Renewable technology is the future: Raman Mehta

Raman Mehta
Raman Mehta
published by-November 28, 2014

Climate change is already happening which can be observed by the sudden changes in the weather. How do you rate India’s strategies for addressing climate change concerns and issues?

Raman Mehta: Well climate change is happening that’s for sure, the recent Jammu & Kashmir floods is a prime example about that. In terms of India’s strategies, India has put in place a National Action Plan which has flowed into State Action Plans. So the planning process is beginning to happen but I still feel the government is yet to fully gear up for the threats from climate change. For example, Jammu & Kashmir has a state action plan but the state was caught by surprise during the floods due to excessive rainfall.

Despite knowing the benefits of renewable technology, it is still not used more coherently. What should be done to boost renewable technology in India?

Raman Mehta:  Renewables are the way to go and the future is renewables. The problem lies in the transition phase. The transition problem is primarily: 1) Cost, and 2) Efficacy and efficiency on the other. There are two aspects of the problem. First, renewables are economically more expensive even if one does not include the environmental concerns in to the costing as compared to conventional energy sources. Secondly, the renewable technologies do not have all the answers. For instance, there are certain industrial processes that require high heat applications but renewable technology doesn’t have the solution at this point of time.

However, in the long run for its own energy security, India needs to move towards the renewables and India needs to do that much faster than it is at the present. But there are various impediments including the fact that a transition in the initial phase requires a very high level of effort before it becomes an automatic process. That is the major issue in India at the moment.      

The common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) principle has been decided in 1992. Do you think it is fair to follow the principle in the present when countries like India and China are leading the carbon emission list?

Raman Mehta: The common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) principle is a principle which it is still valid in the international context. For example, if one observes the developmental indicators of India with other ‘Annex I’ countries, India is far behind and would at least require 30 years to catch up. Now, the CBDR principle as it was implemented in the negotiations was a binary differentiation of Annex I and Non-Annex I countries with developing countries like India was placed under the Non-Annex I category and therefore having no obligations for any restrictions. The Annex I countries have not lived up to their responsibilities and therefore global emissions have continued to grow partly because of the developed countries inability to cut the required emissions and the fast development of the developing countries is also producing high emissions.

There is a need to replace the binary differentiation to implement the CBDR principle. But there cannot be a complete symmetry between countries like India and China, and EU and the USA. Therefore differentiation is still required and what is more important is that the Annex I countries have to realize that big developing countries like India have a certain development burden that they have to carry and they not just have alleviate poverty but to also provide prosperity to the people. It is only when this kind of enlightened mindset begins to operate in the international negotiations there certainly will be a good outcome from the international environmental negotiations.     
India is country with 29 states with varying diversities. There are cold deserts in one part like Lahaul and Spiti, then there are the biological hotspots like the Western Ghats. How should the policy makers address the diversities with regard to climate change?   

Raman Mehta: One cornerstone of accounting the diversity of impacts of climate change and the abilities of the communities to withstand the impacts is that one needs to a) empower communities to be able to cope with the impacts of climate change and b) there has to be a big change in the way development decisions have been taken in the country to handle the problems that we are going to have in the future. For instance, agriculture is the sector which is most vulnerable to climate change; hence the planners have to look at climate risks very seriously. The government should encourage the farmers to invest on growing resilient crops like millet as a part of the process to withstand the impacts of climate change.    

What are your views on the Madhya Pradesh State Action Plan on Climate Change? How can the state government make implementation of policies more efficient?

Raman Mehta: Madhya Pradesh State Action Plan on Climate Change (MPAPCC) is one of the first plans on climate change to be finalized in India. It is a good beginning for the state. Emphasis has to be on two to three things. The plan needs to have a process whereby it keeps on getting updated as the risks are getting clearer with the passing time. This has to be a continuing process. The implementation of the MPAPCC has to be more clearer and new institutions are required and these institutions have to be empowered with increased human capacity and financial capacity to being able to deliver what is expected from the state action plan.

For more information on the Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle, please check the following links:

- OneWorld Foundation India