What Is India’s Position In The Global Race To Zero-Net Emissions?

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2019 will be remembered as the year when we witnessed the largest global climate strike in history, with over four million participants across multiple nations demanding action to reduce carbon emissions. According to the Global Carbon Project, fossil fuel combustion is expected to release a record 36.8 billion tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2019, more than double the level in the 1970s.

Recognising the growing threat posed by global warming, 65 countries and the EU pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019. However, China and the US, the top two emitters in the world, emitting more than 40% of global CO2, did not show ambition.

India, with its growing footprint, needs a plan too – not least because it will face the brunt of global inaction and bear the proverbial white man’s burden!

One of many climate strikes held by schoolchildren in India last year.

A Race Against Time

Net-zero emissions mean balancing the current carbon emissions with carbon sinks that absorb the emissions, leaving a net-zero impact on the atmosphere. Global average temperatures have already risen by 0.8°C to 1°C, and there is no time to lose.

As per the estimates of GHG Platform India, the economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions of India stood at 22.6 billion tonnes (CO2 equivalent) between 2005 and 2015, while the overall removal was only 5% of the cumulative emissions. A projection of emissions at the current growth rate indicates that the carbon removal capacity through afforestation would drastically fall short of the total emissions in 2030.

Technological solutions and driving behavioural change to assimilate the solutions for a climate-friendly world are the need of the hour.

The Usual Suspects

The main contributors to carbon emissions are fossil fuels – coal, petroleum, and natural gas. India’s story is no different from other developing nations. Electricity generation, industry, and transportation, collectively contributed to more than 70% of carbon emissions between 2005 to 2015.

Particularly challenging is our reliance on coal – a bulk of it sourced domestically. More than 60% of the emissions were a result of using coal. Coal alone contributes to 74% of the total electricity generation. Industry energy use is also dominated by fossil fuels, amounting to a 65% share in final consumption, while the transport sector almost entirely runs on petroleum products and natural gas.

Figure 1: sectoral emissions and projections
Projections for sectoral emissions and carbon sinks in India
Author’s analysis

Too Many Solutions?

A loose set of targets, to counter emissions in various sectors, exist – achieving a 15% natural gas share in India’s energy mix by 2030; 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022; 30% share in EV sales by 2030 and so on. The challenge is, few have a clear policy that supports the target.

Further, energy efficiency – the lowest cost way to reduce emissions – has its limitations, particularly in the case of the industry sector. Fuel switching too has shortcomings as less carbon-intensive fuels are pricier.

There also remains the dependence on decades-old processes and products which have seen little innovation. Cement is a perfect example. Even with 100% replacement of fossil fuels with clean energy, the cement sector would still emit 51 million tonnes of CO2 in 2030, only a 25% decrease from the current level. A fundamental change in the materials we use is needed.

The renewable energy target by 2022 is looking insurmountable, as the power sector woes and DISCOM insolvency and technical challenges plague the sector. In transportation, EVs have come to be the proverbial silver bullet, given our inability to drive through hard reform in urban governance and promoting design-rich solutions.

All gloom and doom? Not quite. Sharing the burden, and diffusion of innovation offers hope.

A Better Tomorrow

India can take inspiration from other countries to create an efficient strategy for decarbonisation. Germany’s move to completely phase out coal by 2038 is a step in the direction, but the phase-out of nuclear has left a void and reduced the overall carbon space available.

France has invested in research on hydrogen produced through renewables as a substitute for fossil fuels, while the UK generated more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels in the third quarter of 2019. Lighter and more efficient battery chemistries and horizon technologies like nuclear fusion offer more hope for clean energy.

What is clear is, India will have to make do with a lower carbon space than it would have liked. It is also clear that India needs resources – finances, skilling and technology from anywhere it can get it.

To quote from A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” We live in tumultuous times shaped by consumer interests. You, me, and many like us can effectively initiate a low carbon transition by being mindful of what we consume, and ask for.

Doconomy, a Sweden-based fin-tech company, worked with Mastercard to launch the world’s first credit card with a carbon limit. It also allows consumers to track their carbon emissions through an app and offset their footprint.

Skyscanner, an online travel company, has started labelling flights based on carbon emissions to help travellers make an informed choice. Our future, along with those of our children, single-handedly depends on the decisions we make now!

About the author: Deepa Janakiraman is a Research Analyst at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent not-for-profit policy research institution.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: digifly840/Pixabay.
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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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