Carbon emissions as we know have been increasing vehemently all across the world which is affecting the health of the environment and the world as a whole to a great extent. The past decade has recorded the worst climatic change and the most pollution intensity and that is mostly due to the ever rising carbon emissions by the factories and the industries. The world is emitting a great amount of GreenHouse Gases, mainly Carbon and Methane. Although the world is progressing towards advancement which is a good thing but the cost at which the advancement is taking place is not so overwhelming. The average temperature for instance has been increasing and the glaciers are melting at a great pace due to the change in temperature due to human activities directly or indirectly and the most prominent reason for the unwanted climatic change is the carbon footprint of the countries. So far, land plants and the ocean take up 55% of the extra carbon we have put into the atmosphere while about 45% has stayed in the atmosphere. About 20% will stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
WHAT IS CARBON FOOTPRINTS?
Carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases that is produced through deforestation, production and consumption of energy, fuels, manufactured goods, materials, wood, toad, buildings, transportation and other services. The total emissions are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents, the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the similar intensity of global warming, to facilitate comparison. The most important factors that contribute to carbon footprints are energy, fuel, economic output of a country, population, and carbon intensity of the economy. Climate change is the eventual effect of greater carbon footprints. Greenhouse gases, whether natural or human-produced, contribute to the increased heating up of the planet. From 1990 to 2005, carbon dioxide emissions increased by 31 percent and by 2008, the emissions had contributed to a 35 percent increase in radiative warming, or a shift in Earth’s energy balance toward warming, over 1990 levels. Sad but true, India is the third largest emitter of such carbon emissions. India aims at net zero emissions by 2050 for which it has taken several steps at personal and international levels to bring down the intensity of emissions but still there is a long way to go to actually see any effect of the reductions..
INDIAN SCENARIO AT EMISSIONS
India’s condition at atmospheric health is worsening at a great pace, making most of the cities the most polluted ones in the whole world. It is shocking to know that maong the top 20 most polluted cities in the world, a total of seven cities are in India, Ghaziabad being the most polluted followed by Delhi. In the year 2019, Delhi almost faced a public health emergency situation due to the vehemently increasing pollution in the capital. The reason for the constant rise in the pollution is mainly the denial of urgent reforms and permanent solutions to be chalked out by the government agencies. Had the government been more conscious of the effects the industrial sector and the energy consumption sector would have on carbon emissions, only then appropriate steps could be taken. The major reason for the great tide of carbon emissions that has taken place in India is it’s dependency on coal. Three-fourth of India’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels and coal is the main source of the energy consumption. With the world’s third-largest coal reserves, it stands out as a major participant in India’s economic sector, particularly in resource-rich states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. However, despite being the most consumed natural resource, coal still remains non-reliable for a safe future because of its share in carbon dioxide emissions and production of harmful particulate matter. Coal in itself is responsible for almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Coal consumption releases particulate matter, the substance that has traumatised India, especially its capital, Delhi. According to the environmental website “Down to Earth”, Delhi tops the list of carbon emissions with an annual carbon footprint of 69.4 million tonnes, at par with the emissions of Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai put together.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement signed by various countries as a step taken towards limiting and eventually the emissions in the surrounding through various means. It is an international treaty which was adopted in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 and entered into force in 2005. It comes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which is committed towards reducing carbon emissions by internationally setting targets for such emissions which is to be followed by the member states. The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was from the year 2008-2012 which targeted certain carbon equivalent gases namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. Under the agreement every country was assigned a certain limit upto which they could emit such gases, depending on the carbon sink they possess, which is basically any reservoir, either natural or man-made that can store some amount of carbon emissions and due to which the carbon emissions does not harm the environment. India is also one of the member countries who has ratified and signed the Kyoto Protocol and is working towards reduction of carbon emissions. The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which kick-started the second commitment period under the Protocol which is to be from the year 2013-2020 was also ratified by India to lend a hand towards limiting the emissions in the atmosphere. The regulations for the second commitment period restrict the quantity of emission allowances for a country to its average emissions from 2008 to 2010 times eight.
The Paris Agreement is one of the most talked about international commitments when it comes to climate change and limiting the emissions in the atmosphere by the countries. The Paris Agreement is also a part of the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change, formed in Paris, which was adopted in the year 2015 and came into force in the year 2016 which also aims at reducing the emission of the gases that cause global warming. Under the treaty, India pledged to reduce the carbon emissions of its GDP by almost 33 to 35% by the year 2030 as compared to the year 2005 levels. India also made a commitment to extract 40% of its energy from renewable sources rather than fossil fuel which is a major reason for carbon emissions. India is determined to achieve 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon sequestration by way of tree plantation. But again, it all boils down to whether the pledge has just been on paper or work is being done towards bringing an actual change. To be able to achieve the target set by India, it needs to bring out a well thought plan which is both effective and efficient.
THE PLAN AHEAD
The damage that has already been done due to the large emissions cannot be undone now but what can be done surely is further reduction of emissions so that future damages to the environment and the atmosphere could be checked. Government should collect facts and figures of the emissions and take into account the carbon footprint and the carbon sink. The carbon footprint should not exceed the carbon sink as it then affects the atmosphere and if India really wants to stand on to the target set by it of reducing emissions by 35% by 2030. India needs to churn out really tough and efficient law reform policies with no loopholes in it. India needs to take cognisance of carbon sequestration keeping in mind how important it is to nullify the effects of the carbon emissions. The process of capturing carbon dioxide in natural carbon sinks such as seas, rocks, and forests is known as carbon sequestration. Since forests are mostly used as ‘carbon sinks’, India could take a lesson from China, which planted a vertical forest to absorb 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. India should aim at deforestation so as to build natural carbon sinks further and take certain measures to stop deforestation and ocean acidification. Also, one of the major roadblocks which stops India from efficiently working in the direction of reducing emissions is poor allocation of funds. Although the targets set by India are very much impressive prima facie but as we delve deep into the actual implication, it is found that not much efficiency has been shown towards the execution. Therefore, India needs to be cognisant of the opportunities at hand to reform the carbon emissions of the country to improve the quality of the environment.
As we reach the conclusion of the article, it is to be noted that we have been moving towards public health emergencies faster than ever. If we do not take necessary steps now, it would be too late to even think of taking any step. The country should outline a plan wherein we can shift from carbon emitting sources to renewable sources to produce energy for various activities. We have advanced very much in various fields but we need to advance in this field too where we emit as little carbon as possible. Petrol or diesel run vehicles should be replaced by electric vehicles which run on batteries which do not emit any harmful gases. For all the suggestions to be brought to life, there must be proper thought given to it by measuring all the pros and the cons and then effective and efficient implementation of the plans must be carried out. It’s already too late to move towards a carbon free environment but still, there is a hope that lies and which must be monetized at its best.
Author’s Name: Ekta Agarwal (National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam)