Low carbon strategies for inclusive growth - An interim report of the Planning Commission's expert group

This Interim Report of the Expert Group of Planning Commission on Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth provides a menu of options that can reduce India’s emission intensity over the time frame.

CoverSome policy measures implied by various options have also been indicated. The main sectors examined in the report are power, transport, industry, buildings and forestry.

Increased concentrations of Green House Gases (GHGs) and the overall warming of the atmosphere has resulted in changing rainfall patterns, disruption in hydrological cycles, melting of ice caps and glaciers, rise in sea levels, and increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events such as heavy precipitation and cyclonic activities.

These have in turn had serious impact on sustainability of water resources, agriculture, forests and ecosystems, affecting the well being of billions of people on earth. Widespread melting of glaciers and snow cover will reduce melt water from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu Kush, Himalaya, Andes) where more than one billion people currently live.

Low-carbon policies that are inclusive need to be differentiated across sectors based on national priorities and transaction costs of implementing the policy. In sectors such as land, water and forests, livelihood considerations such as income generation and poverty alleviation must dominate our policy choice, even if it requires overriding carbon emission concerns.

The report has the following specific points related to water –

  • With increase in population, there has been an increase in solid waste and waste water output. Systematic collection of solid waste, it’s recycling and incineration for recovering energy has a large potential for reducing emissions from this sector. However, in India, systematic collection and dumping of waste is only carried out in urban areas leading to methane emissions. Incineration of waste for energy has started in one or two sites only on a pilot basis. The domestic waste water is managed in most of the cities and industrial waste water treatment plants regularly treat the waste in industries. 
  • The forestry sector has an influence on environmental amelioration and inclusive development. It helps climate mitigation through sequestration. It increases water retention and percolation, and reduces surface runoff leading to improved water and food security.
  • A contentious issue is that some of the options described in this report could lead to competition for limited land and water resources in the country, particularly for bio-fuels, biomass and forestry initiatives that enhance carbon sequestration. It is essential that we plan in such a way that excessive pressure on land, including rainfed farming land, is avoided, so as to avoid an adverse impact on food security and livelihood of the poor.
  • The report identifies barriers, if any, to the adoption of these measures and the policies needed to overcome them. The emphasis would be on measures that create incentives to self-motivate the economic agents to adopt a low carbon growth path. The concern for inclusive growth is embedded in the scenarios at this stage.
  • As regards agriculture sector, the report mentions that there are opportunities for energy savings by replacing the present irrigation pumps with more efficient motors. Better load management and reducing the water consumption also result in electricity savings. However, these are complex issues and involve modification in agricultural tariffs.
  • Regarding the transport sector, the report states that reducing GHG emissions from transport sector would broadly require a shift away from road and air towards rail and water (which is even more energy efficient than rail), in addition to improving efficiencies of individual modes.  Options such as better usage of inland and coastal waterways, high speed rail as an alternative to air travel and ways of improving non-urban passenger transport need to be explored.

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