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Published July 7, 2008 09:16 AM

India launches climate change action plan

[NEW DELHI] India released its national action plan on climate change this week (30 June) with a focus on harnessing renewable energy rather than stringent emissions targets.

India's prime minister Manmohan Singh released the plan ahead of his attendance at next week's (7—9 July) G8 summit in Japan where climate change is expected to be discussed.

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The action plan spells out eight priority missions that will promote India's development objectives, with the "co-benefit" of tackling climate change.

The eight missions are: solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitats, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, developing a 'green' India, sustainable agriculture and building a strategic knowledge platform on climate change.

"Over a period of time, we must pioneer a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels, and from reliance on non-renewable and depleting sources of energy to renewable sources of energy," Singh said.

The missions will be managed by the appropriate ministries, and specific programmes within the missions will be finalised by December.

Of these, solar energy will receive a big thrust. India receives the equivalent of about 5,000 trillion kilowatt hours of energy from the sun each year — 5.5 kilowatt hours per square metre each year — with most areas experiencing clear, sunny weather for 250 to 300 days. 

The solar mission aims to tap this natural resource and make the country's solar energy industry as competitive as the fossil fuel industry by setting up a new research centre, entering into research collaborations and encouraging technology transfer.

The plan does not spell out greenhouse gas emission targets, but states that per capita emissions in India will not exceed levels in industrialised countries. India is the world's fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in absolute terms, but lies behind the US and Europe in terms of annual per capita emissions it (1.2 tonnes compared to 20 and 9.4 tonnes respectively).

The international environmental organisation Greenpeace, said in a statement that the plan is a "welcome first step" but has some weak areas that need to be addressed.

"The plan lacks clear policy prescriptions and targets for improving energy efficiency and reducing transportation emissions," Srinivas Krishnaswamy, policy advisor for Greenpeace, India, told SciDev.Net.

"They should have placed more emphasis on mandatory emission standards," he added.

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