As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement this year, India’s pledges for 2030 – called nationally determined contributions (NDC) – are achievable with a clear strategy. A number of measures and schemes are underway; such as, renewable energy (REN) targets of 175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2027, energy efficient appliances such as LED bulbs, star ratings of refrigerators, air conditioners, schemes for industries and power generators etc. NDCs do involve the states as partners. But for ambitious mitigation plans, they will have to further devise their own plans, suited to their own structure of emissions, state characteristics and development agenda.
In India fossil fuels, especially their mining and distribution, are under the Centre’s ambit; but key sectors for climate mitigation such as forests, land use, power, transport and agriculture are either state subjects or on concurrent list. In addition, each state is different in terms of demographics, economic structure and level, resource endowments and available energy resources etc. They may achieve much more by state specific pathways to achieve targets.
Typically, the shift to low carbon futures will involve reaching higher share of renewable energy, efficient fossil based power plants, reduced losses in transmission and distribution of power, electric vehicles, efficient public transport, efficient and less polluting vehicles, retiring old, polluting and expensive power plants, providing reliable power supply to reduce diesel generators or captive power plants.
First of all, states need to be supported with capacity building as well as national and international finance and technical assistance. Second, some current regulatory measures such as fixed Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) for each category of REN separately, may involve tweaking some rules to offer flexibility. For example, instead of fixed RPO for each REN – such as wind, solar, biomass – each state can achieve the total percentage from any renewable source as per its REN resource endowment, local expertise, energy demand and costs.
This flexibility for achieving a share of total REN can help them develop REN of their choice, specific to their state; Assam and other northeastern states have largely forest land, have limited potential for solar installation, but can potentially address mitigation mainly through their biomass potential and local expertise. They can go for a larger share of biomass and less of solar while Gujarat can go beyond its quota with wind and solar.
Third, create a mechanism for tradable NDC quotas among states so that those states which perform over and above their share of the required reduction, can sell the credits to those that are lagging behind because they are difficult or expensive in their states.
Fourth, some motivating incentives, such as tax benefits, technical and financial support and awards may help. Finally, there needs to be a clearing house at the Centre, which may be in the ministry of environment, forests and climate change or Niti Aayog or a semi-government or public sector agency similar to Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), which can do hand holding, mobilise technical assistance, financial support and encourage knowledge sharing among states by sharing their experiences, best practice reports, holding webinars or group consultations.
Indeed, it is only when the states see clear economic benefits to a clean energy future that they will support and enable India to achieve NDC and even go beyond. There are many states in the United States which have their own climate goals. In fact, despite the refusal of President Donald Trump to attend the COP 25 climate meet at Madrid, these states had put up a US pavilion saying ‘we are still in’ along with other signatory nations for the Paris Agreement!
For the coming COP 26, we need an inclusive approach where many states and other stakeholders come forward with their own initiatives. This will need policy flexibility, financial incentives and institutional support, as well as technical capacity building at all levels.
States need to be on board to make the national vision a reality. We will need full involvement of many more agencies pushing the envelope; be it states, cities, institutions, industries and all citizens.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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