Initiatives in India to deal with the climate change : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

Initiatives in India to deal with the climate change : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

The recently concluded Paris agreements has brought the issue of climate change at the center stage of national and international politics. The effects of climate change know no boundary and therefore require a concerted efforts at the national and global level.

Though Paris deal seeks to contain the global temperature rise below 2 degree C (preferably below 1.5), various studies have pointed out that the INDCs, if factored in the current trend of emission will lead to at least an increase of 3.5 degrees.

Developing countries especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and small island nations are at the highest risk of damage due to the climate change (Fiji will be underwater in 50 years). These countries such as India and China who now contribute significantly to global emissions have an important role to play. However, at the same time they have to fulfill their development needs through utilization of natural resources and industrialization.

India, today faces its biggest conundrum: Environment or Development? The population in India is projected to be highest in the world by 2022. It is the third largest emitter of the GHGs in aggregate terms but still has only 1/7th of the per capita energy consumption as that of OECD nations. At the same time India has high vulnerabilities to climate change impacts due to its peculiar economy and geography. The risks that India faces are:

  • Coastal areas: 7500 km long coastline is already vulnerable to various disasters like cyclone, coastal flooding, storm surges, heavy rainfall (as seen recently in Mumbai) etc. The rise in the sea temperature and level will only increase the frequency of such hazards endangering the life and livelihood of the coastal population. Also, India being close to the equator will experience much higher increase in sea level than higher latitudes

  • Monsoon: Phenomenon such as El Nino will increase the variability of the monsoon worsening the agricultural crisis with more than 50% area still being rain-fed and threatening the food security. Climate change has about 4-9 per cent impact on agriculture each year. As agriculture contributes 15 per cent to India’s GDP, climate change presumably causes about 1.5 per cent loss in GDP(1).

  • Disasters: More weather aberrations as recently seen in Mumbai and Chennai and increase incidence of the disasters like flood and drought will threaten both rural and urban economy

  • Biodiversity: Loss of biodiversity put the livelihood of the forest dependent and hill communities at risk and disturb the biogeochemical cycles that help maintain the flow of nutrient, water and pure air. Increase in human-wildlife conflict as recently observed in State like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand is another threat.

  • Health: Increased disease outbreaks especially of the tropical diseases like Malaria and Dengue, heat waves aggravating the urban heat island effect and water scarcity compelling people to consume polluted water will increase the burden of mortality and morbidity.

  • Migration: Rising inequalities as poor will be most affected due to climate change will increase the burden of migration and cripple the urban economies. Illegal migration from the neighbor countries will also cause security threats.

Reasons of the climate change:

So what initiative the governments in India have taken to deal with the crisis?

The initiatives can be classified into two broad categories:

  • Mitigation: Reducing the emission of the greenhouse gases causing the rise in temperature

  • Adaptation: Building the capacity of the community through financial, technical and other infrastructural support to minimize the losses due to the climate change.

The major initiative are:

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Plans and Policies:

National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), 2008

  • National Solar Mission (MNRE) –  Goal for increasing the development of solar technologies such as increasing production of photo-voltaic to 1000 MW/year, Establishing the solar research center and promoting international collaboration.

  • National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (MoP)– Energy consumption reduction in industries; trading energy-savings certificates; energy incentives like lower taxes on energy-efficient appliances

  • National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (MoHUA) – Better waste management; power from waste; extending energy conservation building code; incentivizing fuel efficient vehicles; energy efficiency as part of urban planning; public transport promotion

  • National Water Mission (MoWR) – Improving water use efficiency with the use of pricing and other measures

  • National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (MoS&T) – conserve biodiversity, forest cover, and glaciers of the Himalayan region

  • National Mission for “Green India” (MoEFCC) – expanding forest cover from 23% to 33% of India’s territory.

  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (MoA) – climate-resilient crops, crop insurance, sustainable agricultural practices.

  • National Mission on Strategic Knowledge Platform for Climate Change (MoS&T) – Climate Science Research Fund; better climate modeling; international collaboration; private sector participation in the technologies for the adaptation and mitigation

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • Management tool to regulate the impact of industries on the environment for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development
  • Applicable for major projects like infrastructure, thermal and nuclear power, industries, mining etc.
  • Industrial categorization (Red, Orange, Green and White) according to their impact to maintain balance between regulation and ease of doing business. White industries do not require EIA approval

Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ)

  • Notified by the around Protected Areas such as National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • Objective is to create “shock absorbers” for the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities that threaten the forest areas e.g. Western Ghats

Other environment related laws:

  • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

Energy Sector Interventions (Objectives: Mitigating the GHG emissions by improving energy efficiency and adopting cleaner sources of energy)

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

  • 10 Cr household of the 24 Cr still use biomass such as firewood and cow dung for cooking causing hazardous pollution damaging the health of the household members and the environment
  • Government plans to provide free LPG connections to 5 Cr BPL households to reduce their dependence on the polluting cooking fuel


Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), 2017

  • Developed by Power Ministry and BEE, ECBC seeks to promote low carbon growth by integrating the renewable energy sources in the design of the buildings
  • For a building to be ECBC compliant it has to show at least 25% savings in the energy consumption
  • It is estimated that adoption of ECBC throughout the country would reduce at least 50% of the energy use by 2030

Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA)

  • It evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle, thereby providing a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building
  • GRIHA, developed by TERI has been adopted by government as the national rating system for the green building

Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All (UJALA)

  • To promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and help preserve environment.

