The 20th edition of the World Sustainability Development Summit (WSDS) 2021 was held virtually from the 10th – 12th February 2021.
INDIA’S ENERGY TRANSITION
- In today’s time, India is in the midst of an energy transition and many of the socio-economic benefits depend on the pathways we choose.
- Net employment in the power sector would be much higher – could reach 3.5m by 2050. The higher focus on Renewable Energy, employment would be 52% more 2022-50 as India switches from conventional to more renewable based energy generation.
- The UN has announced India along with Brazil, Columbia, Germany, Denmark and Spain and UK to be acting as a global champion for the high level dialogue on energy under the theme of energy transition. India is a key stakeholder in the entire energy transition across the globe.
- The developing economies are advantaged in the transition towards a greener economy. They do not carry the baggage of old developed economies and have a larger scope available for businesses. In order for successful, competitive businesses – able energy systems are a prerequisite.
- The inclusion of the private sector as instruments for finance could help India while also emphasising on the global community’s response and support.
- The demand for energy has bounced back as the pandemic eases, signalling growth for utility companies in the near future.
- India will need taxpayer money as well as foreign financing to achieve its goal of net zero emissions. India and the UK are strategic partners who are going to continue collaborating to research and implement new renewable energy policy and technology.
- It is critical to have a flexible power grid system. This way utility companies are able to accommodate a mix of hydropower, thermal power as well as renewable forms of energy.
- Hydro Purchase Obligations is a welcome move for the energy sector.
- The decarbonisation of the transport sector will require policy innovation and stakeholder engagement on every level.
- There is an urgent need to develop infrastructure for e-vehicles such as solar sheds and charging stations.
INVESTMENT IN RENEWABLE ENERGY
- As the price for renewable energy becomes more affordable it becomes easier to integrate economy and ecology from the very beginning. There need not be a choice to be made while choosing between profit and planet. This can be best highlighted evaluating the tourism sector. Erik Solheim, Former Minister of International Development and Minister of the Environment, Norway suggests that tourism is a perfect example as it is a money spinner and if you market it using green tourism and attractions, it could be good for the environment and the economy. On the other hand, change is never easy. In this transitional process there will be winners and losers. Looking at major oil companies, they shall resist this transition to cleaner energy which shall cut into their profits. In the long term, this shift though inevitable shall hugely impact the environment and industry.
- India has arrived at the centre-stage of the renewable energy market. With estimates of investment by 2030 at around $500 billion and over 500 million electricity connections, India’s demand for energy will only continue to grow.
- Investment in the renewable energy sector is paramount in achieving climate action while lowering emissions. Understanding the co-benefits would encourage investment and drive climate action at state and community levels.
- The solar battery market in India could be worth $48 billion by 2030.
- India’s EV transition will cost about $200 billion over the next 30 years.
- India will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, players in the solar battery industry.
- Reduced solar prices globally will enhance the sector in India and help create a sustainable future for the people of India..
- India leads the world with the cheapest solar energy in the world.
- Private sector investment required – All the big solar companies should invest in the solar industry.
- India currently has the fastest growing solar program in the world. Wherein we focus on meeting the energy needs in a safe and equitable way.
- The International Solar Alliance now has 83 signitaries.
- The Government of India has allotted 70 million dollars to CDRR.
- Collaboration between countries is the most challenging aspect of the ‘One World One Grid’ project.
- Solar energy costs have reduced 90% over the last decade or so, making it easier to set up grids and increase connectivity between countries through solar connector technology.
ZERO CARBON FUTURE AND FINANCING CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
- It is critical to transition from conventional forms of energy to renewables. It not only makes business sense with solar prices reducing globally, but will also have significant carbon emission reduction over the next few decades. ESG principles must be taken into consideration when making any business decision within the private and public sector.
- Building awareness about the environmental and financial benefits of renewables is as important as implementing new renewable energy technology. There has to be a mindset shift of the energy sector-one that focuses on developing technology for a sustainable future.
- Public financial development banks must play a leadership role in pushing the EV transition and urban sustainable development missions by providing financial assistance and grants for the same.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND COOLING SOLUTIONS
- The coronavirus pandemic has strengthened the belief that data and technology are the key ingredients for sustainable urban development. For instance, various technologies were developed and used to monitor containment zones, keep track of active case numbers, helped identify hospitals, medical aid, quarantine centres both at central and local levels.
- The EU will play a critical role in leading sustainable urban development around the world. Countries must collaborate to reduce carbon emission, urban heat island effect and ensure technology is used to make cities resilient to the ill effects of climate change.
- Urban sustainable cooling solutions will help deal with the urban heat island effect. More buildings in India must get LEED certified to reduce their carbon emissions, energy costs and usage, water usage as well as increase occupant comfort.
