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Climate change mitigation: Will world leaders rise to the occasion to save the planet?

What applies to India can also work for other nations. So one hopes that world leaders participating in COP27 will reach actionable decisions and obtain the funding already promised by the developed countries to make a serious start to creating a sustainable global environment and avoid further climate change within the next few decades.

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The COP27 meeting, which began on 6 November in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt is the 27th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Despite dire warnings issued most recently by the UN Secretary-General about the consequences of failing to keep promises made and the failure to urgently act to mitigate its already apparent consequences, only some progress has been made mainly by the developed countries. 

India, although one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita in the world, has made serious commitments to mitigation actions to reach a Net Zero emissions target by 2070 and has formed the International Solar Alliance.

However, if India can successfully monetise the processes and activities required for climate change mitigation, create an industrial ecosystem out of it led by R&D and technology innovations so that the necessary activities become profitable ventures rather than a chore for civil servants and municipalities to undertake with precious tax revenues, it will succeed in its endeavour by creating a new employment and income generation cycle. This is the only sustainable way to keep climate change at bay in the foreseeable future.

Alternative energy expolitation

In energy generation, for example, if there is plentiful availability of solar energy kits; it can be made mandatory for all rural and urban housing rooftops to be fitted with solar generation systems that can sell power to the main grid at a reasonable price. In both urban and rural areas, biomass-based generators can dispose efficiently of flammable waste. The whole exercise will also add enough value to flammable waste to make their collection worthwhile for private players.  

Hydel power output can be augmented by installing floating generators on mountain streams or waterfalls, wherever water falls to a level at least one metre lower. Such systems already provide power to villages and remote settlements in alpine areas. This can have widespread use in our hilly areas. The generated power can also be used to produce potable water by adding portable RO systems which make 1500 litres of potable water per hour. 

Another interesting way to generate power is a manual one. There is now a proliferation of fitness gyms across the country. Power can be generated if their stationary exercise bikes could be linked to dynamos to charge batteries which could power their lighting and ventilation systems. The need to promote electric vehicles to reduce air pollution requires charging power to be cheap, plentiful and easy to access. There is no limit to the amount of renewable power that can be used in India, making its prices competitive with fossil fuel-based thermal or nuclear power. Private entrepreneurship must be encouraged in renewable power generation.

Sustainable environmental management

Waste recovery and management systems for energy production, effective recycling and safe disposal of residue is a primary task of municipal and local authorities and needs to be made mandatory. Smoke-emitting enterprises must be required to install scrubbing systems to reduce air pollution, while liquid waste producers must install purifiers to ensure that only river-quality water is discharged back into streams, rivers and water bodies. Municipal solid waste collection is still in a sorry state. Manual scavenging continues despite being outlawed, while water supply to public toilets is often an issue. Systems to biodegrade human waste by anaerobic bacteria and other means are available and need to be popularized.

Keeping our environment clean, using biodegradable and renewable products, recycling everything possible, along with promoting forestry and urban gardening are all simple ways to make a viable industry out of sustainable environmental management and mitigating climate change. The government must lead with suitable enforceable legislation to create a new industrial ecosystem that can be sustained by private entrepreneurs based on bank financing. The government must identify and bring in useful new technology, support the development of necessary machinery, lay down pricing parameters and advise private industry to disseminate the technology for municipal and private use. 

Low-cost Mudra loans can help achieve the Swachh Bharat that we all crave for our future generations to thrive. International trade and technology fairs on environment management technology may be hosted by ITPO and other private exhibition managers in various parts of the country to display wares and create new international business partnerships in pollution control and environmental management. Solar or battery-powered farm equipment may make irrigation easier and reduce post-harvest loss.

What applies to India can also work for other nations. So one hopes that world leaders participating in COP27 will reach actionable decisions and obtain the funding already promised by the developed countries to make a serious start to creating a sustainable global environment and avoid further climate change within the next few decades. The set goals should not be changed for the worse by COP27.

 (The author is a retired Indian ambassador. Views are personal. He can be reached at sarva.chakravarti@yahoo.co.uk)

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