  • EESL is responsible for distributing the subsidized LED bulbs through state DISCOMs to promote the use of energy efficient bulbs

Renewable energy development

  • India has set the target of adding 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 over and above the 30 GW installed now

  • Solar cities: Reduce a minimum of 10% of the projected energy demand of the city through renewable energy installations using wind, solar and municipal waste and energy efficiency measures.

  • Ultra mega solar parks: These are a series of planned solar power projects each with capacity of more than 500 MW. Government plans to establish 25 such plants adding 20GW of the solar power capacity.

  • National Biofuel Policy: It seeks to achieve 20% of the ethanol blending and promote the use of non-food feedstock for the production of the biofuels. Presently there is only 5% of the ethanol blending.

  • National Offshore Wind Energy Policy 2015: India has successfully developed the onshore wind power program with installation of the 23 GW power supply. The new policy seeks to develop wind farm deeper into the sea to reduce the dependence on the land for the wind energy.

  • Renewable Purchase Obligation: It makes it legally binding for the DISCOMs to source some share of their power requirement from the renewable sources.

Nuclear power program

  • India currently sources almost 2% of its energy needs from the nuclear energy. The 3 stage nuclear power program, when complete will make India self-sufficient in the nuclear fuel since it holds 25% of the world’s Thorium reserves.

  • Nuclear power is essential to replace coal as the source of base load power since other renewable sources have the limitation of being intermittent

  • Government recently cleared 10 nuclear power reactors with a net capacity of 7000 MW

Industrial Sector Schemes (Objective: To reduce the emissions)

Reducing emissions from the automobiles

  • National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP): Achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country and simultaneously reduce emissions from the vehicles running on the hydrocarbons. It targets to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards
  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME): It seeks to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing eco-system. The scheme has 4 focus areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.
  • Adoption of the BS-VI norms: Government has advanced the roll out of more stringent norms skipping the BS-V norms altogether to reduce emissions from the vehicles based on diesel and petrol. The norms will be applicable from April 2018 in Delhi and April 2020 for rest of India.

Zero Defect and Zero Effect (ZED):

  • Government would provide incentives to MSMEs to adopt Energy Efficient manufacturing

Increasing the green cover: (Objective: To create more carbon sinks)

  1. River inter-linking program

  • Help in addressing the problems due to disasters such as drought and floods and increase area under the irrigation channel
  • Create inland waterways that would reduce the dependence on more polluting sources of the transport such as road and railways
  1. National Green Highway Mission:

  • Planting trees along the national highway by demarcating the 1% project cost. This green belt would also act as a green muffler for the noise pollution, store CO2 and provide livelihood opportunities to the communities nearby the highways
  1. CAMPA Act:

  • Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority will recover the Net Present Value (NPV), Afforestation cost and other project specific cost from the industrial projects that require diversion of the forest land for the non-forest purpose.

Financial tools adopted:

  1. Polluter Pay Principle

  • According to the principle, a person or a company will pay for the damages done to the environment and community due to their activities
  • First adopted by SC in MC Mehta case where a chlorine plant was asked to pay for the damages done to the environment and the community
  • NGT has frequently used the principle to impose fine on the polluters e.g. recently it imposed heavy penalty on Art of Living foundation for polluting the Yamuna floodplains
  • SC imposed ‘Environment Compensation Charges’ on trucks entering into Delhi
  1. Carbon tax

  • Tax imposed on the users of the fossil fuels such as coal
  • Imposed in India in the form of a Cess on coal (Clean Environment Cess) at Rs. 400/ton
  1. Energy Saving Certificates (ESCerts):

  • Under the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism, major energy intensive industries are assigned energy efficiency targets
  • Any industry achieving the efficiency in the excess of their target can trade the excess on Indian energy exchange to monetize it
  1. Green Bonds

  • It allows the industry to raise capital from the market to fund green projects such as for renewable energy projects. It will help raise low cost debt to meet the massive requirement of $200 billion for the renewable energy projects.
  1. National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC)

  • To assist State and UTs particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting the cost of adaptation. NABARD has been appointed as National Implementing Entity for the fund

