India is at the crossroads of challenges and opportunities in its pursuit of sustainable development. As the largest democracy and one of the largest growing economies in the world, India is also home to the largest number of people without access to the basic facilities of modern life. Therefore, maintaining and further accelerating high and inclusive growth is the prime political, social and economic imperative for sustainable development in India.
A high growth trajectory cannot be achieved without an increased use of energy, which conflicts with the global imperative to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2010, at 1.4 tCO2 per person, India’s emissions were less than one third of the world average of 4.5 tCO2 per person – less than one fourth that of China and one twelfth that of the US; yet India has now become the third largest GHG emitter.
Therefore, while India can surely insist on its differential responsibility for mitigation, in the long run, there are no better alternatives than to aim for a rapid increase in the proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix, and an increase in energy use efficiency. This will reduce import dependency, promote new technologies and spur further growth.
At the other end of the spectrum, India is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which will pose serious challenges to the sustainability of its agriculture and livestock production, food and water security, coastal and urban settlements, human health and disaster risk management.
Adapting to the impacts of climate change requires a multi-pronged approach and strategies that go beyond the national climate change missions that are yet to achieve much headway towards implementation.
What are the challenges of balancing rapid economic growth with sustainable development? How can the goals of ‘access to energy for all’ be achieved alongside a reduction in carbon intensity? What are India’s innovative solutions for high economic growth in a low carbon economy? Why isn’t the sustainable development pathway more prominent in India’s public policy space? Is there a clear roadmap for the implementation of India’s sustainable development strategy? How can this sustainable development pathway be financed?