What is CLimate Change Mitigation ?
Climate change mitigation is action to decrease the intensity of radiative forcing in order to reduce the potential effects of global warming. Mitigation is distinguished from adaptation to global warming, which involves acting to tolerate the effects of global warming.
Most often, climate change mitigation scenarios involve reductions in the concentrations of greenhouse gases, either by reducing their sources or by increasing their sinks.
The UN defines mitigation in the context of climate change, as a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to renewable energy (solar energy or wind power), improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other "sinks" to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Climate mitigation options and issues in India
India’s future energy scenario poses increasing challenges on account of energy security as well as environmental considerations.
With an installed generating capacity of less than 150,000 MW and a per capita consumption of a mere 650 units of electricity per annum, India is plagued with huge electricity shortages, estimated at around 11 per cent in energy terms and almost 12 per cent in peak demand in 2008/09. Energy demand is poised to increase rapidly to fuel the country’s development agenda and its concomitant plans of maintaining a rate of over 8 per cent economic growth annually over the next couple of decades. The mitigation options available to India create new opportunities for the country, yet not without some serious challenges.
Despite efforts to diversify the energy basket and enhance the penetration of efficient and cleaner energy forms, coal and oil are expected to remain the dominant fuels for India at least for the next couple of decades.
Irrespective and independent of the outcome of international climate negotiations, several mitigation options are closely tied to the priority areas of India’s development challenge. Accordingly, energy security and local environmental considerations have already propelled several policy changes over the past decade or so leading to efficiency improvements across various sectors and the consequent steady decline in India’s energy intensity.
Alternative energy options such as nuclear, wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) have already begun to emerge as important contributors to the power sector, albeit more from the point of view of energy security considerations.
With the eight missions outlined in India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, an enhanced thrust on renewables (especially solar energy) is envisaged. In addition, the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency along with BEE’s initiatives at energy labelling and star rating of various appliances is expected to bring in significant energy savings as well.
Similarly, the Mission on Sustainable Habitat seeks to improve the efficiency in the construction, transport and waste sectors.
Overall, India’s mitigation challenges lie in ensuring energy security that will allow it to follow an industrialization strategy that balances objectives of poverty alleviation (with a particular focus on employment creation and access to energy), GDP growth and environmental integrity. The most relevant mitigation options for India, therefore, are those that locate sources of GDP growth in these priority areas.
An analysis of technological and policy options available to the country reveals that while there is no single silver bullet that is capable of bringing about a transformational change in India’s energy trajectory, the key options that are relevant include enhancement of energy efficiency, harnessing of its large renewable energy resources, particularly from solar and effective utilization of biomass, and improving the energy intensity in the transport sector both via enhancing efficiency of technologies as well as enhancing the share of the more efficient modes of transport.
In the short term, India has relatively few choices and would need to rapidly, but optimally, utilize its own coal resources while restricting its dependence on coal imports to a bare minimum. Simultaneously, the country should move quickly to a high efficiency energy path, with a relatively low gestation period but high returns, by designing the appropriate regulatory and incentive structures.
In the long run, the country needs to move from being largely a fossil fuel driven energy economy, to one that is powered by energy from clean and renewable sources. Given that the country is blessed with a huge solar potential, it is important to make solar energy the mainstay for satisfying national energy needs – both as a large scale generator as well as a small scale distributed provider of energy.
Additionally, there is a need to invest liberally in developing a bio-based economy in rural areas, supplemented with other locally available energy forms as appropriate (wind, solar, small hydro). India has already embarked on a 3-stage nuclear energy programme that seeks to enhance the share of nuclear energy considerably. Also important is the need to develop a long term, integrated mobility and freight movement strategy that is aligned with the overall objective of driving India’s energy economy through clean energy forms.
Notwithstanding the relevance of these options in the overall development process, the challenge lies in the adequacy of technological options, be it in terms of competitiveness in prices or high upfront investment requirements, adequacy in terms of demonstrating the successful uptake of options at the required scales, and scale-up of
The very elements that are crucial solutions in India’s mitigation efforts are also the main challenges in areas of developmental priority. India faces multiple challenges regarding availability of commercially viable technologies, adequate finance as well as supporting institutions and regulatory mechanisms. A major obstacle to the diffusion of many mitigation technologies in the energy sector is that they are not commercially viable, especially due to the high upfront costs. While it is imperative to increase the pace of innovation by putting in more resources and efforts directed at R&D to bring down technological costs, scaling up the absorption capacity in the market is equally important. Identifying and targeting the creation of markets where the need is highest is important to guide the development of specific technologies and the market at large. Towards this end, it important not only to design policies that enable the creation of markets as well as facilitate continued investment in R&D, but to also develop innovative business models suited to local needs and conditions.
In order to reduce the costs of new and emerging technologies as well as create markets in priority areas, huge direct investment as well as expenditure on support policies would be needed. Mitigation efforts can be accelerated through enhanced international cooperation by means of various multilateral and bilateral agreements on technological cooperation, trade and flow of financial resources.
Accordingly, India’s success with its mitigation efforts, keeping in mind the developmental priorities, requires combined efforts at the national as well as the international level to implement a three-pronged strategy targeted at addressing the following:
- Making mitigation technologies commercially viable
- Creating and sustaining markets for the mitigation options
- Mobilizing financial resources at adequate scale.
Innovation in financing the climate mitigation efforts
• idea by George Soros.
• The proposal is to tap into the vast hidden reserves of cash that lie ready to keep rich nations’ economies afloat in time of crisis. The cash is in the notional form of special drawing rights (SDRs), also known as “paper gold”, issued by the IMF. SDRs do not incur interest unless the money is released into circulation. Mr Soros pointed out that the rich countries did not use it even during the recent financial crisis.
• He has asked that the developed countries hand their $150 billion of SDRs to developing countries for immediate use to combat climate change. As soon as the cash is released, it will incur interest from the IMF—currently at around 0.5%. But this should be paid by the IMF gold reserve, which is currently worth more than $100 billion. That would ensure that developing countries are not saddled by debt payments. Mr Soros said the developing countries could make money from their low-carbon investments from the SDR fund by selling carbon credits on the carbon markets.