Climate emergency

India has set an ambitious renewable energy target but most power plants lack FGD units, which are critical in reducing emissions

AuthorPublished: 8th Dec 2020  12:35 am

The latest reports on global climate have come as yet another rude wake-up call for the nations to be more proactive in promoting climate-resilient infrastructure and renewable energy. For India, the signs acquire a more ominous tone. According to the Lancet Countdown On Health And Climate Change report, the country recorded the highest productivity loss because of extreme heat in 2019 — the year saw a record number of above-baseline days of heatwave exposure. Over 118.3 billion work hours were lost. While the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)’s State of the Global Climate 2020 report says 2020 is set to be the second warmest year on record globally, after 2016, since temperature record-keeping began in 1850. What is alarming is that despite a global halt in economic activities due to Covid-19, the global mean temperature for January to October 2020 was around 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to breaching the 1.5-degree threshold above which scientists warn of catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. In fact, this was the threshold that the Paris Climate Agreement had warned about. Already, the impact of high global mean temperature has been evident in the form of extreme climate events, including excessive heat, wildfires and floods. For India, high temperatures have had a devastating impact on communities, economy, and biodiversity. In order to achieve the targets under the Paris Agreement, India needs to move away from coal and invest in renewable energy.

Though India has pledged to implement the protocols set by the Paris accord, it needs global support for green technology and resources up to $2.5 trillion in the 15-year period for climate action. In terms of clean energy transition, India has been faring reasonably well and has set one of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy targets but lack of flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) units, a technology that reduces sulphur dioxide emissions, at most power plants is turning out to be a major stumbling block. Despite making ambitious strides in renewable energy, coal-based power generation continues to be a cause for concern. Renewable energy capacity has been steadily increasing, accounting for more than two-thirds of the new capacity additions during 2019-20. However, this has been overshadowed by the fact that most of the power plants lack FGD units, which are critical in the process of reducing emissions. Though India has claimed that it was confident of meeting the Paris Agreement targets much before the schedule, it lags behind the developed countries in emission control initiatives. Indian scientists played a pioneering role in coming up with the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that awakened the global consciousness on climate change but the country doesn’t have a clearly defined emission-control target.


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