COVID-19, Climate and Carbon neutrality

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Context: Interlinkage of human health and environmental health.

Mains: GS III- Climate Change and its consequence on human health and IPCC assessments.

  • Climate change is already affecting the entire world, with extreme weather conditions such as drought, heatwaves, heavy rain, floods, and landslides becoming more frequent.
  • Other consequences of the rapidly changing climate include rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and loss of biodiversity.
  • In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) suggests is safe, carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century is essential.
  • This target is also laid down in the Paris agreement signed by 195 countries, including the EU.
Global Commitments
  • In December 2019, a few weeks before the world became aware of the COVID­19 catastrophe, the European Union followed California’s example but with the year 2050 in mind.
  • In September 2020, China stunned the world by declaring its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.
  • Japan and South Korea joined the club by announcing their intention to do so by 2050, like the EU. 
Paris agreement aims
  • The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels 
  • To pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
What is Carbon Neutrality?
  • Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks.
  • Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration.
  • In order to achieve net-zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.

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The need of the hour
  • In the post-COVID-19 world, we should make efforts to ensure that the ‘G’ in GDP is not ‘Gross’ but ‘Green
Interlinkage of public health science and environmental science
  • Loss of biodiversity and ever­ increasing human incursions into the natural world have contributed heavily to the outbreak and spread of epidemic diseases. 
  • There is now robust scientific evidence to show, for instance, how air pollution exacerbates the impacts of COVID­19. 
  • Air pollution, water pollution, chemical contamination, deforestation, waste generation and accumulation, land degradation, and excessive use of pesticides, all have profound public health consequences both in terms of morbidity and mortality.

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Climate change-A reality
  • A recent report of the Ministry of Earth Sciences called ‘Assessment of climate change over the Indian region’ points to the need for making our future science and technology strategy anchored on the understanding of the impacts of climate change.
  • To avoids situations such as what may be a solution at one point in time but becomes a problem at another point. For example – HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, were at one time seen as the panacea to fix the depletion of the ozone layer.
  • The depletion of the ozone layer has been fixed more or less, but HFCs are a potent threat from a climate change perspective since their global warming potential is a thousand times that of carbon dioxide.

Way Forward
  • The post-COVID-19 world presents us with an opportunity to switch gears and make a radical departure from the past to make economic growth ecologically sustainable.
  • For much of the infrastructure i.e. 70% of the infrastructure required in India by the year 2050 is waiting to be established.
  • GDP growth must, without a doubt, revive and get back to a steady 7%-8% growth path.
  • However, in this post-COVID-19 world, we should make efforts to ensure that the ‘G’ in GDP is not ‘Gross’ but ‘Green’.
  • India can and should show to the world how the measurement of economic growth can take place while taking into account both ecological pluses and minuses.
India and Climate Change

India's Achievements:

  • India has achieved a reduction of 21% in the emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014, which fulfils its pre-2020 voluntary target.
  • Renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226% in the last 5 years and stands more than 87 GW. 
  • India has also leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by April 1, 2020, which was earlier to be adopted by 2024.
  • 80 million LPG connections are provided in rural areas under PM Ujjwala Yojana,  with clean cooking fuel and a healthy environment.
  • More than 360 million LED bulbs have been distributed under the UJALA scheme, which has led to an energy saving of about 47 billion units of electricity per year and a reduction of 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

Initiatives taken by India to tackle Climate Change:

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • To adopt a climate-friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at a corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, with the help of the transfer of technology and low-cost international finance, including from Green Climate Fund.
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health, and disaster management.
  • To mobilize domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap.
  • To build capacities, create a domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.

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