Interim Budget: Propelling green initiatives for climate action

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Interim Budget: Propelling green initiatives for climate action

Thursday, 15 February 2024 | Kaviraj singh

India's commitment to sustainability extends beyond energy and transportation to encompass holistic environmental management

In the serene village of Gauripur, whispers of change floated in the air. Priya arrived with news that the sun was set to become the villagers' steadfast companion. The Interim Budget 2024 promised to solarise rooftops, bringing free electricity to every home. The village, once accustomed to dimly lit evenings, now stood at the threshold of a solar symphony that would illuminate lives and usher in a sustainable dawn.

In a groundbreaking move towards a net-zero carbon economy by 2070, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled key initiatives during the Interim Budget 2024, outlining a comprehensive strategy to combat climate change. The budget emphasises solar energy adoption, offshore wind potential, and other sustainable practices, marking a significant milestone in India's journey towards a greener future. One of the flagship announcements involves the solarisation of rooftops for ten million households, aiming to provide up to 300 units of free electricity each month. The Finance Minister highlighted that this initiative would not only empower households but also contribute to significant savings, estimated at Rs 18,000 annually, by selling surplus solar electricity to distribution companies. The Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) suggests that this effort could support the installation of 20-25 gigawatts of rooftop solar capacity.

With India standing fourth globally in renewable energy installed capacity, this move is poised to leverage the country's extensive coastline of about 7,600 km, especially off the coasts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, where an estimated 70 gigawatts of offshore wind potential has been identified. Similarly, to address emissions from the transport sector, the Government announced a phased blending of compressed biogas (CBG) in compressed natural gas (CNG) for transportation and natural gas (PNG) for domestic purposes. In this respect, a new scheme for bio-manufacturing and bio-foundry aims to promote eco-friendly alternatives. The government further aims to strengthen the electric vehicle ecosystem by supporting manufacturing and charging infrastructure, thereby encouraging the adoption of e-buses in public transport networks. This strategic move aligns with India's commitment to achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030. The budget therefore places a strong focus on electric mobility, with plans to expand and strengthen the electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. The large-scale rollout of e-buses, supported by payment security mechanisms, is set to decarbonise the mobility sector and position India as a potential hub for EV manufacturing. The announcement of a significant INR 1 lakh crore corpus is expected to attract private investment in clean energy innovation and research.

Moreover, introducing the Blue Economy 2.0 scheme, the budget focuses on climate-resilient activities and sustainable development in coastal areas. Prioritising restoration, adaptation measures, and expanding coastal aquaculture and mariculture through an integrated approach, this initiative underscores India's commitment to holistic environmental management.

Finally, while controversial, the budget also allocates resources to set up a coal gasification and liquefaction capacity of 100 million metric tons by 2030. This move aims to reduce imports of natural gas, methanol, and ammonia, providing India with energy security amid global shifts towards cleaner energy sources.

In this respect, while applauding the budget's green initiatives, experts urge an increase in allocation to the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) to reflect the expanding mandate for environmental and climate change initiatives. Advocacy for Green Budgeting as the third pillar of issue-based budgeting processes is emphasised to ensure the alignment of financial allocations with environmental goals. Moody's Investors Service has also praised the interim budget for its fiscal restraint and commitment to fiscal consolidation goals.  The rooftop solar scheme, offshore wind energy projects, and emphasis on electric mobility position India as a key player in sustainable development.

The global recognition of India's achievements in renewable energy capacity, as highlighted by the International Renewable Energy Agency's statistics, reinforces the country's commitment to a cleaner, greener future. In conclusion, India's Interim Budget 2024 emerges as a landmark in the nation's quest for a net-zero economy.

With a holistic approach encompassing solar energy, offshore wind potential, sustainable transportation, and environmental conservation, the budget lays the foundation for a resilient and environmentally responsible future. The initiatives outlined are not only crucial for mitigating climate change but also position India as a leader in the global transition towards sustainable development.

(The writer is the founder of Earthood views are personal)

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