- There should be equal importance given to sustainable cooling solutions in both urban and rural areas. An efficient and sustainable cooling system is essential in maintaining a healthy storage system for India’s food security goals.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY
- Circular economy, climate change and biodiversity protection are closely linked to one another. The majority of the problem lies in the overuse of natural resources and consequent GHG (GreenHouse Gas) emissions with reduced repository of resources by human beings.
- While the world is already grappling with the issue of climate change, the added complication of the pandemic has aggravated the situation in terms of increased health hazards, which now demand more investment in the form of recovery packages.
- The six principles of CE pertain to redesign, reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, and refurbish, which enable the judicious usage of resources, thereby enhancing material efficiency. These principles of CE can be applied to reduce the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.
- The pertinence of CE lies in the fact that it allows resources to be reused and recycled, thereby expanding their usage across the supply chain
- Biodiversity conservation is critical in sustaining a healthy planet and also provides natural barriers of protection from environmental disasters for several millions of people all over the world.
- Conserving agrobiodiversity is the key to ensuring a healthy global food system.
- Nature-based solutions are vital in preserving tourism and agricultural activity in biodiversity hotspots, and those that are diminishing.
BLUE ECONOMY & CLEAN OCEANS
- Oceans are the common link between air, water and soil. They are considered the replenishing house for all living and nonliving things that inhabit the planet.
- Annually, almost 8 million metric tonne of waste is dumped into the ocean, which he highlighted is the major cause of destruction of the marine ecosystem.
- Oceans pose a big challenge to the world, they also present a big opportunity, for sectors such as renewable energy, mining, fisheries, etc. These opportunities can be realised by an efficient amalgamation of politics and policy.
- India is considered to be one of the biggest polluters of marine litter, especially plastics. The coastal areas are heavily affected by it. The effects are not only economical and social in nature but play havoc on the environment on a global scale as well.
- Consumer awareness of ocean pollution will only make so much difference if the producers do not take responsibility as well.
- It is imperative to be well informed and affirm implementation from time to time. There is a close connection between policy makers and scientists. Decisions may be taken by the former but need to be backed up by strong scientific facts. This is done to ensure that policies are based on strong scientific facts rather than perception or ideologies.
- Even after generating awareness, the majority of the share of clean-up and strategising on behalf of cleaning oceans falls to the environment activists. This is not a sustainable solution. There is substantial funding required that can be procured from the government or private sector which are not only heavily responsible for the demise of the oceans but are also regularly turning a profit because of it.
- New technological investment is paramount, we cannot be bogged down by obsolete technologies we need to adapt to newer more efficient means of technology which shall help solve the problem faster.
- An integrated and global approach is required to clean the oceans,, we have no choice but to combine the economic, scientific, social and legal dimensions of these challenges. Where all ministerial departments work in one direction.
- According to a recent report by the global burden of disease, Outdoor air pollution is amongst the top 10 health risks in India.
- Air pollution is a serious problem yet it is not tackled with the required insistence. For example, If a single cause led to more casualties globally than alcohol and drugs, tobacco, TB, HIV or war – it should be treated as an emergency in today’s time. This urgency to tackle the problem which is estimated to kill 7 million people worldwide is missing.
- Air pollution is not only responsible for deteriorating health but also affects agricultural productivity (estimated 20-30% of wheat gets lost due to high levels of air pollution), building deterioration and is a major concern for climate change as well.
- Apart from deterioration in human health, animals have also suffered due to stress of high air pollution levels. One such case in point is the transmitting of viral infections from bats to humans which has led to a pandemic worldwide.
- Plant health is also closely affected by rising air pollution levels. Studies show that in plants which are close to traffic areas – the stress is more than that found in plants in forest areas.
- Level of awareness among people varies. There is no concrete disease that is only caused by air pollution. Air pollution levels worsen or exacerbate existing conditions and in some cases even develop other respiratory conditions which can be allocated to other factors too. Anyone suffering from COPD or another respiratory disease will be told by his/her doc of the varied reasons they’re exposed to a polluted environment. This is a unidirectional process as the person only becomes aware of the condition after continuous exposure to high air pollution levels for 10-15 years, it cannot be undone. If not related to a specific respiratory condition, air pollution affects blood pressure, heart conditions and even some nervous conditions.
- The education system needs to be updated in order to inculcate responsible behaviour amongst children from a really young age while simultaneously educating them on the causes and detrimental effects of air pollution.
- Stakeholder engagement and active participation of those concerned within the spheres of business and government policy will play a pivotal role in dealing with the multi-dimensional threat, that is air pollution.
- Air pollution mitigation and adaptation measures must be designed in such a way as to not hamper economic activity.
- One of the recently elected US Government’s top priorities is to tackle the air pollution crisis the world faces.
- Women have faced more challenges during the pandemic due to halted economic activity and since on average women are paid lower wages than men globally.
- Women are critical in the fight against climate change. If women’s education increases globally, there would be increased family planning and reduced population increase over the next few decades. This would in turn reduce the global carbon footprint.