[The Viewpoint] Goal of Net Zero; Legislative and Regulatory Framework

Achieving Net Zero is desirable to evade the disastrous consequences of climate change in order to preserve our environment.
Naveen Kumar
Naveen KumarADMIN

yukta-cestasya karmasu
yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

                                           -Bhagvad Gita: Chapter 6, Verse 17 

Gita has highlighted the importance of leading a balanced life but in the mad race of consumerism, unregulated growth, and in search of worldly comfort, we have forgotten the eternal wisdom and message of leading an optimal and balanced way of life and are always trying to take more and more from nature without bothering about sustainability and need of future generations. This has led to serious and to some extent irreversible damage to the environment to such an extent that the devastating effect of climate change is very imminent and evident in different parts of the world.

We, human beings are dependent on our environment to maintain our livelihood, so it is our sole responsibility to preserve and flourish it by every means possible. To accomplish the objective of protection of our environment, several treaties and agreements have been brought in place in the international sphere like the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, Ozone  Treaties, The Paris Agreement (United Nations Climate Change), etc. The well-known  Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change was adopted by 196 parties in Paris which came into force on 4 November 2016. It was the first step undertaken by several countries towards binding all nations into a common cause to undertake efforts to battle climate change. The key goal of this treaty is to limit global warming below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement emphasizes the need for net zero.

Now, what is Net Zero?

Net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance.”

Net Zero is one among the several goals of climate change and it refers to reaching a stage in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by those removed from the atmosphere so that the net emissions are zero or as close to zero as possible. The goal of net zero should achieve permanence for better results. The removed greenhouse gases should not return back to the atmosphere over time.

Currently, our planet Earth is about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s and the reason behind this increase is still in play. To keep a check on the increasing global warming and to limit it, from not going beyond 1.5°C, the Paris Agreement has taken an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach a net zero goal by 2050. Net zero is important especially for Carbon-dioxide (CO2) as this is the state at which global warming stops.

Achieving this target of net zero emissions is desirable to evade the disastrous consequences of climate change in order to preserve our environment. There is a need to bring about a complete change in how we produce, consume, and move to reach the goal of net zero emissions. The major source of greenhouse gas emissions is the energy sector, thus a change in this sector would help in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. Renewable sources such as wind and solar energy should replace coal, gas, and oil-fired power that are causing pollution, such step towards preserving our environment will result in an ample amount of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Contributors of Greenhouse gas emissions from all over the World
Contributors of Greenhouse gas emissions from all over the World

Countries all over the world like the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Sweden, Iceland, Austria, etc. have pledged by means of the Paris Agreement to obtain net-zero target. More than 1,200 companies, 1000 cities, 1000 educational institutions, and over 400 financial institutions have also brought in place science-based targets to reduce their negative imprint on the environment. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and the most forested country on Earth, Suriname are already carbon-negative- they absorb more CO2 than they emit.

Net-zero tracker assessment as of January 2022
Net-zero tracker assessment as of January 2022

Net Zero Goals and India

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at the World Leaders Summit at the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom in November 2021 that India will achieve net zero emissions by 2070. The net-zero commitment of India is part of a strategy of Panchamrit or “five elixirs”. The short-term goals that are provided for in this strategy would pave the way for achieving a net-zero emissions target by 2070.

The immediate goals are :

  1. Reaching a non-fossil fuel energy capacity of 500GW by 2030;

  2. Fulfilling 50 percent energy requirements via renewable energy by 2030;

  3. Reducing CO2 emissions by 1 million tons by 2030; and

  4. Reducing carbon intensity below 45 percent by 2030.

India is at the number four position in the world for installing renewable energy capacity. Non-fossil fuel energy has increased by more than 25% in the last few years. The Indian Railways system has set a target of making itself ‘Net Zero’ by 2030. The Gram Ujala scheme was launched by the Ministry of Power for Rural India which provided LED bulbs to the rural population at affordable prices. This scheme has reduced emissions by 40 million tonnes annually. The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) as well as other ministries have made several efforts to ensure the implementation of the steps that are to be taken with respect to climate change.

The Union Cabinet has approved India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to be communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The updated NDC seeks to strengthen India’s commitment to eliminate the threat of climate change, as agreed under the Paris Agreement. The updated NDC also lays down a framework for India’s transformation to cleaner energy for the period 2021-2030. Concessions and initiatives are also provided by the Government in exchange for the adoption of renewable energy. This transformation will also lead to an increase in jobs in the green sector.

In India, a need is felt for a legislative framework to realize the objectives of Net Zero Goals. Laws should be brought in place that incentivize industries on the adoption of environment-friendly methods. A permanent body should be brought in place to regulate India’s green transformation. The existing environmental laws in place require overhauling and consolidation to align with the Net Zero Goals.

India’s goal is to reduce overall emission intensity and improve the energy efficiency of its economy over time and at the same time protect the vulnerable sectors of the economy and the vulnerable segments of our society. Our little steps like using LEDs, solar panels, energy-efficient fuels, and electric vehicles can also contribute towards this goal. If all of us join our hands, we will be able to preserve our environment for future generations. It is said that each one of us is all the time in the process of changing the history of the world; now it’s time to realize that each of us has to play our role in making the planet a safer, better, and cleaner place.

Naveen Kumar is an Advocate-on Record at the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

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