allocations of creating and enforcing green energy and its productive use across industries. Additionally, the Modi government also faces significant economic challenges which makes implementing sustainable growth tricky. First, unregulated markets are moving towards regulated markets, but the pace and trend is impossible to track. Next, new industries like e-commerce are growing exponentially, and once again, the pace is unpredictable over the next few years. Yet another factor is the unpredictability of the monsoon season annually. PM Modi needs to somehow integrate green technology and the economic agenda to work together. The aim? In no sector should the market break and cause environmental alarm.
The effects of climate change are now clearly visible with altering sea levels, melting ice caps and changing temperatures. Consequences can be detrimental, quickly fatal, on a large scale if action is not taken right away. The effects of climate change combined with Indian-linked disturbances such as flooding, droughts, pollution and over-exploitation of resources inevitably result in changes in agricultural productivity. This in turn, significantly impacts the Indian economy.
Let’s look at how India currently uses energy. At present, India’s energy is a combination of coal, nuclear energy, hydropower and bio-energy including wind, biogas, bio-diesel, etc.). It is also interesting to note that a significant portion of India’s primary energy comes from forest and agricultural waste. This includes animal waste, wood chips, biofuels, etc. And along with bio-energy, India now also produces the world’s cheapest solar power.
India’s growing population and growing GDP is already faced with the challenge of countering India’s climate change, water, energy and sustainable development. Consumption is increasing and citizens of New India are attaining a better quality of life. This will only increase which in turn rapidly depletes vital natural resources like water. And if India faces more years with weak monsoon, a crisis like what is happening in Chennai over the past four months will be nationwide. Although every Indian resident needs to play a part by adopting sustainable living, the government really needs to play a pro-active role in solving the problem and clearly guiding industries.
This means that individual policies need to be made across every sector and implemented immediately. Furthermore, along with the current aggressive international relations focus, policy-makers should work on required policy adjustments for sustained growth. An excellent example is to try to copy the Nordic commitment; multiple countries are eliminating fossil fuels completely from energy sources by 2020.
The time has also come for energy usage and climate change to be addressed (instead of just discussed) at the international level. A body like the United Nations needs to actively step in and give directions for curbing large-scale environmental pollution in India. It also needs to see through implementation working with the centre. One way is to use existing schemes like Swachh Bharat and engage citizens on a larger scale. Furthermore, agencies like the IEA could also give directions or even help provide India with sustainable sources for development (in smart cities for example) and for global growth.
An important note in our favour: Green technology is not only cheaper, but also labour intensive. Skilled and unskilled employment will constantly be needed for the long-run with its use. In other words, the more we use green technology, the more employment increases. A win-win for India.
Over the next five years, it is essential that the Modi government strongly push and perfect schemes that implement both solar and bio-energy usage. One way to do this is to have the industry grant tax deductions or exemptions for research and development of green innovation. Bio-fuels should also have low taxes or be exempted from taxes completely and higher taxes should be imposed on fossil fuels and fossil-based chemicals. Additionally, green fuels should be exempted completely from taxes. During his election rallies, PM Modi also stressed that sugarcane is used in the production of biofuel; this production should increase exponentially. Modi should also introduce a severe tax or penalty for pollution and emissions as well. Water allocation and management should also be addressed as soon as possible through the new ministry created by the Centre.
NDA 2.0 under PM Modi has already begun these efforts. Moreover, in his latest Mann Ki Baat episode, the PM stressed the importance of conserving water to citizens. This has not only made them more conscious of the severity of the situation but engaged them to be more civically responsible. I am happy that this government cares and is all about action. The new term has only just begun, but I am confident that it is this Prime Minister who will propel New India forward, and that too, sustainably so.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)