History is divided into two periods: Before the Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). However, given the developments of 2020, BCE could well stand for ‘Before COVID-19 Experience’ and CE for ‘COVID-19 Experience’.
There’s no doubt that our lives have been turned upside down and it continues to be so. What choice do you have? Well, you do. The COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath can either be seen as a long drawn pause on the landscape of economic growth or as an opportunity to reset, recalculate and rethink.
The Climate Crisis
We live in a world where climate change is a reality. No longer can we debate about the uncertainties in monsoon, the frequency of extreme events, the meltdown of the Himalayan glaciers and the increase in mean sea levels.
The recent report of the Ministry of Earth Sciences called ‘Assessment of climate change over the Indian region’ is a great resource and up-to-date analysis of the same.
It points to the need for making our (future) science and technological advances rooted in understanding the impacts of climate change, which is caused by continued emissions of greenhouse gases and increasing human incursions into the nature.
Take the example of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) that was seen as a remedy to fix the depletion of the ozone layer.
Although the ozone layer has been recovering and repairing (more or less), HFCs still pose a powerful threat from the perspective of climate change since its global warming potential is a thousand times more than that of carbon dioxide.
Carbon Neutrality: We need to be careful of our carbon emissions
In September 2018, the American state of California was the first to commit to carbon neutrality by 2045. In December 2019, a few weeks before the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union (EU) followed California’s example, however, with the year 2050 as its target.
In September 2020, China surprised the world by announcing its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. And just a few weeks ago, Japan and South Korea also joined the club by announcing their intention to do so by 2050 (like the EU).
However, India has yet to begin thinking (very) seriously in this direction and about its level of ambition. Let’s face it, we cannot always hide behind the fact that our per capita emissions will continue to be low, given the continued increase in the denominator.
At the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, we committed to having 40% of our electricity-generating capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by the year 2030. I do not doubt that we can reach this level, however, to do that we need to start thinking about our emissions very seriously.
What Is Carbon Neutrality?
Earlier, I have mentioned carbon neutrality, but what exactly is it?
To put it in simple terms, it means that for a country, carbon emissions should be equal to absorptions in carbon sinks, forests being one. The balance of this equation is very important and needs to be addressed simultaneously.
In Paris in December 2015, India committed to reduce its carbon emission through forests (although I have serious doubts about its credibility).
We will become a $5 trillion economy in a few years. That is an inevitability and will happen, give or take a few years. But the question is, if so, then will it be a green economy or a deserted economy?
Taking the current scenario and development into account, the answer to the question is neither difficult nor positive.
How Can We Contribute To The Cause:
Well, simple! Try to reduce your carbon footprints as much as possible.
- Switch to a zero-waste lifestyle. Buy products that have at least 10-15 sustainability certificates.
- Be conscious of your consumption pattern.
- Make sure that you are certain before buying any product that might potentially increase your carbon footprint. Because things that are good, feel good and do good as well.
- Commute on foot as much as possible.
- And don’t just plant trees, protect them as well.
These are all steps that we know at our tips yet we ignore them for our convenience, to the extent that doing these simple steps now might just not be enough. We need to make massive scientific inventions and technological innovations to remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Speaking of which, let me add one note of caution here, (based on our disappointing experience with nuclear energy) at this point, there is simply no silver lining waiting for the human species to harness. Every solution being put forward these days is riddled with complications that are not easy to solve.
Of course, renewables are an integral part of the solutions we seek but they have to be seen as more than just devices. Instead, they need to be incorporated into our business models in ways that open up avenues to restructure the system as a whole.
The Post-COVID-19 Era:
The post-COVID-19 world is a golden opportunity for us to switch gears and make a departure from the past to make economic growth genuinely sustainable. GDP growth, without a speck of doubt, would revive and get back to a steady 7%-8% growth path.
However, what we have to make sure in this post-COVID-19 world is that efforts are made to ensure that the ‘G’ in GDP is not ‘Gross’ but ‘Green’. India can show the world how economic growth can take place while taking both ecological pluses and minuses into account.
Image Credits: Google Images, Unsplash
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This post is tagged under: Environment, UN sustainability goals, UN Millennium goals, UN, Sustainability, GDP, COVID-19, Coronavirus, 2020, Carbon emission, greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, ozone layer, Pandemic, Climate crisis, The Paris agreement, Ministry of Earth, UNFCCC, Carbon neutrality, post-covid-19, Technology, Science, environmental science, entrepreneur, Indian economy, economic growth, economy, ecology, ecosystem