The Natural, Political, Economic and Social world is feeling the tremors of the Coronavirus Pandemic. This pandemic not the first in human history but indeed has a character of its own and is idiosyncratic in itself. It has manifested its presence in all areas of human life, creating havoc all over the world. However, the governments of the world have to plan its roadmap towards recovery in a sustainable manner by using green and renewable ways. This article aims to highlight the tussle between the two sides of energy and how the dynamics have started to change in the pandemic world, with the inclination towards a green recovery.
THE ENERGY CRISIS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Non-renewable energy in a layman’s language can be defined as the energy which comes from those sources which will run out and not get replenished for thousands of years. Most of this non-renewable energy comes from non-renewable resources such as petrol, coal and natural gas (most of them being fossil fuels). While Renewable energy can be defined as a clean energy which comes from natural processes that are constantly replenished.
The Non-renewable fuels supply about 80 percent of World’s energy. However, when Fossil fuels are burnt, carbon dioxide emissions are generated in large quantities leading to high levels of Air pollution thus creating imbalance in the environment. Various international conferences and summits have been held to tackle the interconnected issues of carbon emissions and climate change, be it the Earth summit back in 1992 or the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 under the aegis of UNFCC (United Nations Framework for Climate Change) or be it the Paris Climate Conference amongst others.
All these treaties and conferences have had one thing in common and that is to limit the level of carbon emissions in the environment and therefore the need of the hour is the adoption of Renewable energy.
NON RENEWABLE VS RENEWABLE ENERGY DURING COVID TIMES
Covid 19 has definitely created a considerable shift and has been a game changer in the battle of the two energies. It became ironically the kinetic energy for the Renewable energy.
The whole world came to a standstill during the pandemic with lockdowns being imposed in many parts of the world stopping the economic engines of many economies, the manufacturing industries came to a standstill leading to socio-economic havoc, but environmentally the air became cleaner and got the hiatus and the break that it deserved. This can be seen through statistics showing how power sector was adversely affected.1 For example, in Italy there was a 20 percent reduction in demand and prices for power. In India as well in 2020 power demand was drastically reduced by 25- 30 percent. It was during this time which saw a boom in the demand for renewable energy.
It is true that Renewable energy has been gaining ground especially in the last decade with many investors pushing their stakeholders to adopt greener approaches and that is why this pandemic provided an impetus for investors to further push for cleaner fuels. 2This can be matched up to the fact that the global use of renewable energy increased by 1.5 % in 2020 while renewable electricity generation increased by almost 3 % in the first quarter of 2020.
It is true that Energy transitions are happening in most parts of the world and Renewable energy is becoming more and more monetarily affordable (For example Solar Photovoltaic PV, and Wind power becoming the cheapest sources of electricity in many markets). Thus, the pandemic gave an impetus to Renewable energy growing as a making it possible for policy makers to create a roadmap for a Green Recovery.
GREN RECOVERY FOR THE POST PANDEMIC WORLD: A ROADMAP
Green Recovery can be defined as the adoption of sustainable and green methods for a better future in the Post Pandemic world.
3A recent UN report stated that – ‘Despite a dip in CO2 emissions caused by the pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century. However, the report stated a low carbon recovery could lead to about 25 percent off the emissions by 2030’. Thus, the importance of growing green is paramount.However, one must note that the Green Recovery plans have been a point of contention between the Global North and the Global South. The simple argument being that the more developed countries have the capital and the money to rebuild their economies the green way and give more focus on the simultaneous achievements of both the short-term goals (economic and social re-development) as well as the long-term goals (Climate crisis) in contrast to the developing countries which would have to focus on the immediate goals of socio- economic development. Having said that one would expect that the developed countries (having the front seat to go green) would actually utilize the opportunity, but the statistics point out in completely different direction.
4According to a recent Oxford report the 50 largest economies of the world have pledged an estimated $14.6 trillion for post pandemic recovery however less than one- fifth is being directed towards green initiatives. Despite these astonishing numbers there is a silver lining and some countries are indeed setting up examples, these include developed countries like Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway. For example, Germany despite being a heavy coal user, is now making plans to decommission coal fired power plants. Other countries like Denmark are setting a symbiotic relationship between green energy and socio-economic equalities, where most of its green initiatives have been aimed at lower income communities, along with energy efficiencies used in public housing by substituting window and oil burners with greener products.
There are indeed some pros and cons in the green recovery roadmap that the Global North has created for themselves, but one must also look at how the countries from the Global south can perform in this world stage of green initiatives. To understand this, the author shall analyze India’s roadmap towards green recovery
TOWARDS GREEN RECOVERY A CASE STUDY: INDIA
Till now I have explained this conception from a global perspective, but now the article will explain how India has shown some strides towards renewable energy. Be it, its diplomatic efforts to tackle climate change or infrastructural efforts it can be said that India is indeed slowly moving towards a greener future. In the first half of 2020 there was 150GW of wind and solar power installed, as compared to what was installed in 2019.5
PM Modi, while speaking at the United Nations Climate Ambition Scheme in mid-December 2020 stated that India was on track to reach and ultimately exceed , its ambitious renewable targets. As per recent data India’s renewable capacity stands at 90GW. PM Modi had recently announced that there is expectation that India’s clean energy capacity would reach 220GW by 2022.
With these renewable energy targets in mind, India has shown certain indications for a green recovery by going green in the following key areas –
Even though these steps do look that major key sectors in India have aligned their interest towards a green recovery, However the road is long for India to fully go green, there are many obstacles and since it is still a growing economy most portion of the economy is depended on the non-renewable energy. These baby steps towards renewable energy is necessary but will it be enough? That is the question.
REALITY CHECK TOWARDS GREEN RECOVERY
7A recent UN report stated that countries have fallen short in their green recovery commitments that is to build back better for the post pandemic world, with statistics up to a mere 18 per cent of announced recovery spending going towards ‘green’ investment.
This reality is shocking that even though some of the leading economies are trying to take steps towards ensuring green recovery for the post-pandemic world, however, these steps are too less and creating too less of a footprint as compared to the large footprints created by the carbon emissions in the world. The UN report ‘ Are We Building Back Better? Evidence from 2020 and Pathways for Inclusive Green Recovery Spending‘, stated that governments should invest more sustainably as well as tackle inequalities for a green recovery. However, we are far away from this seemingly elusive goal. The numbers are a case in point showing these realities.
Some findings suggests that over $66 billion was invested in low carbon energy globally, and $86.1 billion globally for green transport.
These figures are shocking and all the countries should get their act together and try to see the Silver lining for a greener future.
This pandemic has shaken the world and affected the whole of humankind. But there is another major challenge waiting at the hindsight, the challenge of climate change which if not fixed will lead to a climatic apocalypse much worse than pandemics. The way is to go green. There has been vivid representation of a plausible climatic apocalypse through cinematic pictures. One such prominent example is the anime Nausicaa Of the Valley Of The Wind. It depicts a possible future earth which has completely lost its ecosystem and people are living in a post-apocalyptic world. The picture drawn by this anime is horrifying yet gives a valuable lesson on the need to respect the Earth and not disrupt its ecosystem. A 1984 classic captures a possibility of the future and blames the past generations for the mess of the world that they had created.
This can become a reality if we don’t act now, the window of opportunity is closing, the way is to adopt the cleaner and the renewable way.