New Delhi, Jan 30  Amid the clamour of demands increase in every sector, the greens too have demanded an increased allocation and stricter compliances that would not just help usher in a better life for Indian citizens but also help India meet the international commitments at the global forums vis-a-vis climate change.

During last few years, air pollution has become a major issue across India, not just Delhi-NCR. Increase in frequency and intensity of cyclones and the loss of lives and damage to infrastructure caused due to it have raised the demands for climate resilience and promotion of solar energy amongst renewables has been pushed as a major mitigation effort.

The Budget 2021 had indicated Centre’s intentions even when not up to the mark but the experts in the field of environment, sustainability and agriculture are hopeful that the Budget 2022 would adequately address these issues.

The fag-end of 2021 saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26, the annual climate conference, present an ambitious agenda for India’s contribution to the global efforts to combat climate change.

Offering ‘Panchamrit’ or five nectar elements, Modi promised installation of 500 GW non fossil energy capacity by 2030, reduction in emissions intensity of GDP by 45 per cent over 2005 levels, 50 per cent electric installed capacity coming from non-fossil sources by 2030, 1 billion tonnes reduction in carbon emissions till 2030 and India to become net-zero by 2070.

“India’s climate targets will require about $35 billion investment in energy storage in this decade alone. Budget incentives and risk guarantees to attract investment in battery storage will be key to ramp up non-fossil electricity generation,” said Ulka Kelkar, Director, Climate Programme at World Resources Institute, India (WRI India).

Pointing out that India’s climate targets aim to increase non-fossil electricity capacity from 158 GW to 500 GW in just nine years, Kelkar said: “Since land is precious, we need budget incentives to realise the full potential of rooftop solar PV. And since critical mineral reserves are scarce, the budget can provide incentives for circular economy, urban mining, and e-waste recycling.”

India director, Climate Policy Initiative, Dhruba Purkayastha echoed the need for India to focus on distributed renewable energy to meet the 500 GW renewable energy target.

“Pumping clean energy into the grid will not get us beyond 30 to 40 per cent of renewable energy share. The budget needs to put emphasis on distributed energy programmes with distributed renewable energy such as battery storage rooftop solar, solar pumps, solar charging stations etc.”

The budget can also make a big difference in the EV (electric vehicles) story, Purkayastha said, adding: “The EVs transition is good for managing the Urban Air pollution but does not do much for carbon mitigation as the power consumption is still from the carbon intensive grid. So, a focus on distributed charging stations with storage etc. will make this transition truly clean.”

Taking up the point about air pollution and air quality, Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, an advocacy think tank, recalled how the Union Budget 2021-22 was a shot in the arm for India’s air pollution crisis with an allocation of Rs 2,217 crore to tackle the problem in 42 urban agglomeration.

“However, disbursement of these funds seems to have failed the objective on many counts. States such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab could utilise less than 20 per cent of the allocation made for them, failing to balance the attention on major sources like industry, thermal power plants and construction waste with only two years remaining to meet the national clean air programme targets,” she said, and asserted: “The Budget 2022 has to demand a stricter and time bound framework for performance assessment before allocating the next tranche of the budget.”

Air pollution in northwest India had several components and burning of parali (agro waste) by farmers of Punjab or Haryana was blamed, often unnecessarily as data showed, for the problem.

Talk of sustainable farming practices took a major precedence when Prime Minister Modi in December called for majorly promoting natural farming that he said, would be beneficial for both the environment and the farmers themselves.

Natural Farming is one of the sustainable agriculture practices that are being promoted under the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture.

“However, the mission received a mere 0.8 per cent share of the agriculture budget last year. As a result, no single sustainable agriculture practice has more than 4 per cent of Indian farmers practising it. Let us hope the upcoming Union budget would provide a significant thrust to sustainable agriculture, including Natural farming, to move India’s food system on a resilient and healthy pathway,” said Abhishek Jain, Fellow and Director, Powering Livelihoods, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

The other demands from experts included creation of a national just transition fund for fossil fuel sector workers and MSMEs, which can also attract grants from international climate funds. Defining green finance and directing banks and capital markets through appropriate regulation would go a long way in shifting finance towards green growth of the Indian economy, the experts said.

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