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Bid Adieu To Fossil Fuels: Time To Welcome Renewable Energy With Warm Hands

Climate Change is a factor that has caused catastrophe in various parts of the world, but what is the major reason behind this climate change the increment in the carbon dioxide emissions due to burning of fossil fuels to meet the ever-increasing demand of the various economies of the world.

Where the recent covid -19 pandemic was the major reason behind a rapid downfall in the fossil fuels induced emissions but thanks to Russian-Ukraine war that has caused increase in both the prices and demands for fossil fuels and in addition has boosted the carbon dioxide emissions. This increase in the level of carbon dioxide emissions has caused rapid increase in average global temperature.

The term rapid increase in the average global temperature might not sound alarming but the recent reports negates this assumption.

In reality, this increase in average global temperature has disastrous consequences like:

  1. Global warming that ultimately has caused melting of glaciers and consequently leads to increase in sea levels which is a cause of worry for the inhabitants of coastal areas.
  2. The greenhouse gases are responsible for absorbing a large amount of heat from the surface of the earth which in turn causes global warming.
  3. Global Warming has led to depletion of ozone layer as the green house gases which are emitted into the atmosphere due to the constant burning of fossil fuels reacts with the layer which prevents the harmful ultraviolet radiations to enter the atmosphere of the earth.
  4. The greenhouse gases which are acidic in nature reacts with the water vapours in the upper atmosphere which furthermore causes acid rain which are detrimental to both- Agriculture and Monuments.
  5. The rise in average global temperature has caused extinction of various species worldwide and has life threatening effects in the biosphere.
  6. The emission of carbon and other particulate matter into the atmosphere leads to increase in the level of air pollutants thereby causing air pollution and has in turn serious repercussions on the health of an individual varying from lung diseases to affecting the immune system of an individual especially the children.
  7. Global Warming has negatively impacted the productivity of crops and has significantly reduced the duration for growing crops such as rice, wheat and maize due to prolonged summer and uncertain rainfall.
The last two factors mentioned hereabove infringes the right to life of an individual which is enshrined under Part-3, Article-21 of constitution of India. The right to life imbibes all the basic rights that are essential to have a dignified life including right to have a healthy environment which was ruled out in the case of Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar[1] and Virendra Gaur v State of Haryana. [2]

In a democracy, the fundamental rights are at the highest pedestal and are considered as the basic tenets that strengthens the foundation of a constitution and when these rights like the right to have a healthy environment are infringed that are considered to be so sacrosanct then there arises a threat to humankind.

It is also pertinent to note that the citizens also have the fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment and the state in addition also has a duty to protect and safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country under Part-4, Article-51-A(g) and Article 48A respectively. Therefore, the responsibility not only confers upon the citizen but equally upon the state.

And India has recognized this responsibility and is very firm in its commitment to protect the environment globally and therefore to make this commitment convert into reality it has been a part of various international treaties and convention one of them are the Paris treaty agreement which is an agreement binding on all the parties that are signatory to it. 196 nation countries adopted this climate change agreement at COP 21 in Paris in the year 2015.

Achieving the long-term temperature goal and to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases forthwith and also to achieve the climate neutral world by mid-century. The major goal of this agreement is to keep the global temperature which is constantly rising below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally limited to 1.5 degree Celsius.

Another prominent convention that has member-states which are responsible for the majority of carbon gas emissions to which India is signatory to is G-20. And these member states have come forth to protect and preserve the environment and achieve the targeted goals. The recent G-20 summit was held in India with the theme "One Earth. One Family. One Future" in which a "green development pact" with a roadmap of actions over the following 10 years to combat climate change is one of India's G-20 priorities.

To achieve the said targets and objectives India has taken various steps to catalyse the process of environmental protection which includes enactment of various statutory provisions.

