OPINION: Towards a carbon-neutral India — How central, state governments, and corporations are striving to tackle the planetary crisis

OPINION: Towards a carbon-neutral India — How central, state governments, and corporations are striving to tackle the planetary crisis
Representative image (BCCL)
One of the few positive outcomes of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is the commitment by major nations to achieve net zero carbon emissions by a certain year. India has also committed to becoming a net zero country by 2070. While some developed nations may have scoffed at this timeline, the reality is that nations with different developmental trajectories cannot (and should not) be treated equally. The major polluters must first walk the talk and then expect others to follow suit. While it is a never-ending blame game between the developed and developing nations, in the interest of humanity and for their own well-being, the nations must do everything within their powers to ensure that they keep their emissions under control.

Policy initiatives in India

India has taken several measures towards climate change adaptation and mitigation. Our statutory framework ensures that air and water pollution is prevented and controlled, forests are conserved and restored, biological diversity is protected, and energy is generated and utilised efficiently to ensure minimal environmental impact. The Government has launched various policy initiatives to work towards its climate change commitments. The national and state action plans on climate change aim at integrating such climate action into their modus operandi.
Among national schemes, the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) focuses on clean mobility and is meant to promote the transition to electric vehicles by providing incentives for manufacturing, adoption and development of associated infrastructure for electric vehicles. Financial assistance is being offered at the central and state levels for developing solar and wind energy projects like solar parks, grid-connected solar rooftops in residential buildings, installing off-grid solar devices and solar-based LED lights. Initiatives like Gujarat Emissions Trading Scheme, Renewable Energy Certificate, Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme are all meant to promote renewables, reduce emissions and achieve energy efficiency at the central and state levels.

Recent impetus to climate action

Some important and innovative schemes initiated in India to combat climate change include the India Cooling Action Plan 2019, which aims to reduce direct and indirect emissions from energy-intensive cooling devices like refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. The National Clean Air Program 2019 aims to reduce air pollution and addresses several forms of harmful emissions. The National Hydrogen Mission launched in 2021 aims to help India achieve its climate targets by making India a green hydrogen hub. India is also targeting to increase the usage of alternative fuels to reduce emissions by blending 20% Ethanol in petrol by 2025.
Moreover, policies like National Building Code, 2016, Energy Conservation Building Code, 2017, Buildings Energy Efficiency Programme, green energy rating system, star rating programme, etc., seek to promote sustainability in the construction sector by improving energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, recycling, etc. The union budget for the financial year 2022-23 also announced initiatives for financing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies through sovereign green bonds, blended finance, etc.

Local and regional climate action

In addition to the various central government initiatives being implemented across the country, various states are devising their own strategies and plan to combat climate change. States like Gujarat, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu have constituted specific departments and cells to focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Kerala has announced a dedicated fund for this purpose and has issued green bonds to invest in climate resilience activities. Maharashtra has released the Mumbai Climate Action Plan to address climate change impacts in the coastal megacity and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
It is not just the central and state governments but also the corporates are taking active steps to combat climate change. More than sixty Indian companies have announced their net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. Leading Indian companies, including Tata, Reliance, Mahindra, ITC, Adani Transmission, Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel, and Dalmia Cement, have voluntarily pledged to move towards carbon neutrality through GHG emissions reduction and energy efficiency.

With environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues gaining prominence and ESG reporting becoming mandatory for the top 1000 companies, almost all major companies are addressing ESG issues to set their house in order and adopt the best practices. Various Indian banks have also incorporated ESG considerations into their lending policies. Therefore, be it the government or the private sector, every stakeholder has realised the importance of climate action and is working to prevent the planetary crisis, which, not to forget, affects almost all living species, including humans.
Nawneet Vibhaw is a Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. in the Environmental Law practice.
This column is part of a year-long (2022-23) campaign on the theme “Only One Earth: Sustaining People, Planet and Prosperity” by Business Insider India’s Sustainability Insider.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author/interviewee do not necessarily reflect the views of Business Insider India. The article has been partly edited for length and clarity.