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India needs to achieve climate goals without compromising its economic progress

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Respected Prime Minister, your recent address at the Conference of Parties (COP 26) on Climate Change has given young people of my generation a sense of relief. At a time when the rising levels of air pollution in our cities is choking us, we had been eagerly waiting to know and understand our government’s point-of-view on the issue of climate change which is a great threat to human existence and prosperity. India and most others globally are facing recurring episodes of extreme weather conditions including flash floods, heatwaves and air pollution. 

The objectives you laid out during your speech, such as reducing India’s carbon emissions by 1 billion tons by 2030 and achieving 50 per cent of our energy requirements from solar and renewable energies is quite ambitious, but have to be achieved for a better future for our generation. A problem here is the fact that about 70 per cent of our country’s electricity is produced by coal plants. Additionally, due to the large domestic reserves of coal, you presided over an event called ‘Unleashing Coal’ on 18 June 2020 as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign aimed at developing domestic resources. As many as 4 million people are currently employed both directly and indirectly in the coal industry. Removing the cord attached to coal, that India has, will require an extensively thought out plan. A large disparity can be seen in the energy needs of the poorest in our nation as this change toward sustainable energy should not only be sustainable but, in my opinion, also be inclusive of all people. We want to hear from you on how India plans on achieving these goals without compromising its economic progress. 

A recently published UNICEF report has underlined that children in India are at extreme risk of climate change which is threatening their health, education and protection. I see this happen every day. In the last five years, our school has been shut several times due to emergency levels of toxic air in our city. After a long period of online learning, we were finally excited to come to school in the hybrid mode but not just Covid variants, smog has also clouded our happiness time and again. Our grandparents and several peers around us have developed serious respiratory problems. We have to plan with our parents before planning any outdoor activities. This is not the childhood anyone could have wanted.  

The time is now

The problem is more grievous than it may seem and demands a multi-faceted approach. For example, smoke in our air is not just because of stubble burning but vehicular traffic also. But why do discussions about it start only when the PM 2.5 levels cross the 500 mark? This is an issue around the year and needs a solution once for and all. We need a strong push for alternative modes of transportation. For this, people need ample options which include facilitating green corridors for cycling as a commuting option, making electric vehicles more affordable and innovating more options that are viable from the economic perspective of our country. My other worry is the unending issue of stubble burning. For the sake of our collective good, all stakeholders must reach a consensus, address the concerns of farmers and put an end to this annual fair. We need your leadership to take charge immediately and help us breathe safe air.  I also urge your government to be at the forefront in preserving our forests, creating more green lungs in our cities and making solar energy an essential source for power generating across the states. 

Sir, I have been learning about the potential of the sun and the impact of solar energy on humans and our environment. While writing this letter, I came across a report published by the National Statistical Office in 2020. It outlined that the potential of renewable energy being used across India could produce over 1 trillion watts of energy which certainly reassures our hope for a brighter future. It is pertinent to note that over 60% of the power needed by the Delhi Metro is provided by solar power and that I have personally seen an increasing number of charging stations for electric vehicles pop up around me. My school, the Shiv Nadar School, Noida in collaboration with the Indian Youth Nuclear Society (IYNS) held a scientific awareness educational boot camp (EBC) with the topic of discussion for this time “Let us celebrate – the Sun” and coincidently it started around the same time of your COP26 address. I attended numerous panel discussions which gave me a better insight into the potential of the sun that can be harnessed to aid and improve the lives of humans. 

We are learning about our role and responsibilities to help achieve a better future and create a green world. On behalf of my generation, I want to pledge my support in whatever way possible to help combat the unprecedented threat we all face by global warming and increasing air pollution. 

We would also like to hear from you on how we can help India in this fight. I would once again like to thank you for your commitment to combatting climate change. We are hopeful to see this commitment getting delivered soon for the sake of our present and future. 

The author is a student at Shiv Nadar School, Noida. Views are personal.

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