India at Copenhagen: What it must do

I believe the following are key issues that the Government of India and the State Governments must address quickly, to make a convincing case about our intentions to reduce carbon emissions:

1. Massively invest in solar energy – this will help meet the target of 20,000 MW of production, as well as take electricity to those who don’t have it. So far, the Government of India as a public stakeholder has paid lip service to the idea, and recently announced the above production target to make a case for Copenhagen.

2. Our transport policy is a major hole in our climate efforts – Most cities in India are running transport models designed for 50 years ago, and that too badly. There should be a cess on petrol in each State and the funds should go to fund buses first, and trains next (because buses can be deployed virtually off the shelf, and each of our cities needs thousands of affordable, comfortable buses). The transport operations should be brought under regulators with state governments not keeping them as restricted monopolies for political reasons. Common ticketing for bus and rail operations should be introduced on a war-footing, and in any case within one year. All roads in cities and towns must have clear, walkable footpaths, failing which they must be denied central assistance of any kind. In all new urban planning, bicycle pathways must be made compulsory. If necessary, overhead cycling tracks can be built on arterial roads, to encourage use of this green form of transport.

3. Buildings, which are increasing power demand, must be engineered by law to include green energy, and use solar energy optimally. This can be achieved through design passively, and actively by including solar photovoltaic generation as well as heating. At present, the building approvals process is handled by semi-literate people at the local bodies, and the urban development authorities are corrupt. This situation cannot continue.

4. The energy efficiency sector must be completely revitalised. A base must be created to manufacture LEDs light-emitting diodes, which are the best available technology to make the optimal use of electricity for lighting. India does not have a good manufacturing base.

5. The CFL lamp schemes promised for long, such as Bachat Lamp Yojana, must be implemented immediately.

6. Stop the loss of wetlands, which are important for water security, which is threatened by global warming.

7. Compel State Governments to manage organic waste without contributing to methane emissions in open landfills.

8. Provide for escalating power costs to consumers, to curb ostentatious use of power on air-conditioning. Essential consumption should be affordable, and the green alternatives such as CFLs, LEDs and energy-efficient gadgets promoted.

I believe that these and similar issues can be handled without the public giving up a good quality of life. What this needs is Government policy, not so much citizen sacrifice (although that will happen anyway because of environmental concern at the individual level). An issue like climate change requires Governments to lead from the front.

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