A climate dividend: On India, net zero and energy transition

While a net zero commitment can be avoided, India stands to gain from an energy transition

An immediate leap into net zero may yet be avoided, and a core message at Glasgow would be that rich countries are yet to deliver on the promised $100 billion a year from 2020 to help poor nations adapt to climate change; but India’s case can be strengthened only with a clear plan for a multi-sectoral energy transition. There is little evidence, for instance, that the indirect carbon tax in the form of very high levies on automotive fuels has been earmarked for a big green push through affordable electric mobility, or even a financial dividend to all citizens to mitigate inflationary price effects on essential consumption. As national scientific advisers have argued in a joint statement on the eve of the UN climate conference — and to which India’s Principal Scientific Adviser is a signatory — it is essential for governments to draw up precise technological, socio-economic, and financial policies and requirements to demonstrate a commitment to the 1.5°C goal. The country must seize the moment and present convincing plans that will be rolled out in the present decade in order to attract climate finance, even while buttressing the argument for a medium-term window to taper down carbon emissions. If severe floods, droughts and more frequent storms erode the assets of citizens, governments of the future will have to pay for lack of foresight today.

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