Economic Survey 2020-21: Vol 2 Ch 6: Sustainable Development and Climate Change

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Introduction
  • As the official adoption of SDGs reached its 4th anniversary, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), on 30th January 2020.
  • The resultant public health emergency, which was later pronounced to be a pandemic, has led to considerable human and economic costs setting countries back on their developmental goals and creating serious impediments to the attainment of the SDGs.
  • The year 2020 was supposed to be the year by which developed country Parties were to fulfil the goal of jointly mobilizing US$ 100 billion a year for climate finance, an essential component of the commitments made by the developed countries, which has remained elusive.
  • The postponement of COP 26 to 2021 also gives less time for negotiations and other evidence-based work to inform the post-2025 goal.
  • India is no exception to the unprecedented crisis unleashed by the pandemic.
India and the SDGs
  • India has taken several proactive steps at both the national and the sub-national level to mainstream the SDGs into the policies, schemes, and programs of the Government
    • Voluntary National Review (VNR)
      • In 2020, the highlight of India’s SDG initiatives has been the Voluntary National Review (VNR) presented to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development.
      • The reviews are voluntary and country-led and are aimed at facilitating the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned.
      • NITI Aayog presented India’s second VNR to the HLPF in July 2020, which highlighted the country’s accomplishments and the way forward on its journey towards achieving the SDGs.
      • Consultations with over 1000CivilSocietyOrganisations(CSOs)
        • It has been the cornerstone of the VNR Report preparation process.
        • The focus of the consultations was the principle of “Leaving No One Behind”, which lies at the heart of SDGs
      • Private sector's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
        • These initiatives have been a major avenue for private sector involvement in the SDG framework.
        • This is echoed in the ‘Report of the Committee on Business Responsibility Reporting’ which was released in 2020.
        • BRSR formats incorporate the growing salience of non-financial disclosures along with the annual financial disclosures ensuring the recognition of environmental and social responsibilities.
    • Localization of the SDGs
      • Localization of SDGs is crucial to any strategy aimed at achieving the goals under the 2030 Agenda.
      • It involves the process of adapting, planning, implementing, and monitoring the SDGs from national to local levels by relevant institutions and stakeholders.
      • To accelerate SDG achievements, the country has adopted the approach of cooperative and competitive federalism among the States in various development outcomes.
      • The SDG India Index and Dashboard, designed and developed by NITI Aayog, is the principal tool to measure and monitor SDG performance at the national and sub-national levels:
        • National Level Leadership
        • State Level Leadership


