Coal emits nearly double the amount of carbon as other fossil fuels, but 41% of the electricity needs of the world, are still fulfilled using coal, as per the World Coal Association. The Hindustan Times, in an article on 17th November, stated that global scientists have issued a “warning to humanity.”
According to the article, 15,000 scientists from 184 nations signed on the letter, emphasising that all major environmental threats have become worse. And this is the second warning.
The principal threats have been identified as global warming, and continually increasing carbon emissions due to fossil fuel burning, unsustainable farming practices, rapid deforestation, loss of fresh water, depleting marine life and more ocean dead zones.
Scientists, according to the article, found it “especially troubling” that the world is on the road to “potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.”
The letter includes 13 solutions, and makes a strong case for renewable energy, and phase out subsidies for fossil fuels. The International Solar Alliance (ISA), a joint alliance between India and France, is an important initiative in this regard. It wishes to infuse a seriousness among member countries about the issue of climate change, and enable a switch to a low-carbon growth path.
The ISA — an organisation which works to efficiently exploit solar energy, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels — was conceived by India as there was no independent body to address the needs of solar resource-rich countries located entirely or partially in the tropics.
First proposed in 2015, the alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organisation. The initiative brings together countries with rich solar energy potential, to aggregate demand for solar energy, to reduce prices, deploy solar technologies, and promote R&D.
The ISA is headquartered in India. The foundation stone was laid in 2016, jointly by Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande, in Gurugram. India has pledged a target of installing 100GW by 2022 and reducing emission intensity to 33-35% by 2030.
The alliance entered into an understanding with World Bank, in 2016, to accelerate finance for solar energy. The bank will mobilise more than $1000 billion in investments, to meet ISA’s goals to deploy affordable solar energy on a large scale.
The rationale behind this is that most of the countries lying wholly or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn get nearly 300 days of good sunshine a year, making them highly suitable for solar energy, provided they get the best technology and ample financial backing.
The initiative has been gaining momentum, and is all set to become a legal entity, on 6th December 2017. RK Singh, the Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy, told PTI,
“The ISA will become a treaty-based international intergovernmental organisation on December 6, 2017,” adding that, “It will be a major international body headquartered in India. As many as 45 countries have already signed the ISA treaty, and 15 have ratified it till November 30, 2017. Many more are set to join.”
South Korea, Germany, Mongolia and Nepal have approached the International Solar Alliance for membership with voting rights. The fast pace of progress has attracted countries which were initially not included in the 121 prospective members. Upendra Tripathy, the first Director-General of the ISA, told the Times of India that there was no reason countries that don’t fall entirely or partially between the tropics could not join the ISA. Hover, these nations may not get voting rights.
An ambitious project, the ISA corpus has already received $27 million from India, to meet the cost of its Gurugram-based secretariat for the first five years. The current global capacity of solar power is 303 GW, including 12GW in India. In 2016, nearly 75GW of power was further added, thus leading India to revise its solar power target from 20GW to 100 GW by 2022.
In developing and emerging economies, affordable financing is difficult. The ISA plans to expand solar power in nations that are resource-rich but energy-poor, by mobilising finance from wealthier countries, to facilitate universal energy access. Lowering financial costs, developing common standards, encouraging knowledge sharing and promoting R&D collaboration are some of the strategies involved.
The ISA has been receiving rising political approval around the world, to act on climate change and make the smooth transition to a low-carbon country. Now, thanks to the partnership with the World Bank, the ISA will be recognisable by the UN legally to become fully functional.
At the grass-root level, solar power is gaining popularity amongst ordinary Indian citizens. People install solar panels on their home roofs in the cities, in order to harness sunlight. They have begun to realise that in a tropical climate like ours, this is ideal.
Adopting solar energy, as the primary source of power may take time. People are still dependent on traditional methods; it isn’t uncommon to see coal being used in various parts of the country. Solar energy is abundant, and renewable, and leaves absolutely no carbon footprint.
As reported in the Hindustan Times, the letter written by the scientists suggests that “To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual.”