By: Yashika Jha
Global digitalization is increasing, with estimates ranging from USD2.4 trillion in 2019 to USD2.4 trillion in 2024, but experts have warned about its carbon footprint, noting that there are valuable lessons for Co2-proponents in India, where digitalization is in full swing.
Digitalization has clearly streamlined current processes, changed numerous industries, and is commonly regarded as a significant step toward a future carbon-free planet. According to experts, India’s road to net-zero carbon emissions would be long and difficult – while not impossible, it will require a lot of strategic planning in the decades ahead.
After years of rejecting calls for it, the world’s third-largest producer of greenhouse gases shocked the globe by announcing a goal of net-zero carbon emissions. India stated at the COP26 meeting that it intends to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.
While this is the first time India has made such a commitment, the timescale is still two decades beyond the climate summit’s 2050 aim. An improved understanding of how the environment and climate change can affect economic growth, asset values, and financial markets has fueled this tremendous shift to digital everywhere.
On this subject, experts have a lot to say. According to Singapore-based tech-investor Girija Pande, who serves on the High-Level Advisory Board of Brussels-based DigitalGoes, there is an urgent need to focus on ‘greening’ the digital chain itself, right from the design stage.
India remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels such as oil and coal, and its economic interests are primarily domestic. As the economy continues to grow, the country’s energy demand is predicted to skyrocket over the next decade.
CARBON FOOT PRINT
The phrase “carbon footprint” is used to describe the impact of greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced into the atmosphere as a result of people’ direct or indirect actions. These GHGs are to blame for global warming, which in turn causes climate change.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour (H2O), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), and chlorofluorocarbons are the principal GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere. CO2 is the most common GHG gas released into the atmosphere through power plants, vehicles, and residential fuel combustion, among other sources.
The increasing concentration of GHG in the atmosphere raises the earth’s mean temperature, and according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), if the global mean temperature rises by 20 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the damage will be irreversible, and with current emissions rates, the threshold will be crossed no later than 2050.
As a result, climate change and global warming are no longer intellectual fads; they are a serious hazard that will harm every living person on the world.
Today, every country in the world (excluding Syria and the United States) recognizes the threat of global warming and has banded together to address the issue. India, as a tropical country, will be one of the most severely affected by climate change.
The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas had already been exacerbated by global warming, resulting in increasing frequency and severity of floods and droughts. The melting of Antarctic ice will also result in a rise in sea level, which will have a negative impact on coastal states’ ecosystems.
It is also undeniable that the poorest parts of the population, who contribute the least to GHG emissions, will be the most adversely affected by climate change. Because India still has widespread poverty, the consequences of climate change-induced by increased carbon footprints would be disastrous.
What’s more concerning is that the fight against carbon footprint comes at a high price. Clean technology is substantially more expensive than traditional technology, and underdeveloped countries’ growth objectives would be jeopardised if they shifted to new technology.
As a result, they are asking the developed world to share the burden, despite the fact that the developed world has historically been the source of the greatest carbon footprint.
For example, if India decides to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants, it will have to give up more than half of its electricity, which will not only derail the economy but also have a social cost because the rural electrification programme will be halted, leaving the poor in the dark.
As a result, you’re either damned if you combat climate change or damned if you don’t. As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if India becomes concerned about its growing carbon footprint. At the moment, all of the worried developing countries are caught in a predicament.
While it is true that climate change requires immediate action, the only way to address it is through progressive change, as abrupt change will be far more detrimental to human lives than carbon footprints themselves.
Nonetheless, other countries’ joint and individual initiatives have begun to yield some favorable results. In 2016, the global carbon footprint stayed unchanged, with carbon emissions declining or remaining unchanged in all major emitting countries except India.
However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that keeping emissions constant would not be enough to prevent global warming.
A five-point approach dubbed the panchamrita was announced at the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26) to attain this goal. These are the five points:
- India’s non-fossil energy capacity will reach 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.
- By 2030, India will have met 50% of its energy needs with renewable energy.
- From now until 2030, India will lower overall estimated carbon emissions by one billion tonnes.
- By 2030, India’s economy will have reduced its carbon intensity by less than 45 percent.
- As a result, India will achieve Net Zero by the year 2070.
India’s climate change goals are commendable, and they place the onus squarely on the already wealthy globe to show that they mean business. This is because India has never been a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 4% of global emissions from 1870 to 2019.
It is dubbed the world’s third-worst polluter in 2019, but its emissions, at 2.88 CO2 gigatonnes (Gt), pale in comparison to the world’s worst polluter (China, at 10.6 Gt) and second-worst (the United States, at 5 Gt). Furthermore, we have a significant need to expand our economy and meet the energy needs of millions of people.
The country’s economic activity was stifled by the country’s lockdown, which was one of the most severe in the globe. India has a population of about 1.3 billion people. According to experts at the website Carbon Brief, India’s carbon dioxide emissions plummeted by 30% in April compared to the same month last year.
Pollution levels dropped substantially as well, delivering blue skies to New Delhi, which is infamous for its poor air quality. It is also a country that plans to make significant advancements in the following decades. Such leaps will necessitate significantly more energy than India currently consumes.
The government shutdown is finally coming to an end. While the limits had a significant human and economic cost, they also hinted to a new future. By 2027, India is predicted to surpass China as the world’s most populated country.
India’s per capita emissions are low because there are still a large number of people who require energy for their development. Now, in the future, as we move toward our goal of pollution-free growth, we must focus on generating clean, but inexpensive, energy for the poor.
India has pledged not to add to the load of carbon dioxide emissions, which collect in the atmosphere over time (normal residence period is 150-200 years) and are what “push” temperatures to rise.
Apart from the Government of India, over 50 of the top 200 listed corporations have set voluntary carbon footprint reduction objectives to combat climate change. By 2022, Indian Railways has set a goal of producing 1 GW of renewable energy.
Former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu believes that reducing train carbon emissions is not only good for the environment but also excellent for business. A train like the Rajdhani Express can save up to INR 20 million per year simply by switching from diesel to electricity. Indian Railways is currently the country’s single-largest diesel consumer.
India’s main challenge now is to steadily reduce coal-fired power plants’ percentage of total energy generation. Furthermore, it must offer an uninterrupted power supply because diesel generators not only pollute the environment and have a high carbon footprint, but they are also expensive.
Because power plants and vehicle emissions are the two most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the government should gradually promote battery or electricity-powered vehicles. In 2040, the United Kingdom is considering a ban on new diesel and gasoline cars.
Though this notion appears to be impracticable for India at the moment, it should strive to strengthen its indigenous clean fuel technologies in order to lessen the country’s carbon footprint.