SDG related intervention of the Centre Governments during the pandemic
  • The period of the pandemic has seen coordinated efforts of both the Centre and the State Governments in preserving and creating livelihoods, ensuring that food and nutritional requirements are met and that the health facilities are augmented to cope with the pressure created by the contagion.
  • Initiatives addressed the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and enabled the country to progress on its SDGs even in these very difficult times.
  • In addition, several reform measures have been brought in such as in agricultural labour and MSME reforms which will directly or indirectly impact the SDGs.
  • The State Governments also responded with several measures to support those affected by the pandemic through various initiatives and reliefs to fight this pandemic.
Climate Change
  • India has been taking several proactive climate actions to fulfill its obligations as per the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and equity.
  • Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)
    • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% below 2005 levels by the year 2030
    • Achieve 40% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030
    • Enhance forest and tree cover to create additional carbon sink equivalent to 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.
  • Prominent Government initiatives on mitigation & adaptation actions and their progress:
    • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC)
      • India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was launched in 2008.
      • It has through 8 National Missions focussed on advancing the country’s climate change-related objectives of adaptation, mitigation, and preparedness on climate risks.
    • The major developments under the NAPCC are:
      • National Solar Mission (NSM)
        • To achieve 100 GW of solar power in seven years starting from 2014-15. 
      • National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE)
        • To achieve growth with ecological sustainability.
        • Mandating reduction in energy consumption in large energy-consuming industries.
        • Financing for PPP to reduce energy consumption through demand-side management programs in the municipal, buildings, and agricultural sectors.
        • Energy incentives, including reduced taxes on energy-efficient appliances.
        • The Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme is one of the initiatives under the NMEEE and was initiated in March 2012.
      • National Mission for a Green India (GIM)
        • Improved ecosystem services by Increasing forest/tree cover by 5 m ha and improving the quality of forest cover on another 5 m ha (a total of 10 m ha).
      • National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH)
        • Development of sustainable habitat standards.
        • Promoting energy efficiency as a core component of urban planning by extending the existing Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).
        • Strengthening the enforcement of automotive fuel economy standards.
        • The mission is being implemented through three programmes: Atal Mission on Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, Swachh Bharat Mission, and Smart Cities Mission. 
      • National Water Mission (NWM)
        • Focuses on monitoring of groundwater, aquifer mapping, capacity building, water quality monitoring and other baseline studies. 
      • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture
        • Enhancing food security by making agriculture more productive, sustainable, remunerative, and climate-resilient.
      • National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystems:
        • To continuously assess the health status of the Himalayan Ecosystem. The key achievements include
        • Setting up of the Centre of Glaciology at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology.
        • A mega programme named Human and Institutional Capacity Building (HICAB) programme for the Indian Himalayan Region was launched during the 2018-19 and six state level knowledge networks have been supported in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in the Himalayan Region.
      • National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC):
        • To gain a better understanding of climate science, formation of knowledge networks among the existing knowledge institutions engaged in research and development. 
    • Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)
      • The government launched the JNNSM in 2010 with the aim to:
        • Deploy 20,000 MW of grid-connected solar power by 2022 to be achieved in 3 phases.
        • 2,000 MW of off-grid solar applications including 20 million solar lights by 2022 and 20 million sq. m. solar thermal collector area.
    • Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP)
      • It is a Central Sector Scheme which was approved in January 2014.
      • It was formed to build and support the scientific and analytical capacity for assessment of climate change in the country.
      • Two important components of the CCAP scheme are:
        • The National Carbonaceous Aerosols Program (NCAP)
        • The Long-Term Ecological Observatories (LTEO).
    • NationalAdaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC)
      • It is a Central Sector Scheme with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as the National Implementing Entity.
      • It was operationalized in 2015-16.
      • The aim of NAPCC is to support concrete adaptation activities which are not covered under on-going activities through the schemes of State/UT and National Governments.
    • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid&) Electric Vehicle in India (FAME India) scheme
      • It was started in 2015 to encourage progressive induction of reliable, affordable and efficient electric and hybrid vehicles. 
  • India’s NDC and its forthcoming challenges
    • The country is relying on domestic resources to implement adaptation and mitigation action on a mission mode.
    • The financing considerations will therefore remain critical especially as the country steps up the targets substantially.
    • With the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary focus of the country is on ensuring the protection of lives and livelihoods.
    • Hence, careful estimation of the cost requirements for implementing the NDC and the possible sources for meeting these requirements is an essential pre-requisite. Even so, climate action remains a priority.
    • However, to fully implement our NDC in a timely manner, the country requires enhanced new and additional financial resources, technological support and capacity building.
    • New and additional financial resources and technological support to the developing countries was committed to by the developed countries under the Paris Agreement and this needs to be implemented.
  • Multilateral Negotiations On Climate Change
    • Since the RioConference and the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, the multilateral regime on climate change has evolved and adopted a number of agreements and decisions to strengthen the global response to address the problem of climate change.
    • The latest treaty – the Paris Agreement was adopted under UNFCCC in December 2015 to enhance the implementation of the Convention.
      • Its central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century to well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5° celsius through enhanced support from developed countries to the developing countries.
    • A brief history of the agreements and decisions adopted from Rio Earth Summit in 1992 is presented below:

    • 25th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP 25)
      • The COP 25 decision text titled ‘Chile Madrid Time forAction’.
      • It recognized the urgent need to enhance the provision of support to the developing country Parties to enable them to strengthen their national adaptation and mitigation efforts.
      • The decision also recalled the commitment made by the developed country Parties to the goal of mobilizing jointly US$ 100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of the developing country Parties.
    • Conference of Parties (COP 26) and Post 2020 Issues 
      • Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the COP 26 and the preceding UNFCCC subsidiary bodies’ sessions has now been postponed to 2021.

