Cover Image
close this bookThe Global Greenhouse Regime. Who Pays? (UNU, 1993, 382 p.)
close this folderPart III National greenhouse gas reduction cost curves
close this folder8 Integrating ecology and economy in India
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentEmissions inventory
View the documentEnergy efficiency and fuel substitution
View the documentEmissions and sequestration from forest biomass
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

Introduction

Recent years have witnessed a growing concern regarding the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth's atmosphere. This concern has led to many in-depth studies of the phenomenon. Individual country studies have ranged from simple (albeit data-intensive), inventories of GHGs to evaluation of policy options to stabilize or reduce emissions in some future year. Impact studies have focused on better understanding the effects of gases on atmospheric temperature, monsoon patterns and sea level rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the global temperature would increase up to 3.5C by 2100 under the most likely scenarios.! The results of these models and other studies prompted calls for an international treaty which nations could adopt to restrict the growth of emissions. Such a treaty was put forward at the 1992 UNCED meeting in Rio de Janeiro. The text of the treaty was debated for many months prior to the convention. One of the critical divisive issues was the sharing of burden among the various parties. This issue lies at the heart of the debate among nations on climate change. Burden sharing is difficult to resolve since the emissions burden that each nation shoulders is different for each gas. And, it depends on the historical cumulative emissions that a country may have emitted through its use of various fuels. The burden varies by the type and extent of impact that a nation may have to bear as well.

The cumulative share of carbon dioxide emissions from the developing countries between 1870 and 1986 is estimated to be only 15 per cent but, with 76 per cent of the world's population, their share of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 1986 was about 27 per cent. This share is increasing since their modern energy growth is faster than for other countries. IPCC scenarios of future emissions indicate that worldwide emissions of carbon and other gases would continue to increase even if the developed countries were to reduce emissions from their current levels. These shares suggest that the developed countries should shoulder a greater responsibility for historical emissions but the opportunities for reducing incremental emissions may be more abundant in the developing countries.

Unlike other airborne pollutants, such as SOx and NOx, which are emitted in trace amounts, are very reactive and can be scavenged at the source, GHGs are emitted in far more diluted and much larger amounts, which poses a problem in attempting to physically remove the gases. The main alternatives consist of eliminating or reducing the emissions of these gases, or growing biomass to sequester carbon dioxide. Much of the current deforestation occurs in developing countries, and reversing or slowing this process would aid in reducing future emissions.

Given the above background, developed countries have insisted that reducing GHG emissions from the developing countries is vital. If necessary, such emissions reduction could be accomplished with assistance from the Global Environment Facility (GEE). On the other hand, the developing countries have argued that the growth of emissions is an unavoidable consequence of economic growth, as was the case with the industrialized countries during their past. Hence, global environmental protection should not be allowed to penalize development. Is this difference reconcilable?

For a signatory to the Climate Convention, the adoption of policies and strategies to restrain emissions growth is an important goal to pursue. A nation would find it easier to follow such options to the extent that these are adoptable without hindering its current or anticipated development trends. Many studies have argued that alteration of growth patterns will lower social welfare and add to the cost of future socio-economic development. We will cite several studies for India to illustrate the opposite view that the adoption of such policies need not reduce social welfare. Indeed, accelerated adoption of certain energy and forestry policies, some of which are already being promoted and implemented, will lead to reduced carbon emissions anal or increased carbon sequestration at no additional cost to the nation. The pursuit of such policies will shift the business-as-usual growth to basic-needs-oriented development.

Adoption of such policies may be slowed or thwarted by many barriers in developing economies. In the case of India, scarcity of capital and of hard currency are twin dilemmas which often limit adoption of the most efficient policies. Lack of institutions to facilitate the adoption of high energyefficiency technologies is another barrier. Reddy (1991) lists the many barriers to improving energy efficiency.

If adoption of such policies were to increase social welfare and achieve reduction of GHG emissions at no extra cost, then is a nation justified in seeking international support for implementation of these options? As we illustrate for India, even if the life cycle cost of abatement projects is less, the up-front costs of these projects may make them prohibitively expensive to pursue. As provided for in the Convention, India could justifiably seek support for projects meriting such assistance through the Global Environment Facility.

This chapter addresses three main issues dealing with these topics: emissions inventory and the uncertainty of estimates; energy efficiency, fuel substitution and the economics of GHG abatement; and emissions and sequestration from biomass growth.