New Delhi: A former UN official who played a key role in the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations said Wednesday India was “well on track and will over-achieve” its climate commitments in terms of renewable energy and carbon emissions, pledged under the historic 2015 pact.
Christiana Figueres also laid emphasis on bringing about social intolerance for air pollution, reducing price of electric two-wheeler and not importing oil when there is an alternative. She noted air pollution is an “absolutely unacceptable crisis” in India.
Christiana Figueres was appointed as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, and was reappointed for a second three-year term in July 2013.
She has been involved in climate change negotiations since 1995 — initially a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team.
Figueres, who is in India, said the country could lead the world in manufacturing batteries for energy storage as it has the technological skills and the expertise with solar and wind power.
“It is pretty well publicly known that India is well on track and will over-achieve its Paris contribution in renewable energy. (It) seems to be on track to meet and exceed its energy intensity or carbon intensity and is not on track on the third piece which is land use,” she said during a media roundtable here.
Ahead of the climate change summit in Paris, India had pledged to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35 per cent from the 2005 level.
In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted to the UNFCCC, India had also pledged that it aims at achieving around 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.
She said India is in a “privileged” position because it is meeting and exceeding its first two targets and is in a good position to come to the table in 2020 and update its aspirations.
She noted 10 out of 13 most polluted cities in the world are in India, while science has already proven living in Delhi reduces life expectancy by six years due to pollution.
“There is a growing popular sense of outrage about the fact…in 2018, 9 out 10 people around the world are living in polluted air,” she said.
She referred to an event she attended on Tuesday where doctors from across the country came together to say that they cannot see their patients die because of air pollution.
“I am fully confident that this social intolerance for air pollution, diminishing price of electric two-wheeler, and federal recognition that it does not make sense to use expensive foreign currency to import oil when you have an alternative, all of those three things will combine at some point to really switch,” she said.
Speaking about focussing on two-wheelers in India as maximum people use it, she said it “did not make sense” to continue to import oil for transportation, when one can move to electrification in particular to a country which has not reached its potential in renewable energy into the grid.
The predictability of price of fuel is a huge factor in making decisions in a country that needs to be careful where it uses its foreign currency, she said, adding consumer behaviour makes a huge shift.
“The moment the benefit of a clean two-wheeler is felt, that is going to contribute to a shift. India is an absolute international leader in a new business model in two-wheelers that separates the two wheels from battery. That is ingenious.
“The most expensive part of two wheeler is the battery. The moment you can buy the two-wheeler with frame and rent the battery, it brings the cost of the two wheeler down.
I think, very soon the electric two-wheeler will be cheaper than fossil fuel two-wheeler. Further more, have we thought about the noise pollution that is going to be avoided,” she said.
On the US announcing its exit from the Paris agreement, she said if it leaves, its economy will be the worst hit as it will be decreasing their competitiveness in the global market given the fact that the world is moving to non-carbon intensive goods and services.
“Because, if the world moves as it is into electric transportation, as every single major car manufacture has announced that they are either moving all their models to electric or at least some of them….that’s the trajectory.
“That is not going to change. If the US continues to produce goods and services which are carbon intensive, who is going to buy that. They are decreasing their competitiveness in the global market,” she added.