While India continues to shy away from taking on legally binding actions to cut greenhouse emissions, Indian industries are in fact doing their bit to mitigate climate change as opposed to the general perception, say IPCC coordinating lead author Joyashree Roy and contributing author Shyamasree Dasgupta. The researchers say market competitiveness and economics are pushing Indian industries towards a low carbon growth path
The current political position of India in international climate negotiation is non-commitment to any legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation action. But it does not mean that India is not taking actions towards emission reduction, both at policy level as well as economic actor level. Irrespective of political positioning, market competitiveness is pushing industries to adopt a variety of measures to reduce their emissions, especially those who are global players both through their presence by investment in other countries or are in trade relations. They are doing more.
The recent fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also could not but include evidences of various mitigating actions adopted by Indian industries. Among the Indian manufacturing sectors, iron and steel and cement and ammonia are among the fourth and third largest producers globally. The good news is that India is experiencing a steady decline in specific energy consumption in the manufacturing sector (figure 1). This is mostly due to Information and Communication technology (ICT)-based optimisation of production processes (such as clinker/cement ratio), implementation of operations and maintenance improvements, fuel switching, and adoption of energy-efficient technologies.
The energy efficiency of dry cement plants in India has also gone up over the years and currently they operate very close to the global best available technologies [BAT] (Figures 2 and 3). The horizontal line in the figures show specific energy consumption associated with BAT of 2009.
It is important to note that in India, a transformational change has taken place in the cement production process. It is known that while in dry cement plants the average specific thermal power consumption is 805 kCal/kg of clinker, the figure for wet plants is 1480 kCal/kg of clinker. Over the past four decades, the sector has transformed completely. While in 1960, the wet process accounted for 94% of the total production, in 2008, it accounted for only 2%. The more energy efficient dry process has taken over the wet process and dominates the sector today.
A similar process transformation is happening in many other sectors. This is due to both technology availability and cost effectiveness.
In recent years, the gain in energy efficiency has been much faster and has played a bigger role in neutralizing the growth in energy demand in Indian manufacturing industries despite a growth in industrial production due to rising demand. The measures implemented by aluminium, cement, chemical, integrated steel plant (ISP), pulp and paper and textile industries during the period 2007-2012 in India are not costless. They have been implemented at varying costs by various companies to build their market image and competitiveness.
Also, it is important to know that most of these measures fall in terms of the cost per ton of avoided carbon dioxide emission in the range of $0.0-20 per ton of avoided carbon dioxide emission although high cost options have also been used. In fact, 63% of all measures across industries fall under this category.
The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and the follow up measures that are trying to build market based incentives are indeed creating an enabling environment for a low carbon growth. Be it fiscal incentive/market mechanism, the industries look for reward for value added activity. If the low carbon growth trajectory followed by industries adds value to national commitment (even if it is voluntary), that needs to be rewarded.
The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector needs special attention. The recent IPCC report identifies the cluster approach and role of ICT in SME sector for higher efficiency. Major barriers for SME sector are lack of capacity, access to appropriate technology, finance and targeted polices. Small paper mills in India, for example, cannot target global best practices. But identifying national best practices can provide some targets with incentives and handholding. Innovation in SME specific technology by an industry-institute partnership has yielded positive results in India in the past.
In India there have been several instances where the government has also taken proactive approaches towards SMEs to encourage locally environmentally responsible industrialisation processes and sustainable development strategy by making provision of land and infrastructure, access to water, non-conventional Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)-based power to private sector industries such as chemicals, textile, paper, pharmaceuticals, cement operating in industrial clusters which help in taking a system approach for optimisation and are good for climate mitigation. Building more such proactive evidence for India and showcasing them at the global level will strengthen India’s negotiating position as well.
Joyashree Roy is Coordinating Lead Author of the chapter on industry in the IPCC AR5 Working Group III report. She has been an author in IPCC AR4 and has been involved in preparing the Stern Review Report, and the Global Energy Assessment report. She is the ICSSR National fellow and Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Shyamasree Dasgupta, also in Jadavpur University, has submitted her PhD thesis on Indian industries’ performance relating to sustainable development and the National Action Plan on Climate Change. She is a contributing author in in the industry chapter of IPCC AR 5. She is also a Sylff Fellow and Donella Meadows Fellow.