To begin with India is the 4th largest emitter of global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and has the obligation to take proactive stance since it is going to be one of the worst victims of climate change as mentioned in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5). The estimated countrywide agricultural loss in 2030 will be over $7 billion. It could severely affect the livelihoods of at least 10% of the population. Wheat yields in the Gangetic plains are expected to experience a 51% reduction in the most high-yielding areas due to heat stress. This region currently produces 14 to 15 per cent of the world’s wheat and feeds around 200 million people of the region. Extreme temperatures are expected to increase by 1-4°C, with maximum increase in coastal regions.

If the impact of climate change is felt at local levels then adaptation measures should also focus the same instead of imposing it from the top. The need of the hour is not to wait for global aid or wait for the negotiations to be successful but to act intelligently at the local levels since small, consistent efforts bring about big and lasting change. The report suggests that about 80% of the agricultural losses could be reduced if climate resilient and cost effective agricultural practices are followed. For example simple measures like rain water harvesting can prevent the intensive ground water usage and the need for constructing large dams which will eventually harm the ecology. But the real challenge lies in implementing the same across the length and breadth of India. Constitutional challenges like division of powers between the Centre and the state- agriculture belonging to the state list, lack of political incentives for the policy makers to take far reaching steps, non-homogeneity of geographical features etc. (e.g. rain water harvesting measures for the plains of Uttar Pradesh and the Dry land regions like Vidarbha in Maharashtra are entirely different). Most importantly we should take into account people’s reaction to any changes in their agricultural practices. Particularly in India where more than 80 % are small and marginal farmers their willingness to adopt a new practice is fraught with difficulties and it compounds when it is taken for entire country. Under such circumstances the optimal policy level solution is to tweak the existing programs instead of framing a new program altogether.

One alternative is to create a separate component in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) that includes climate change adaptation measures like rain water harvesting and climate resilient agricultural practices in the dry land. NREGS is well penetrated in all the states where dry land agriculture takes is practiced namely Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Parts of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand (It constitutes nearly 60% of the net area under cultivation). The awareness regarding the harmful effects of climate change and adaptation measures must be penetrated to the local levels and demand for sustainable agriculture must come from the people. Once the demand is created it will be easier for the climate resilient crop varieties to enter the market. Moreover the process involves the participation which is a necessary prerequisite to enhance the people’s capacity to handle climate change.

In the energy sector the obvious solutions are to increase the energy efficiency of the coal plants and to promote renewable sector. In the former area India is investing in super critical and ultra-super critical technologies to improve the efficiency of power generation in coal plants and phasing out the old power plants. Such measures are necessary but not sufficient in cutting the GHG emissions. Moreover coal continues to have a major share in power generation since we still have 30 crore people who do not have access to electricity and coal is the cheapest option.

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The real challenge lies in the augmentation of solar energy since compared to biomass, wind and other renewable sources India has a geographical advantage of receiving 4-7 KWh of solar radiation per sq.km. on an average. Presently India is running the largest renewable capacity addition program in the world with the target of 1,75,000 MW of renewable energy by 2022 of which solar itself constitutes about 1,00,000 MW. In the year 2014-15 it witnessed 42 % increase in the solar capacity. Funding mechanisms like diverting additional revenues from coal cess increase (₹ 50/ton to ₹ 200/ton) to fund renewable energy projects are also contemplated. But such a momentum can only be sustained if it is backed by indigenous R&D, innovation, and manufacturing capability. Solar systems are dependent on local conditions and as such need to be optimized for particular applications and geographical conditions. Therefore, a flourishing R&D base in the country is critical if India wants to convert this solar energy vision into a reality. Such an innovation system requires close collaboration between the research community and the industry. India can be a laboratory for the global R&D institutions and industry to collaborate with their Indian counterparts to come up with innovative solutions. The innovations should also focus on utilizing solar power to low cost home appliances especially in rural areas where more than 60% of the energy needs are met through traditional biomass based fuels. These innovations in solar energy also need a consistent demand to make them viable in the long run. Online platforms like e-commerce sites can be incentivized by the government to market them with competitive pricing. By virtue of its geographical advantage it can actually be a focus point for research in solar energy provided right incentives are given from the policy side.

Sai Charan

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