A role for India Inc
Operationalizing this approach will rest predominantly on the shoulders of India Inc. Strikingly, a large proportion of top emitters in India are already on the pathway to a Net Zero future. While the climate change think-tank ecosphere in India is bubbling with new-found zeal in churning out Net Zero punditry, projections and debates, several companies are way ahead of experts and policymakers.
By last count, 64 companies are well on their way to achieving Net Zero GHG emissions. While all of them have committed themselves to Science Based Targets, 28 of them have had their Net Zero targets validated. India’s biggest cement manufacturers and IT bellwether firms and many conglomerates are part of this group. Several others, including companies from the ‘hard-to-abate’ or carbon-intensive sectors are weighing their emission modelling against technological and financial projections.
Net Zero targets became the focus of India’s top climate change think-tanks in the lead up to U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry’s India sojourn a few months ago; it then became the topic of weekly seminars, discussion papers and opinion pieces in the pink papers.
Kerry stressed the need for the U.S. and India to come together to accelerate technological innovation and fight climate change, and to expedite deployment of renewable energy across India by 2030, in line with the latter’s NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) targets. He emphasised that the 2021-2030 decade would be “absolutely vital” for the world to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and to achieve Net Zero in 2050.
On the policy front, too, key government agencies have been moving the dial. In the summer of 2021, market regulator SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) revised sustainability disclosure norms to make them far more comprehensive. The new Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) will apply from the 2022-23 fiscal year to the top 1,000 listed companies. This was evidently in anticipation of the setting up of a new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to develop a comprehensive global baseline of high-quality sustainability disclosure standards to meet investors’ information needs.
The Reserve Bank of India, too, has joined the global Network for Greening the Financial System. It commits central banks to help in “strengthening the global response required to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and to enhance the role of the financial system to manage risks and to mobilize capital for green and low-carbon investments in the broader context of environmentally sustainable development”.
Transparency is the key
The road is likely to be bumpy, but in an increasing carbon-constrained world, there will be winners and losers. Indian industry, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s emissions, will have to be far more proactive. The coal habit will need to be “phased down” in an orderly, planned approach.
(The article first appeared in https://shaastramag.iitm.ac.in.)