The Environment Protection Act 1986 gives power to the government to take any action which is necessary in order to protect, preserve and abate the environment. In the case of MC Mehta v Union of India 2002[3], the ban was imposed on the diesel run vehicles to reduce the particulate matter in the air in order to curb the air pollution. In another case of MC Mehta v Union of India 1987[4], the industries were prohibited to dispose of the residue in the Ganga River so as to prevent the water pollution.

The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution 1981 empowers the state government to designate an area according to its pollution level and accordingly decide on the type of fuel which can be permitted in the respective areas.

In addition, India has set up a quasi-judicial body with an expertise for the speedy disposal of environment related disputes.

India has also set a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 furthermore, India's National Determined Contribution has set forth few main elements which are:

  1. By 2030, it is intended to have 50% of installed electric power capacity come from non-fossil sources.
  2. A target to achieve 45% reduction of emission of green house gases by 2030 in comparison to 2005.
  3. A target of creating a carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 GtCO2e increased forest and tree cover by 2030.
  4. To achieve the target of 500 Giga Watt of renewable energy resources by 2030.

The other initiatives taken by the government of India are:

  1. National Solar Mission:
    The government of India and state governments have launched a significant initiative to encourage environmentally friendly growth keeping in mind the India's energy security issue.
  2. Bharat Stage VI Norms:
    The government implemented the emission control standards to combat air pollution.
  3. The 2018 National Wind Solar Hybrid Policy:
    The main objective is to establish a framework for the installation of sizable grid-connected wind-solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid systems for making the best use possible of land, wind and solar resources, and transmission infrastructure.

All the above-mentioned initiatives have helped India to cut down the emission of the hazardous gases by one sixty-four million kilograms. But even after taking all the necessary steps and actions India still has a long way to go to achieve the target of zero emissions by 2050.

India is the 3rd largest carbon emission country in the world after China and USA. India has failed miserably in achieving the target set to install 175 Giga Watt of renewable energy by 2022 which significantly indicates that our economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Nonetheless the Indian Government has set forth ambitious targets to be achieved in order to preserve the environment.

On the contrary subsidies provided by Institute of Sustainable Development (a non-governmental organization) has diminished this goal of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the fundamental duty to protect and preserve the environment which is enshrined in Part-IV of Constitution of India is not enforceable. Therefore, neither the state nor the citizens are obligated to abide by the fundamental duties which is another lacunae on the part of Indian Government.

During the Covid-19 pandemic emission of particulate matter released in the environment via burning fossil fuels plummeted 6.5%. But when the lockdown-imposed restrictions were reversed there was an upsurge of particulate matter in the environment by 11% in 2021.

Furthermore, the recent report by Lancet countdown on health and climate change gave an abysmal estimate of death of three lakh thirty thousand people due to exposure of particulate matter emitted into the environment via burning the fossil fuel.

To conclude, some steps are to be taken by the government to reduce the fossil fuel emissions. Its high time that the government should deduct the subsidies provided for the consumption of fossil fuels that would ultimately act as an disincentive for the people to invest in fossil fuels. Moreover, rather than having an unenforceable provision in the constitution of India that does not creates any deterrence the government should enact a binding provision that will compel both-the government and the citizens to protect and preserve the environment.

The government at the same time should make efforts to subsidise the renewable sources of energy that can act as an incentive for the people to shift from fossil fuels to the renewable sources of energy. In addition to this government should impose fines on Industries which overseed the permitted level of omission of the particulate matters emitted via burning the fossil fuels. And the most crucial and important task the government needs to fulfil is to spread awareness regarding the usages and benefits of the renewable sources of energy and should make a shift to policies that incentivize a renewable energy friendly environment.

  1. Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar, (1991) 1 AIR 420.
  2. Virendra Gaur v. State of Haryana (1995) 2 SCC 577.
  3. MC Mehta v. Union of India, (2002) AIR 1696.
  4. MC Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 4 SCC 463.
Written By:
  1. Aditi Malviya,
  2. Anushka Singh

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