Appropriate institutional mechanisms at a local and global scale are of paramount importance
COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma urged all nations to abandon coal power generation in run-up to the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to be held in November 2021 in Glasgow, UK. COP26 will discuss commitments by different countries to reduce global warming.
As economies recover from the shocks of COVID-19, global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to rebound sharply. Taking advantage of an opportunity to rebuild economies, governments need to act decisively to accelerate the transformation to clean energy.
Slowing down global warming requires collective action by the global community to reduce emissions, and develop and adopt climate resilient technologies, which require a huge financial commitment, especially from developed countries.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), reducing global CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 is necessary to limit the long‐term increase in average global temperatures to 1.5°C.
Although the international community is already overburdened from fighting COVID-19 since 2020, the UK is committed to host COP26 in person, keeping in mind the rising concerns of global warming. But a lot needs to happen before the summit actually takes place.
The global community is looking towards developed countries to lead reduction commitments. Britain and European Union committed to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 78% and 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. After Joe Biden became president, the US pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030. China pledged net zero emission by 2060. While South Korea and Japan envisions carbon neutrality by 2050. These commitments from developed countries may nudge developing countries to follow suit.
While the crucial upcoming COP26 has nudged countries to commit to net-zero carbon emissions in a time-bound manner, such long-term commitments have to be backed by near-term commitments like reducing the use of fossil fuels in generation of electricity, transport and agriculture, stopping funding to coal-based power plants etc. Only then will the commitments be credible.
These commitments should be supported by appropriate green technologies at cheaper rates, which can replace old pollution-generating technologies. However, the development and diffusion of green technologies require huge financial resources in terms of scientific discoveries and innovations. The global community has to incentivise the private sector to discover and innovate these technologies for wider adoption. An additional advantage of these technologies is that they create new jobs and industries, which will boost economic activities and employment.
Green technology is evolving rapidly. With faster technological change, there is scope for reaching net-zero emission targets without affecting economic growth. There is a need for transfer of technology from rich to poorer countries in technologies that harness solar and wind energy, energy efficiency and storage, green hydrogen and advances in electric mobility.
For wider development and adoption of green technologies, appropriate institutional mechanisms at a local and global scale are of paramount importance. It requires international collaboration on the clean energy transition, and on laws protecting biodiversity and forests. It also includes identification of infrastructure needs in climate vulnerable countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Most importantly, safeguarding the most vulnerable communities within these countries is very important. Some studies have shown that small landholders in dryland areas without irrigation facilities are more vulnerable to global warming and climate change.
Rich countries had committed $100 billion per year in climate financing for less developed nations in 2009. However, it has not yet materialised. Much of this burden of shift has to be shared by G7 countries as the middle-income countries are already in huge debt due to COVID-19. While G7 countries have to reaffirmed this commitment during the recently concluded meeting, this remains far below the levels of support that is required.
The private sector, especially innovative, visionary and small enterprises, is at the forefront of developing and disseminating climate-resilient technologies. India’s industrial associations, like the Engineering Export Promotion Council of India, recently made net-zero commitments pushed by the UN’s ‘Race to Zero’ campaign. There is a need for public-private partnerships in achieving this goal, by building synergies.
Governments have to incentivise transition to green technologies in all fields–from agriculture to services. Some already available technologies such as solar pumps for irrigation and zero tillage have proven to be successful, and these can be popularised. Battery operated electric public transport systems are another example. Technologies alone would not help. Social, economic and political resources have to be integrated into these technologies.
But most of the promising technologies are still in laboratories. Testing, validation and wider adoption of these technologies should be a priority to meet the twin objectives of economic growth and climate resilience in the post-Covid world.
A Amarender Reddy is principal scientist (Agricultural Economics) at ICAR-Central research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad. Narasimha Reddy Donthi is an independent public policy expert based in Hyderabad.