By 2030 India’s climate actions (INDC) are to Reduce emission intensity by 33-35% compared to 2005, Produce 40 per cent of electricity from non-fossil fuel based energy, if international community helps, Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest cover and Develop robust adaptation strategies for agriculture, water and health sectors. Here’s the reaction.
India has 18% of the world’s population, 7% of GDP and 9% of CO2 emissions – 1.66 metric tons per capita (compared to United States 17 and UK 7).
Michael R. Bloomberg, The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities & Climate Change, who met with Prime Minister Modi at the UN General Assembly September 24, said: “Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government have set an ambitious clean energy goal of achieving 40% zero-carbon electricity by 2030. Having attended India’s Renewable Energy Investment Summit in Delhi earlier this year, I know the commitment that India’s state and city leaders are bringing to this mission – and the strong support for it that exists in India’s business community, which recognizes the economic opportunity that renewable energy presents. India’s ambitious target should inspire other countries to adopt bolder climate plans – and encourage the global community to create the financial mechanisms necessary for such plans to succeed.”
Also speaking in reaction to the announcement, Krishnan Pallassana, India Director, The Climate Group, said: “The much anticipated India INDC underlines actions already in place which focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. We welcome the commitment made to reduce emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030, and the signals the India government is sending about its support for the international process and its confidence in a deal at COP. Development is understandably a primary concern for policy-makers, and this is evident in today’s announcement.
“However the fact that India is a developing economy should not be seen as a constraint but as an opportunity to demonstrate to others how ambitious growth can be achieved through a clean industrial revolution and building a strong low carbon economy.
“The Climate Group is already working with the India government on developing finance mechanisms which support the rapid scale up of off-grid renewable energy solutions. Our Bijli – Clean Energy for All program has already brought cheap, clean energy to tens of thousands of people in remote areas. With the proper support, potentially hundreds of millions of people could be connected to affordable, low carbon energy in a way which could provide a massive boost to the Indian economy.”
Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group commented on India’s INDC: “All the world’s major economies have now presented their contributions for COP21. India’s INDC follows a week where climate has dominated headlines for all the right reasons. We’ve seen Brazil and South Africa make commitments, states, regions and cities set new carbon targets, and organizations representing no fewer than 6 million companies say they all back a deal in Paris. This is a world apart from where we were going into Copenhagen.
“The wind is clearly in our sails. But we now need to turn this momentum into a ratcheting up of ambition and confidence that a strong deal will have significant economic and financial benefits. Paris needs to mark a major transition to a global low economy that is strong and sustainable. The goal, as signaled to us by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar this week, of transforming India’s economy into a leading global clean tech hub and delivering the country’s economic development strategy on the back of this, is further evidence that the center of gravity has fundamentally and irreversibly shifted.”
Also commenting on India’s submission to the UN climate process ahead of this December’s summit,Germana Canzi, ECIU’s International Climate Change Analyst highlighted the importance of the country’s plan: “This commitment by India – the world’s third largest emitter and the world’s fifth largest coal reserves, but also a country with low per capita use of energy and emissions – is significant,” she said.
“Issued on the day Indians celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, it shows the country takes climate change increasingly seriously and knows it is possible to move towards a low carbon economy while eliminating poverty.
“The path of that India will now take in its development is extremely important for the future of the climate, particularly as the country is set to surpass China to become the world’s most populous country by 2028, with 1.45 billion people.
“In parallel, India is making major efforts to promote decentralised clean energy solutions – particularly solar – to reach 300 million people currently without any electricity, as well as investments in energy efficiency and public transport. India will now need a good deal to be reached at the December UN climate conference in Paris.”
Former UK Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP applauded the country’s commitment to climate change and renewable energy. “It’s highly significant that India is joining the ranks of so many other developed and developing countries in putting serious commitments on the table ahead of the Paris climate talks,” he said.
“India needs to balance the demands of economic growth and reducing emissions, so a primary focus on using energy more efficiently, growing forests and ramping up renewable energy is eminently sensible.
“Like China, India is heading in the right direction and the prospects for a new global deal on climate change appear to be brightening by the day.”
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.