Climate Change Profile: Growth vs. Climate?
Publishing date: July 4, 2007
economic growth will allow India to lift more than 300 million of
its citizens out of extreme poverty. But rapid Indian development
also increases pressure on the global climate and unique
ecosystems. How will India face this dilemma?
India is home to one of
the fastest-growing economies in the world, and currently the
sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With
nearly a quarter of its population living below the poverty line,
the government is pursuing an ambitious development agenda.
Growth in India is
expected to cause energy consumption to quadruple from 2005 levels
by the year 2030. If current trends continue, most of this energy
will be produced from coal-fired power plants, making India one of
the top-three greenhouse-gas-emitting countries by 2025.
Against this backdrop
India’s government is resisting international pressure to curb its
greenhouse emissions. As a developing country India is exempt from
mandatory caps on emissions. Developed countries, however, are
demanding binding commitments from India. But with per capita
emissions only six percent that of the average U.S. American,
India argues that industrialized nations are solely responsible.
authorities may adjust their “development-versus-climate
protection” view. Recent international reports on climate change,
such as the 2007 UN climate change report, presented grim
environmental and economic scenarios for India if climate change
Some impacts of global
warming have already become visible in India. Monsoon rains have
become harder and less predictable, glaciers are melting, more
floods and droughts occur, and mangrove forests are disappearing
at an alarming rate. Public health, biodiversity, agricultural
production, access to drinking water, and even national security
will be affected.
Indian policymakers are reacting to these threats by launching
climate-friendly policies, especially when they serve the
country’s development agenda. For example, the government will try
to meet 20-25 percent of national energy demands from renewable
sources in the coming decades.
Climate Change Mitigation
Meanwhile big domestic
players in the renewable energy sector, such as Suzlon Energy and
Tata-BP Solar, are ahead of politicians, making big investments in
large-scale products throughout the country. Answering energy and
development needs in a sustainable way will be a big challenge for
India this century. But the country could benefit from
“leapfrogging” – to develop in the way that makes use of the best
and cleanest technologies, policies and resources available
without the decades of learning needed to get there.