Context:

The European Union (EU) in 2020 submitted a revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement: Of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. It also set a long-term goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of environment, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Important International Treaties and Agreements for Conservation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the EU’s new climate proposal
  2. Understanding the significance of the EU’s new proposal
  3. What is carbon neutrality?
  4. Arguments against India declaring carbon neutrality goal
  5. India’s Efforts related to Climate Change

About the EU’s new climate proposal

  • The new package attempts to deliver the NDC and carbon neutrality goal through proposed changes that would impact the economy, society and industry, as well as ensure a fair, competitive and green transition by 2030 and beyond.
  • It claims to achieve a balance between “regulatory policies” and market-based carbon pricing to avoid the pitfalls of each.
  • It proposes to increase the binding target of renewable sources in the EU’s energy mix to 40% (from 32% earlier) and improve energy efficiency by 36% (from 32.5% earlier) by 2030.
  • It has set a target to enhance the EU’s sink capacity to 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which it hopes will be achieved through specific national targets by member countries.
  • According to the proposal, Vehicular Carbon Emissions must be cut by 55% by 2030 and by 100% by 2035, which means a phaseout of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035.
  • The new proposal calls for the creation of an Emissions Trading System (ETS) for buildings and road transport, separate from the EU’s current ETS, to become operational from 2026.
  • To help low-income citizens and small businesses adjust to the new ETS, the EU proposes the creation of a Social Climate Fund, which will take various forms ranging from funding for renovation of buildings, and access to low carbon transport, to direct income support.
  • Among other market-based mechanisms, the EU is proposing a carbon-border adjustment mechanism, which will put a price on imports from places that have carbon-intensive production processes.

Understanding the significance of the EU’s new proposal

  • The EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 is more aggressive than that of the US, which committed to reduce emissions by 40% to 43% over the same period, but behind Britain, which pledged a 68% reduction.
  • This package could put Europe at the forefront of new technologies like electric car batteries, offshore wind generation or aircraft engines that run on hydrogen.
  • But the transition will also be painful for some consumers and companies, raising the cost of a wide variety of goods and services, like video monitors imported from China, for example, or a vacation flight to a Greek island or even a full tank of gasoline.
  • Companies that make products destined for obsolescence, like parts for internal combustion engines, must adapt or go out of business.
  • The proposals could reshape polluting industries like steelmaking, which directly employs 330,000 people in the EU.

What is carbon neutrality?

  • Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.
  • Carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits. The main natural carbon sinks are soil, forests and oceans. According to estimates, natural sinks remove between 9.5 and 11 Gt of CO2 per year. Annual global CO2 emissions reached 38.0 Gt in 2019.
  • To date, no artificial carbon sinks are able to remove carbon from the atmosphere on the necessary scale to fight global warming.
  • The carbon stored in natural sinks such as forests is released into the atmosphere through forest fires, changes in land use or logging. This is why it is essential to reduce carbon emissions in order to reach climate neutrality.

Arguments against India declaring carbon neutrality goal

  • Given the high number of poor in the country, India has to stay focused on economic growth.
  • India continues to have a low per capita carbon footprint.
  • India does not owe a carbon debt to the world. India’s emissions (non-LULUCF) are no more than 3.5% of global cumulative emissions prior to 1990 and about 5% since till 2018.
  • India’s mitigation efforts are quite compatible with a 2°C target.
  • India’s current annual emissions are low enough to not seriously dent the emissions gap between what the world needs and the current level of mitigation effort.
  • Any self-sacrificial declaration of carbon neutrality today in the current international scenario would be a wasted gesture reducing the burden of the developed world and transferring it to the backs of the Indian people.

India’s Efforts related to Climate Change

  • India has continuously demonstrated its responsibility towards acknowledging the emerging threats from climate change and implementing the climate actions on the basis of the principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities for improving efficiency of the economy and its engines of growth. The major policies and plans include:
  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), launched in 2008, formulated in the backdrop of India’s voluntary commitment to reduce emission intensity of its GDP by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020 over 2005 levels. It was also meant to focus on key adaptation requirements and creation of scientific knowledge and preparedness for dealing with climate change.
  • State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC) in line with the NAPCC taking into account State’s specific issues relating to climate change. So far, 33 States/ UTs have prepared their SAPCCs.
  • Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) has been launched in 2014 with the objective to build and support capacity at central and state levels, strengthening scientific and analytical capacity for climate change assessment, establishing appropriate institutional framework and implementing climate related actions in the context of sustainable development.
  • Measures on Ozone reduction: Ozone has been classified and monitored as one of the eight pollutants under National Air Quality index. System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR): ozone is monitored as one of the pollutants.
  • Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi and the NCR region, which comprises the graded measures for each source framed according to the Air Quality Index categories.
  • National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) has launched a training programme- a certificate course for Sustainable Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change (SLACC). SLACC is funded by the Special Climate Change Fund, which was set up under the UNFCC for adaptation and capacity building projects.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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