  1. National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF)

    • Fund has been created using the carbon tax on coal for funding R&D projects in clean energy technologies of public or private sector. An assistance of up to 40% of the total project cost will be provided either in the form of loan or grants

International agreements and initiatives:

Paris Climate Agreement 2015

India ratified the deal in 2016. As per the INDCs submitted by India, it has committed to the following targets:

  • Reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level
  • 40% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 with financial and technical help from other countries and GCF
  • Additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030
  • Enhancing investments in development programs in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources etc.
  • Joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies

Kigali Agreement:

  • Makes an amendment to the successful and legally binding Montreal protocol (for ODS) to phase out Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) – thousands time more potent GHG than CO2

  • India has agreed to phase down HFCs starting 2028 and reduce it by 85% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047

  • The agreement is legally binding

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

  • It is an alliance of about 121 nations heralded by France and India, lying partly or completely between the tropics to harness their solar energy potential by collaborative efforts in the field of solar technologies

Mission Innovation

  • It is a global initiative of 22 countries and EU to accelerate global clean energy innovation. Participating countries have committed to double their governments’ clean energy R&D investments over 5 years. It also seeks to encourage private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

  • It refers to a market mechanism for achieving GHG emissions reduction under the Kyoto protocol. It allows an industrialized/developed country with an emission-reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission-reduction project in any of those developing countries and earn tradable Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one ton of CO2.

  • Between 2003-11, a total of 2,295 projects have been registered in India under CDM, second highest in the world after China(2)

Rural women solar engineers (Solar Mamas)

  • India is engaged in training rural women in African nations such as Tanzania for fabrication, installation, use, repair and maintenance of solar lanterns and household solar lighting

What else is needed?

As pointed out earlier the INDCs submitted by the countries under Paris agreement are grossly inadequate to contain the temperature rise within the desirable limit. In India, rising threats of climate change aggravated by increasing inequality requires a proactive policy that factors in the unique threats to different regions (e.g. floods in the Ganga basing and drought in Vidarbha region) in the development programs. Following measure are needed in addition to the above mentioned initiatives:

  1. Addressing the distortion in the cropping towards water intensive crops like rice and promoting agro-climatic farming

  2. Increased community engagement in the adaptation measures such as in the Jal Swavlamban Yojana of Rajasthan wherein people are provided incentives to create water storage structures. Expansion in the community forestry and Joint forest management to contain the loss to green cover due to industrial activity.

  3. Decentralized water management through revival of traditional mechanisms like baolis and adoption of eco-friendly methods like ‘four water concept’ to address the water shortage. Preventing the exploitation of ground water resources

  4. Investing in R&D for developing crop varieties more suited to changed climatic conditions (e.g. drought resistant) and diversification of rural economy to reduce pressure on land for agriculture

  5. Investments in the agricultural value chain to reduce post-harvest losses and increase the income of farmers

  6. Development of better forecasting model and climate change atlas that highlights the challenges for difference regions for evidence—based policymaking

  7. Increased international collaboration for finances and technology with an outcome based approach

  8. Strict enforcement of building code and expansion of rooftop solar power program to reduce dependence on the coal energy

  9. Better urban planning focusing on solid waste management and public transport


Previous year mains questions:

1. ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (2017)

2. Give an account of the current status and the targets to be achieved pertaining to renewable energy sources in the country. Discuss in brief the importance of National Programme on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). (2016)

3. To what factors can the recent dramatic fall in equipment costs and tariff of solar energy be attributed? What implications does the trend have for the thermal power producers and the related industry? (2015)

4. Should the pursuit of carbon credit and clean development mechanism set up under UNFCCC be maintained even through there has been a massive slide in the value of carbon credit? Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth. (2014)


5. Which of the following best describes/ describe the aim of ‘Green India Mission’ of the Government of India?

1. Incorporating environmental benefits and costs into the Union and State Budgets thereby implementing the `green accounting’

2. Launching the second green revolution to enhance agricultural output so as to ensure food security to one and all in the future

3. Restoring and enhancing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

6. Consider the following statements:

1. The International Solar Alliance was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015.

2. The Alliance includes all the member countries of the United Nations.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

7. With reference to the Agreement at the UNFCCC Meeting in Paris in 2015, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. The Agreement was signed by all the member countries of the UN and it will go into effect in 2017.

2. The Agreement aims to limit the greenhouse gas emissions so that the rise in average global temperature by the end of this century does not exceed 2 °C or even 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

3. Developed countries acknowledged their historical responsibility in global warming and committed to donate $ 1000 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries to cope with climate change.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

8. The term ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of:

(a) pledges made by the European countries to rehabilitate refugees from the war-affected Middle East

(b) plan of action outlined by the countries of the world to combat climate change

(c) capital contributed by the member countries in the establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

(d) plan of action outlined by the countries of the world regarding Sustainable Development Goals

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