What will it take to prioritise climate change?

By Moutushi Sengupta, Head, India office, John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.

India ranks third in terms of absolute levels of carbon emissions after China and the United States. In a business as usual scenario, by 2030, emission levels are predicted to reach more than 4.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GTCO2) equivalent of greenhouse gas—up from 3 GTCO2 today—overtaking the United States as the second-largest emitting country. At the same time, India’s per capita energy consumption levels are about one-third of the world average and in 2018, central government data indicated that 17 percent of households did not have access to electricity.

To meet the dual objectives of environmental sustainability and economic growth, the path of development must focus on being clean and green. This is more of a necessity than a matter of choice for the country.

We, at the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, have been working on climate change in India for the last five years and we have seen this space evolve considerably. Several international development agencies have come forward to support policymaking and action aimed at enabling India to achieve its climate goals. There has also been a substantial increase in the number of research institutions working on issues related to climate change mitigation. Moreover, the role of market-linked interventions has expanded considerably, as evidenced from the rapid spread of distributed renewable energy networks, addressing issues around access and efficiency. We are also seeing citizens becoming more concerned about climate change and wanting to do more. All this represents significant positive developments, but the sheer magnitude of the challenge requires us to do much more.

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