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India May Soon Reach Its Renewable Energy Targets. But Is It Enough?

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Cars, cows, and factories: what’s common between these three? No, not the letter ‘O.’ They are some of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions around the world and in India too.

You might have heard about greenhouse gases from global warming commercials and videos, which have time-and-again proved with hard facts that climate change is as real as the existence of the sun and of endless human ignorance. However, in 2019, there are still hordes of people who don’t believe in global warming and claim it to be a conspiracy theory aimed at creating unrest around the world and targeting governments. Well, to be honest, if someone needed to attack governments and create turmoil in the world, one just had to leave the citizens of the world to their own tools because people are capable of destroying themselves quite successfully.


However, before discussing whether climate change is real and venturing into the arena of greenhouse gases and the resultant global warming, let us recap what greenhouse gases are in the first place. The term greenhouse comes from those little plastic huts you can see every time you drive around the countryside. Greenhouses trap heat inside them so that the plants and crops can grow in a warm and healthy atmosphere. Earth is just like a greenhouse in the sense that its atmosphere works similarly. Earth’s atmosphere traps the heat emitted by the sun by reflecting the sunlight and infrared waves back to the earth’s surface.

In the absence of our dear atmosphere, all of that heat would be reflected back on the earth, and our planet would become just like any other inhospitable planets, like Mars or Neptune. To be specific, a group of gases aptly named greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide—are responsible for maintaining our planet’s homeostasis. Having a perceptible polarity, these gases vibrate in a way that the heat emitted by the sun remains in the atmosphere for a long time before escaping back to space, hence avoiding nights where earth might freeze to death.

But that is not all that they do. See, too much of anything is terrible. Even when the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a must for supporting flora and fauna, if their amount increases beyond a certain level, the planet will go from warm and cozy to hot and scorching quite swiftly. And that is what has been happening for the last four decades. A high amount of greenhouse gases has led to a phenomenon called global warming, which is systematically increasing the average global temperature every year. Several policies and initiatives are being undertaken and planned to curb the adverse effects of this phenomenon.

The question that arises at this time is, where do these greenhouse gases come from? The primary sources of greenhouse gases in the olden days were natural processes like volcanic eruptions, forest fires, etc. But since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, industrial waste, agricultural operations, livestock, and vehicle exhausts have become the major contributors to greenhouse gases.

For instance, one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for India is livestock. Livestock animals like cows and bulls as their digestive output produce methane, which directly enters the atmosphere as a GHG. Due to the population boom and its historical dependence on animal rearing, India, since independence, has seen a sharp increase in the breeding of livestock, and hence, the contribution of GHG emissions from this sector.

In India’s case, the top contributor to greenhouse gases and air pollutants is the use of coal and its byproducts for energy production. In a country which has always depended on its abundant mines of coal to produce energy and with a large chunk of the rural population still devoid of electricity, coal is something which can’t be phased out so easily. However, it can’t also be ignored that 60% of India’s GHG emissions come from coal energy or thermal power plants, who have, although, slightly decreased their production capacity in the past decade, continue to pump carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere unhindered.

So what is the government doing to take care of this problem? Well, India signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, according to which, all member countries, among other things, have to limit their climate footprint to 2 degrees Celsius until the target year, which for India is 2030. India has not only kept its targets to date but is also estimated to surpass the expectations set in the Paris Accord, said Harsh Vardhan Singh, the then-Union Environment Minister.

But 2030 is quite far, and a major concern that has time-and-again been raised regarding India’s climate change policies is that it continues to build new coal power plants despite the concerns raised against it in the Paris Accord. Well, to clear some doubts, The Paris Agreement has allowed developing countries like India to shift from nonrenewable sources like coal and petroleum to renewable sources for a more extended period as compared to developed countries like most of Europe and the United States.

In fact, since primary global GHG emissions since the Industrial Revolution have come and continue to come from the US and Europe, the Paris accords have currently put a significant burden of climate change on the developed countries. This has given India a lot of reprieve in terms of coal use. However, that doesn’t mean that coal shouldn’t, or won’t, be replaced.

Bhadla Phase III solar park in Rajasthan with 500 MW in commission of the planned 1000-MW installation.

India’s current coal emissions are up to the mark, but according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it is estimated to rise from 596 million tonnes in 2018 to 938 million by 2030, and 1.16 billion by 2040. So while the current status is acceptable, we need to look to the future, and that is why IEA has set the target for 2030 to 546 million. The good news is that India is already turning towards renewable options to decrease its carbon footprint and achieve a steep goal.

With a favorable environment for it, India is turning to solar energy as an alternative to non-renewable energy. However, up until 2010, the solar output of India was minuscule, especially compared to its vast potential. After the launch of the National Solar Mission (NSM) Initiative in 2010, the solar output for the country climbed up steadily. While signing the Paris agreement in 2015, India further promised to increase its nonrenewable outputs to 175 GW by 2022, out of which 100 GW was kept for solar power and 60 GW for wind.

Although hailed as an enormous promise at that time, Indian has since then successfully increased its solar output to 75 GW. In a recent interview with Economic Times, Power and New & Renewable energy minister RK Singh said that the target of 175 GW is underway and is very well achievable before 2022. “The target of having 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 looks huge. But, today, we have established 83 GW clean energy. About 29 GW of renewable energy is under installation. That makes it 112GW, and under about 30GW is underbid. So that makes the 175GW of renewables,” he said.

Citing an example of India’s success in decreasing its carbon and GHG footprint, I would like to tell the readers that the Climate Change Index has ranked India 11th in terms of its policies and the efforts being taken to decrease its GHG emissions and moving towards renewable alternatives.

All in all, even though the overall renewable energy and GHG emission-reduction scenario might look good from India’s standpoint, we need to continue thinking about the future. So, after accepting that India is, unlike many countries, at least on the right track when it comes to fighting climate change, we need to keep in mind that this is not the end of the road. We need to decrease our dependence on coal as an energy source over the next twenty years and increase our renewable output if we want to maintain our performance.

Representational image.

To give a carbon-free future to the coming generations, we need to take more and stricter measures to inculcate a clean-energy habit, especially given the population increase and emission increase estimates. We may have walked a lot and come quite far, but is it an uphill battle from now on, and we’ll need every hand we can afford to fight the enemy. After all, we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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