India has long way to go on climate goals, PM’s target ‘unrealistic’: Experts

India has long way to go on climate goals, PM's target 'unrealistic': Experts

NEW DELHI: It will take a long time before India achieves its Paris climate conference goals, environment experts said on Monday, terming as “unrealistic” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on reaching the target set for 2030 in the next year and a half. They also said that PM Modi’s endeavour to dispose of accumulated plastic before Diwali this year was difficult to achieve, as the quantity of plastic waste was “huge”.

Recently at the UNESCO headquarters at Paris, Modi said that India will achieve most of the COP 21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, goals set for 2030, in the next year and a half. Two days later, in his monthly address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on Sunday, he urged people to observe the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year as a day to make India plastic-free. He exhorted municipalities, NGOs and the corporate sector to come up with ways for safe disposal of accumulated plastic waste before Diwali on October 27 this year.

“The PM’s claims appear to be unrealistic. I support him in his endeavour to make India plastic-free and achieve climate goals soon but we have a long way to go,” said environmentalist Vikrant Tongad. He said that India’s stand on climate goals have been strong but is quite behind in achieving them.

“We still don’t have the state action plans ready. I don’t think we can achieve climate goals of COP 21 in the next year and a half as our infrastructure is not yet so strong. India is still focused on coal energy. How can we reduce carbon emissions? Even crop burning has not been stopped,” Tongad, founder of NGO Social Action for Forests and Environment, said. Expressing similar views, environment activist and advocate Gaurav Bansal said climate change goals cannot be achieved this soon as the government makes plans but lacks in implementation.

“As far as climate change is concerned, I doubt if these goals can be achieved in the next one and a half year. Delhi climate change action plan is still in draft stage. The government’s reckless attitude has been responsible for India lagging behind in tackling environmental issues. “They made national action plans but there is no implementation. The Ministry of Environment had asked the Delhi government to prepare a heat wave action plan in April this year which has still not been done,” he said.

Environmentalist Ishteyaque Ahmed of NGO Greenpeace India said such announcements are welcome but ground reality needs to be checked. “We are lagging behind in the fields of energy transition and increasing carbon sink. We are the biggest producer of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and most of our cities top the list of world’s most polluted ones. In this scenario, it is hard to say that our carbon emissions will be in control in a year and a half. I don’t feel confident,” Ahmed said.

Recently a report released by Greenpeace India said that the country was the largest emitter of anthropogenic SO2, which is produced from burning of coal, and greatly contributes to air pollution.

Ahmed added that agriculture is a big source of green house gas emissions as high amount of fertilisers are used in the soil. “The residue of these chemical fertilisers are going to either ground water or the atmosphere in the form of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and SO2. We have to change this situation by introducing organic soil in agriculture to increase carbon sink but India does not have organic soil and the government itself is poisoning the soil by spending Rs 82,000 crore in the current financial year in chemical fertilisers. Budget for organic farming is still unknown,” he said.

India made several commitments under its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris in November and December 2015. The country had set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and to better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region.

It was pledged that 40 per cent of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources and the country will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. India had ratified the Paris agreement on climate change in 2016 to become the 62nd nation to join the deal.

Speaking about the issue of plastic waste in the country and its disposal, experts were of the opinion that the government itself was not working towards the goals. While some experts felt there was lack of awareness among people about plastic segregation and disposal, others felt government had no control over the unorganised sectors slyly importing plastic waste.

“As far as disposal of accumulated plastic is concerned, we first need to check the unorganised sector that is slyly bringing plastic waste in the country. PM’s vision can be supported but targets cannot be achieved so soon,” said Bansal. Tongad and Ahmed also said the quantity of accumulated plastic waste is huge and there were some plastics which could not be recycled.

“There is lack of awareness among people about collection and segregation. Single-use plastic is still being used by various government offices, let alone the general public. We don’t have an alternative to plastic yet so how will we become plastic-free. Ministries still use packaged plastic water bottles despite PM’s clear messages,” Tongad said. Ahmed said, “I also don’t agree with the PM that accumulated plastic waste can be disposed of before Diwali because the quantity of plastic waste is huge. There are plastics which cannot be recycled like the dashboard of cars, junk vehicles etc and there is no proper mechanism to segregate this waste.” PTI

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