India needs to shape upAug 8th, 2009 | By editor | Category: The Hindu Speaks, Viewing News
With a $19 billion solar energy plan that sets ambitious targets, India has tried to compensate for its serious, retrogressive lack of initiative in addressing climate change. The goal is to generate 20 gigawatts of power using solar energy by 2020 and ramp it up sharply in the decades to follow. As one of the top five emitters of greenhouse gases, the country needs to work on this plan seriously. The massive push for solar power approved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is impressive, considering that the share of this green source of energy in the country is minuscule now, as low as five megawatts by some estimates. A solar initiative can produce multiple gains.
It can power up remote villages while cutting emissions. But attention needs to be devoted to raising the grossly inadequate fabrication base for photovoltaics. Equally important, the implementation of the solar plan hinges on availability of external funding. The plan can lend some credibility to the national position at the forthcoming Copenhagen conference of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. But there is no getting away from the fact that the Manmohan Singh government faces the challenge of convincing the international community that it will reduce its total emissions through a comprehensive approach — promoting greater efficiency and ensuring low carbon intensity in all areas of activity.
The philosophical basis for India’s demand for financial and technological assistance from legacy polluters such as the United States and European countries is sound enough. As the economist Jagdish Bhagwati pointed out in a recent interview to The Hindu, India and China could be expected to accept obligations related to current flow of greenhouse gases — but the staggering problem posed by the existing stock in the atmosphere, built up by the developed countries, requires them to undertake a speedy clean-up. The U.S. has internally been using the ‘superfund’ principle to repair past environmental damage, viewing it both as a tort liability and a moral obligation.
It should be persuaded to extend the same logic to its damaging carbon emissions, and liberally assist the emerging economies with advanced technologies and a climate superfund. India, however, cannot ignore the strong view in the developed world that zero liability for current emissions is unacceptable beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires. China recognises the problem and is working to reduce emissions. It is engaging the U.S. in an attempt to enter into a strategic relationship that will help it lower emissions. This is a key pointer for India, as it comes under increasing pressure to agree to a measurable target to cut greenhouse gases.