Climate change mitigation isn’t bereft of solutions

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By Kamal Meattle

India’s announcement that it will cut emissions by 35 percent by 2030 at 2005 levels is certainly a welcome announcement. We all pray, it is achieved. But the key is to sensitise the the international community and get it to help us with technology-transfer and low-cost finance to achieve this ambitious goal. For, we will need at least $2.5 trillion, it not more, to implement all the planned actions.

Let us also be pre-warned. A “business as usual” approach will take us to an increase in global temperature by 4.5 degrees centigrade by 2100 — this is unsustainable. Our common goal is to reach a maximum increase of 2 degrees centigrade by then, by limiting our carbon-dioxide emissions.

We collectively need to have a strategy and action plan in place to meet this objective. The question is whether the collective submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by 196 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, ahead of the Convention on Climate Change due in Paris from November 30 to December 11, is enough.

Can these submissions achieve the goals of appropriately limiting their collective carbon-dioxide emissions? Will climate justice be done by all members? We will get the answer in December this year – in Paris. Our future is in the hands of the leadership of these 196 members.

It is no coincidence that India chose to submit its own INDCs late on October 1. The submission actually coincided with Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary a day later, back home. Much before the climate change debate began, Gandhi said everyone should act as a trustee of the environment and use natural resources wisely.

He said it was the our moral responsibility of every human to bequeath to the future generations a healthy planet. “A man should be his own scavenger,” the Mahatma said, wanting us to be sensible and take up the responsibility for resolving the climate change issue.

As we race against time to ensure that there will be a far-reaching global agreement on climate change by the time the Paris meet concludes on December 11, we do have known technologies to be able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The question is our collective determination to find the alternatives and availability of low-cost money to implement them.

The fossil-fuel alternative has to become more expensive for the user. For example, there is clear link between energy and water. Take the case of India’s national capital. Delhi is not an agriculture state, but pumping of water here takes up 50 percent of all the energy used.

We need to have compulsory water harvesting and ban the production and sale of GLS lamps in India. These are very energy inefficient. Energy efficient systems need a strong promotion through taxation and pricing policy — an example is of water heating in Delhi. Why is Solar not popular?

Why has drip irrigation not taken off in agriculture? Why can we not price water adequately to conserve it and not give it away free to agriculture — and now, even to urban dwellers? Our 780 million cows can solve the energy storage issue for India:

– Cow dung can be used to generate “Gobar Gas” that can fur ther be used for producing electricity using Fuel Cells.

– The by-product, “natural fertilizer” can be used to promote value added organic produce — fruits and vegetables, for domestic consumption and exports.

– India can become the organic food basket for the world. This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” program..

– This gobar gas produced can be directly used in villages for cooking and thereby reduce the health or wellness issues due to pollution.

– Our 300 million people, who have no access to electricity today and are not grid-connected, can have electricity generated by solar panels and wind energy during the day.

– Electricity generated by fuel cells using gobar gas can serve at night — and even towards education of children and mobile telephone towers, besides general lighting.

– Telephone towers for these 300 million people could be powered by electricity and open up a new market for the telephone companies

Cow dung from 100 cows can produce 30 KVA of electricity. From 780 million cows, we should be able to generate 234 GW at relatively low cost. The key is collection of the Cow Dung. We already have indigenous technology to grow fresh grass using hydroponics for the cows on the basis of daily demand.

This apart, we should have DC distribution system in these villages and develop LED lamps that run on DC current and also Fans. This, if feasible and implemented, will be a game changer for India’s economy and well-being.

We also need to blend health and wellness into our works-paces. Buildings are a trillion dollar industry, and this sector is capable of bringing a change for energy use and efficiency as it consumes about 30 percent of the total energy in India and around 40 percent in the developed world.

No other area sounds as reasonable and sensible as work space, for it is the place where people spend most of their productive hours of the day. It can happen by transforming the existing work-space after embedding the wellness features in it and additionally. Green buildings, certified for energy, health and happiness, are part of a serious business.

There is no doubt policies mandating health and Wellness at work will benefit the society and environment. So will some basic solutions and out-of-the-box thinking. All this is in line with the ultimate goal of the Lima-Paris Talk: Well-being of Planet and People.

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