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Government gives itself a green tint

From announcing coal washeries to emission norms and green bond regulation, India is projecting an environment-friendly image

Jyoti Mukul & Shreya Jai  |  New Delhi 

Government gives itself a green tint

India, the third largest greenhouse gas emitting country in the world, after the US and China, has been consciously coming out with a slew of announcements and programmes to project a clean green image, ahead of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) on Climate Change at Paris. Outside the government, even the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is expected to come out with a regulatory framework for issuance of 'green' bonds on Monday.

The responsibility for climate change issues and environment-friendly policies are no more in the sole domain of the environment ministry and professionals. Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has been in the forefront of projecting India's willingness to move on a green path. On Friday, he interacted with Twitteratti through a Talkathon, along with Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar, sending out a signal that when it came to such issues, the energy and environment arms of the government are on the same plane.

  • Sebi might come out with a regulatory framework for issuance of ‘green’ bonds
  • Govt has put a draft notification in public domain for implementation of BS-V and BS-VI emission norms for four-wheelers
  • Govt says BS–V norms would be implemented from April 1, 2019, and BS-VI norms be implemented from April 1, 2021
  • Draft norms for two- and three- wheeler categories would also be notified shortly

Not to be left behind was the ministry of road transport and highways, which on Saturday announced advancing of the date for implementation of higher levels emission standards. It put in the public domain a draft notification for implementation of BS-V and BS-VI emission norms for the automobile sector, covering the four-wheelers. It said BS-V norms would be implemented from April 1, 2019, and BS-VI norms, which aim at substantial reduction in NOx/4C levels from April 1, 2021. The earlier roadmap in the Auto Fuel Policy said BS-V norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022 and BS-VI from April 1, 2024. Draft norms for two- and three-wheeler categories would also be notified shortly with advanced timelines, similar to four-wheelers.

In August, the ministry had issued a notification for introducing BS-IV-compliant four-wheeler vehicles from October 1, in certain districts of seven states and from April 1, 2016, in a few other areas. From April 1, 2017, BS-IV would be in force all over the country.

Beside vehicular pollution, coal-based power generation is also perceived to be a big polluter in India. While technology improvement in thermal power generation had helped control the emission levels, no effort was made to improve the quality of coal. By 2040, Asia is projected to account for four of every five tonnes of coal consumed globally, and coal remains the backbone of the power system in many countries, including India.

While the coal ministry was quick to resolve scarcity by auctioning blocks, it is only now moving towards cleaner coal practices. It recently decided to set up 17 more coal washeries and announced no coal would be transported unwashed after 2017. It also approved a stringent new standard operation procedure for testing of quality. "The effort is to move towards much efficient ways to mine, supply and use coal. With coal supply improving, the next leap is towards maximising efficiency and optimum utilisation of coal as a fuel," said Anil Swarup, ministry secretary.

Indian Oil Corporation, also in the energy space, even uploaded a video of its chairman, B Ashok, on its website talking about the environment and sustainability. The home page with #Just Climate Action has links on its detailed sustainability plan and steps already taken in this direction on the homepage.

Renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency had already taken centre-stage in policy discussions over the past year. For a country that accounts for only six per cent of global energy use, with one in every five - 240 million people - lacking access to electricity, committing a 35 per cent emission cut by 2030 is not easy. The government has, therefore, announced revised targets for RE capacity addition target to 175,000 megawatt (Mw) by 2022. Of this, 100,000 Mw would be solar, 60,000 Mw through wind and the rest from small hydro and other green sources. The current RE capacity target is 38,096 Mw. This year, the RE addition has been close to 2,311 Mw with solar adding 827 Mw and wind 1,234 Mw.

India has committed that 40 per cent of the capacity addition by 2022 would come from clean sources. While it looks like tall order, government officials said it is achievable. India, they say, is the only country moving ahead with market-linked policies in the sector. "RE and energy efficiency programmes are sustainable models and the market is taking it forward. The '2 degree' goal of COP21, to bring down global temperature by two degrees Celsius, are well supported by the policies of the Indian government. Energy efficiency measures offer up to 50 per cent opportunity to mitigate climate concerns," said Saurabh Kumar, managing director, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL).

EESL is a joint venture of NTPC, Power Grid, Power Finance Corporation and Rural Electrification Corporation. It executes the Centre's energy efficiency programms and works closely with states.

Mandatory targets in China and India have increased the global coverage of efficiency regulation from three per cent in 2005 to a third now, and such policies are to continue to expand their reach and effectiveness through to 2040. "The idea is to create an alternative growth model, which supports energy efficiency and still provide elasticity to energy demand," said Kumar.

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First Published: Sun, November 29 2015. 23:29 IST