BY RASHI LOHAAN
Humanity, as a whole, has historically tended to set unreasonable goals and impossible timelines to achieve those goals. While we understand that concept as procrastination, the UNDP calls it the Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs.
When it comes to the environment, the need of the hour is to save our planet and ourselves from the life-threatening problems of climate change and global warming or the depleting ozone layer etc. but today, we have a whole new issue at hand, that is, COVID-19.
We all had our own plans for the year 2020 like graduating, getting a farewell, or perhaps plans like to visit the long lost cousin who you connected with on Facebook two years ago. In the same way, UNDP has goals to achieve, some by 2020, others by 2030. But this cursed year has been a major fiasco in so many ways that implementing those plans or reaching those goals, have become a thousand times harder.
Let me just briefly analyse for you what the UNDP had in mind for green energy in the SDGs. The SDG 7 is about affordable and clean energy to all dealing with the access of electricity, energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean cooking and investments in renewable energy production units.
SDG 9 is about Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, target 9.4 deals with upgrading the infrastructure to be sustainable and well equipped with green energy solutions.
SDG 12 is about sustainable consumption and production and its 12c target deals with reducing fossil fuel consumption to a cleaner alternative.
Now to be fair, such goals fall along the lines of ‘shooting for the stars’ for many developing countries but even so, before the pandemic we were doing relatively well to achieve our target, investments were flowing and development progressed every day. But there were still over 800 million people in the world who lacked access to electricity and over 2.8 billion people who did not have access to clean cooking fuel, and still don’t. We were progressing, but we weren’t quite on track for the 2030 target.
Then 2020 happened, which has been nothing less than a punch in the gut to most of us, in more ways than one can count. The world is currently facing the weakest economy in over more than 6 decades with 5.2% contraction in the global GDP, which can be considered the worst decline since World War II.
About green energy, there has been a reduction in over 20% of energy investments, which accounts for over US$ 400 billion. Although the CO2 emissions have fallen by over 8% in the world (lowest since 2010) because of widespread lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, the control of emission target is very much in near sight, but we know that this is a very ephemeral result.
With countries like Italy and India witnessing over 20-30% decrease in their power demands, the performance of Renewable Energy plants presents a very grim future. With investments falling and the high wind season approaching, the very basic maintenance of these plants will present a big challenge.
However, even with such a bleak future, India has presented itself as a leader of environmental movements (despite the domestic protests proving the opposite) to the world. After the Paris agreement of 2015, India submitted it’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pledging to cut down the CO2 emissions by 33-35% by 2030 and bringing them below the 2005 level, and to increase the renewable energy-based electricity up to 40 % which as of 2018 was at 32%. Also, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiated by India in association with 121 other countries bought our Prime Minister Modi the champion of the Earth Award.
Even though the circumstances may appear bleak today, there is always a way forward. As said by the UN secretary of South-East Asia Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddhihough “Focusing on renewable energy can prove to be a good investment at this time; creating jobs and improving the country’s ability to rebound stronger when opportunities grow”. The 2030 agenda along with the Paris agreement can provide us with an air road map for resilient societies with a strong health system. The private sector can play a ground-breaking role in Solar Energy and provide a breakthrough in the green energy goals of tomorrow.
Despite all that, it is always one’s love for their planet which will keep it conserved for generations of tomorrow and keep it safe from the demons of today.