Paris Climate Agreement

  • Legal status: It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change.
  • Adoption: It was adopted by 196 countries at Conference of the Parties COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
  • Goal: To limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius, and preferably limit it to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Objective: To achieve the long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.

 

Augmenting Finance for Sustainable Development
  • There is a coherent move to augment financing for sustainable development. Consistent with the aspirational vision for the financial sector in India, the Government’s development priorities and the need to support the well-being of the people, several measures have already been taken in the past few years and further steps are being taken.
  • These include the following:
  • National Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Financing was finalized in 2015.
    • In 2015, the RBI included lending to social infrastructure and small renewable energy projects within the priority sector targets.
    • In September 2020, the loan limits for renewable energy were doubled to 30 crores and for individual, households, the renewable energy loan limit is 10 lakhs per borrower.
    • The ‘Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility’ were issued in 2009 to mainstream the concept of business responsibility. 
    • Capital market products such as Green Bonds or Social Impact Bonds.
      • SEBI constituted a Working Group (WG) on Social Stock Exchanges in September 2019.
    • India joined the European Commission-led International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF) in October 2019 as one of the founding members.
  • Investing in Resilience for Sustainable Development
  • Climate Risk Insurance is an important tool for providing security against loss of livelihoods and of assets as a consequence of disasters.
  • Need for Convergence of Developmental Schemes and Protection of Environment.
India’s Initiatives at the International Stage
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA)
    • The ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ vision was laid down by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India at the first assembly of the ISA.
    • The initiative aims to create an interconnected green grid that will enable solar energy generation in regions with high potential and facilitate its evacuation to demand centres.
    • ISA’s progress in solar rooftop programme has been equally noteworthy, with a demand of more than 1 GW aggregated from member countries.
    • ISA has diversified its programmatic focus onto health sector, cold storage chains for agriculture & vaccines and other innovative applications of solar energy.
    • ISA organized the First World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS) in September 2020 with an objective of showcasing to Member Countries the state of the art and next-generation solar technologies.
  • Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
    • It was launched in September 2019 at the UN Climate Action Summit.
    • CDRI is another expression of India’s commitment to work with all the partners to address global challenges.
    • The Coalition functions as an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform led and managed by national governments, where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster resilience of infrastructure.
Conclusion and Way forward
  • India’s endeavour is to ensure robust growth and a sustainable development path while combating the climate change risks on best effort basis.
  • India has taken a number of initiatives on both mitigation and adaptation strategies with an emphasis on clean and efficient energy system; resilient urban infrastructure; water conservation & preservation; safe, smart & sustainable green transportation network; planned afforestation, as well as by supporting various sectors such as agriculture, forestry, coastal and low-lying systems and disaster management.
  • ISA and CDRI are evidence of India’s serious action at the international level.
  • The country is on its track to successfully decouple its economic growth from GHG emissions.
  • India’s proactive climate actions mainly rely on domestic budgetary resources.
  • Climate finance is critical to fulfilling the execution of NDC targets submitted by India in a timely manner.
    • Climate finance is an obligation of the developed countries as a part of their historical responsibility as they are the major contributors to the stock of GHG in the atmosphere accumulated since the industrial revolution. By 2020, the developed country partners had to fulfill the promised support of US$ 100 billion per year in the form of climate finance to the developing nations. 
    • This has not happened. The lack of required momentum in the scope, scale and speed of climate finance from developed to developing countries needs to be addressed.
    • The enhanced new and additional financial resources, technological support and support in capacity building should be mobilized and delivered to strengthen the on-going climate actions in developing nations like India.



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