Kolkata, June 1: Improving education and creating favourable living and working conditions are essential for India's transition to a society with minimal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, said an expert who authored UNEP's latest report on resource use in Asia-Pacific.
A buzzword in climate negotiations, the concept of low carbon society or development, has its roots in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in Rio de Janerio in 1992 and is now generally expressed using the term low-emission development strategies.
For India, the way ahead is through exploiting the low carbon (or low emission) renewable energy sector which would be in the "best interest" of the people and the economy, according to Heinz Schandl, a senior scientist at Australia's national science agency.
"The biggest resource India has is obviously its people and investment in education and supporting decent living and working conditions would unlock this resource," Schandl, a senior principal scientist at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, told IANS in an email interaction.
This would "support a knowledge-based low carbon development path for which India is better suited perhaps than other countries," he said in response to a question on utilising India's resources.
Schandl is the chief author of the recently released United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report "Indicators for a Resource Efficient and Green Asia and the Pacific". [Environmental laws being reviewed to give more teeth: Prakash Javadekar]
For "inclusive human development in the country without accelerating emissions", he said renewables are the key.
India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has set ambitious renewable energy (RE) targets of 100,000 MW of solar power, 60,000 MW of wind power, 10,000 MW of energy from biomass and 5,000 MW from small hydroelectric projects (175 GW of total renewables) by 2022.
Currently, India's clean energy capacity is 33,000 MW.
Schandl said India's thrust on RE is of "utmost importance."
"Allowing India to service its growing energy needs with renewables will help mitigate climate change and hence reduce costs and interruptions of the Indian economy through climate impacts that can only become more severe and costly if climate mitigation fails.
"Investing in low carbon renewable energy is in the best interest of the Indian economy and people," the scientist said.
This will take India on a par with the world's average per-capita energy use, which stands at 75 Giga Joules (per capita energy use for final consumption). India is far behind at 20 GJ, he said.
"This gap cannot be filled with traditional energy generation relying on high-carbon energy sources of the past but need investment into modern, renewable energy that once installed, comes at a very low additional cost," Schandl pointed out.
This investment is crucial because energy use and GHG emissions are set to shoot up as people move to higher-paid jobs and demand better and reliable energy sources. Further, Schandl drew attention to the non-availability of electricity in many parts of India.
Also, from examining the trends in industrial transformation of countries, it can be said that India may go through a similar transition process as China has done, resulting in much higher per-capita resource use and emissions in the future, Schandl suggested.
But India is in an advantageous position in terms of pumping in money to develop higher efficiency infrastructure (buildings, transport systems and manufacturing capacity), courtesy the know-how present in the country, he said.
"Such green investments in good quality public infrastructure will also support a more inclusive development path as they favour lower income households disproportionately," he explained.