Climate change presents a global challenge. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts have increased all over the world, in frequency and intensity. Polar ice-caps and glaciers continue to retreat. Eight of the last 10 years have been the hottest in recorded history, and the world is at the receiving end of largescale and devastating climate change impact. India is among the countries most vulnerable to the increasingly unpredictable vagaries of nature.
We all agree that economic growth is vital for development and poverty alleviation, but to tackle the current impacts of climate change, this must be clean and sustainable.
Climate-smart development strategies have to be designed and implemented worldwide. Acting on climate change can help enhance food, energy and water security as well as create economic opportunities. Our window of opportunity to avoid severe social, environmental and economic consequences is closing quickly.
Innovative technologies and declining prices for renewables mean it is now possible to achieve both a cleaner environment and economic growth. The low-carbon industry is a market worth around $6 trillion and, growing at 4-5 per cent per annum, is projected to be worth $11-15tn by 2030.
India has already taken many positive steps towards sustainability, including fiscal policy measures to support afforestation, increased taxes on carbon, investment in public transport systems for cities, the requirement of environmental clearances for large projects, and plans for a massive increase in renewable energies. It has been estimated that India’s solar market will be the fourth largest in the world this year, and its investments in clean energy will exceed $10 billion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of 1,00,000 MW solar capacity by 2022 will make a huge and favourable difference to the energy intensity of India’s growth.
The EU and its member states have led global efforts to safeguard the environment by establishing a comprehensive system of environmental protection, covering all aspects of sustainability from emissions into the air to promoting non-carbon sources of energy, efficiency in energy production and use, reduction and recycling of waste, the management of water bodies, and the conservation of natural habitats. The results are positive: European cities and rivers are cleaner than they were 50 years ago. Between 1990 and 2012, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 19 per cent in the EU while the economy has grown by 45 per cent.
Our target is now to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent over 1990 levels by the year 2030.
India’s per capita emissions of 1.7 metric tonnes of CO2 per year are modest compared to those of other major economies and we acknowledge these will increase with demographic and economic growth. The facts, however, are that the earth’s climate is fast approaching a tipping point beyond which it will cause havoc. This is why we are encouraged by the action India is already taking.
EU governments, institutions and corporations are ready to support India in every way. The EU and its member states have committed their share of fast-track climate funding at a global level between 2010 and 2013; and with the Green Climate Fund operational as of May 2014, they are committed to scaling-up their contributions.
The EU and its member states are committed to clean energy programmes in India, supporting the country through deeds and not just words. The European Investment Bank has extended its commitment to clean energy projects in India to over a billion euro ($1.3bn). A solar biogas hybrid power project is under construction in Bihar with EU assistance. An EU-sponsored study on offshore wind energy is currently under way, and there are joint projects with India in the areas of green buildings, clean coal and waste management. The EU is also partnering with Mumbai in a major smart city initiative in which the experiences of European towns and cities will be offered to India’s commercial capital. Similarly, several EU member states have also initiated an institutional dialogue with India, promoting the twinning of cities and pledging technical support to the development of smart city initiatives in India.
Much more can happen, and much more will happen, if we are able to reach a global deal later this year in Paris. Our generation’s stewardship of this planet is a short one, but it is perhaps more crucial than any other previous one. The EU and India are crucial participants in this historically significant process, and we need to act now and together.
The writer is ambassador of the European Union to India. The article is co-authored by the ambassadors to India of the 27 EU member states of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom