When we talk about sustainable development, we refer to the ways or means by which we carry out our developmental process without causing much harm to Mother Nature.
It is a way that many individuals, as well as many countries, are adopting to follow the path towards sustainability and a safe future. But it is not as easy as it seems and there are numerous obstacles to reaching the goal of sustainability.
Understanding Climate Change
Climate change is a global and very urgent issue. The consensus today suggests that we are in a state of global warming and if we don't do something about it, we will face consequences that are beyond our control.
According to NASA, the polar ice caps are melting at a rate of 9% every decade. The thickness of the arctic ice has reduced by nearly 40% since the 1960s.
The main contributor to the issue of global warming is the consumption of fossil fuels, which is the level of energy consumption.
The developed countries have been consuming a huge amount of energy for a long time now. As of today, the per capita energy consumption in the west is much higher than in developing countries.
We are nowhere near the goals and targets we set for ourselves in the Paris agreement. While this is happening on one side of the world, the other side of the world has seen a huge movement toward development.
With the rate at which China has grown and the rate at which India is growing, as more and more people start to consume more energy, we have to find a way that will help both the developing world as well as preserve our environment for the future generations
Can India Sustainably Meet Its Development Targets?
India is the world's seventh-largest country. It is home to 1.3 billion people and is also one of the top 5 largest economies if the world.
It has been growing at a rate of over 5% over the last decade. India is a country with large disparities. It has both abundance, wealth, and poverty. To rise above it, India need to develop significantly. But there's a more serious question to it;
Should there be development at the cost of the environment?
Understanding Development and Its Measures
Talking about development, we all think of it as urbanisation and the higher GDP of a country. Well, that is true technically, but in a much more real sense development is the quality of life one is entitled to.
Amartya Sen, in his book 'Development as Freedom', states that "Development is the process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy".
One such measure of development is the Human Development Index (HDI), which analyses the 3 major aspects that are life expectancy, education, and per capita income.
Correlation Between Development And Energy Consumption
At higher levels of development, as the countries develop, they reach a certain point after which need not increase their energy consumption to develop.
Whereas at the lower levels of development, there is a strong relationship between the two. Significant improvements can be brought about by increasing a small amount of per capita energy consumption.
As of today, India has an HDI of 0.6 and a per capita energy consumption of 600 kg of oil per person per year. According to government projections and the calculations by statisticians, India will reach an HDI of 0.8 in the next 15 years, and to reach that level, India will need to increase its energy consumption. That would result in India consuming 1800 kg of oil per person per year, 3 times the present consumption.
But such an increase in energy consumption will adversely increase the carbon emissions. The three largest consumers of energy, India China, and the USA use fossil fuels as their main source of energy which in turn is the main cause of global warming.
Today India is the 3rd largest emitter of carbon dioxide. This is quite disturbing, but the fact is that to reach its target of an HDI of 0.8, India will consume more and more of its energy resources and will be emitting carbon dioxide at unsustainable levels.
Similar will be the case in all developing countries around the world. But development is of utmost necessity because many people are living without basic access to food and water. The solution to this is that we need to find more sustainable options.
Controlling emissions of carbon dioxide is not easy, countries like US and UK are still tackling this today. Perhaps the most common solution is the introduction of renewable resources of energy. A study shows that the percentage of renewables in India and China is higher than that of the USA. India is indeed moving toward a more sustainable country and the government is keen to make the country a solar-powered nation.
Most developing countries have a huge potential for wind and solar energies and if guided properly, these countries would consider exploiting these renewable resources rather than going down the carbon route. But it is not as simple, there are quite other factors that come into play.
People are not aware of global warming and climate change and even if they are, they don't take it seriously. Climate change is a global phenomenon and it requires a global effort. Every country as well as every individual needs to contribute their part toward a sustainable future because the future of our planet depends on us.
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