My Earth : How is India working to Mitigate Climate Change?
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 
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How is India working to Mitigate Climate Change?
India, being a developing country, is not obligated by the UNFCCC to commit to reduce its emissions by any level. The per capita carbon emission in India is as low as 1.1 tonnes per year, as opposed to 19.6 tons per capita in the USA. Even by developing country standards, Indian emissions are still lower than China at 4 tons and Brazil at 2.5 tonnes.

However, India's commitment to combating climate change has been demonstrated by its willing ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and in its acknowledged leadership in the Asia Pacific Climate Partnership, a coalition of six countries in the Asia Pacific region (India, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, US) looking for alternative emission reductions beyond the Kyoto Protocol. There are several initiatives in India striving for reducing carbon emissions, mainstreaming renewable energy technologies and funding carbon sequestration initiatives.

Numerous electricity generation and regulation utilities across India are starting to rely more on hydropower and renewable energy. Renewable energy sources together contribute 7.6% of India's energy supply with 10,175 MW of installed capacity. Hydel power generation is comparatively less polluting than thermal power generation, and is also economical as operational expenses are virtually eliminated, and can operate at near maximum installed capacity.

Our national energy policy also lays emphasis on the need for increasing the utilization of clean and renewable energy, with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (formerly the Ministry of Non conventional Energy Sources), actively exploring renewable energy options. IREDA, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, is charged with the responsibility of providing loans for new and renewable energies. IREDA has played a key role in the development of renewable energy in India by assisting in the up gradation of available technologies and by extending financial support to energy efficiency and conservation projects. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has also embarked on an ambitious scheme of labeling products with stars on the basis of their level of energy efficiency. This scheme is expected to serve as an incentive for manufacturers.

India emerged as one of the five largest wind power-generating countries in the world, with nearly 7,000MW of installed capacity. Wind energy is currently the fastest growing renewable energy sector in India.

Nuclear power, which has the potential to meet our energy requirements and the advantage of being nonpolluting, is also progressing fast in India. Nuclear power now accounts for 3.1% of our energy supply, with 4,120 MW of installed capacity. The private sector is actively participating in developing and diversifying wind energy in India, along with other renewable energies. Private entities are now responsible for generating around 13% of total electricity generation in India, with 18,418 MW of installed power generation.

In transportation, CNG and biofuels, which have low carbon content, have entered the mainstream in a few cities. The public transportation agencies in several cities have already shifted entirely to or are experimenting with CNG as a replacement for diesel. With suppliers expanding their network across the country, CNG has also become viable for taxis, autos, and private vehicles. Biofuels are also being experimented in varying stages, with biodiesel being introduced in proportions in buses and train locomotives.

The industrial sector is also beginning to reduce its emissions. There are strict emission and flue gas treatment standards for most categories of industries, especially those consuming coal as fuel. The NTPC has mandated the installation of Electrostatic Precipitators (ESPs) in most of their thermal power stations to contain fly ash from vented flue gases. Industries are encouraged to have their own captive power plants to satisfy their in-house energy requirements and offset the burden on national energy generation. Many cement and power generation industries are also in the process of switching to cleaner fuels and emission reduction mechanisms, which result in reduction of emissions and are therefore entitled to financing under the CDM scheme. The industrial sector in Andhra Pradesh is emerging as a pioneer in mainstreaming clean fuel technologies, especially for industrial power. Bagasse generated from sugarcane pulp and biomass are gaining popularity in the state for power generation up to 50 MW, satisfying local power requirements.

India is actively reforesting vast areas of wasteland and deforested forestland under the National Afforestation and Biodiversity Programme. An increased land area will lead to greater capture of carbon dioxide from vegetation. India is also entitled to apply for reforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism, where India gets financed to grow forests on wasteland and degraded forestland, and the financing country receives carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol. Currently, a large number of CDM projects in India are allocated to the energy sector through mitigation processes such as efficiency, renewable energy, fuel switching etc, but practically none in the area of forestry. This is therefore a potentially large and feasible area where India can receive finances and technology for developing its forest areas, while mitigating emissions.

Environmentally safe and friendly waste management can substantially curtail emissions. Though landfills and open dumping of municipal waste is still prevalent in India, electric incinerators, which completely contain and burn waste and prevent emissions, are being installed in a phased manner in several states. Once this technology is fully adapted to Indian conditions, it will greatly minimize GHG emissions from municipal waste disposal and burning.