Integrated planning for reducing GHG emissions and air pollutants will yield greater benefits: TERI study
An assessment of co-benefits of low carbon pathway on air quality, human health and agricultural productivity in India
India has demonstrated its commitment to fast-track greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measures that align well with its development priorities. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was launched in 2008, and a concerted effort was put in place to draw strategies that would help India in aligning its development with low-carbon actions. Moreover, the NAPCC also ensured that there was a broad spectrum of initiatives built-in towards such a goal. The intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) submitted by India to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in October 2015, is ambitious given that India has already been incorporating several low-carbon solutions and strategies across sectors. India has committed to reduce the GHG emissions intensity of its economy by 33–35% by 2030 as compared to the 2005 level. A consideration of co-benefits, such as improvement of air quality, expected reductions in human health impacts, increase in agricultural yields etc. against a business-as-usual (BAU) pathway, can significantly strengthen the case for proposed climate actions by tilting the overall cost-to-benefit ratio favourably towards the latter. Furthermore, as elucidated in the NAPCC’s approach of simultaneous advancement of India’s development and climate objectives, co-benefits are viewed as more meaningful objectives to pursue rather than outright climate mitigation. Therefore, it is extremely relevant that while assessing the implications of a low carbon growth trajectory for India, the co-benefits to be derived from proposed policy measures designed to mitigate climate change are also evaluated and quantified. Additionally, consideration of co-benefits will support more informed prioritization among available policy options.
In this context, TERI has conducted this study which is supported by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation. The main objectives of the study were to carry out a co-benefits assessment of various energy policy scenarios. Four different alternative scenarios modelled within the energy (MARKAL) model, depicting varying levels of GHG mitigation options are considered to assess not only the CO2 emission reduction potential, but to also identify and examine the possible co-benefits of the alternative options. The co-benefits that are assessed and quantified include reductions in emissions of air pollutants, change in concentration of air pollutants, impacts on human health, and agricultural yields. The whole of India’s landmass is chosen as the study domain for the assessment. This study assesses the air quality improvement co-benefits of various energy development and mitigation pathways using integrated modelling techniques to convert energy use information under different scenarios to air pollutant emission and its corresponding impacts on human health and agriculture.
Key findings from the study
- Although, coal continues to have a major share in power generation over time, the capacity of coal based power plants successively declines across the three high growth scenarios (INDC , AMBI , BAU), increasingly being replaced by renewables like solar and wind electricity.
- The industrial sector shows significant dependence on coal while the transport sector shows dependence on petroleum even in the Ambition Scenario
- The Low Growth Scenario interestingly indicates a GHG emission pathway which is close to that of the Ambition Scenario till 2031 and will be closer to the INDC Scenario by 2051.
- While the INDC scenario shows a significant decrease in PM2.5 concentrations as compared to the Reference (BAU) scenario, the AMBI scenario does not show further decrease in PM2.5 concentrations indicating that CO2 emission reduction is not necessarily synergistic with decreasing local air pollutants, and may need specific and concerted action to address the latter as well.
- India can reduce its PM2.5 pollution on an average by 13% by achieving its INDC.
- The Low Growth scenario shows lower PM2.5 concentrations in 2030 than all the other scenarios, while it shows higher PM2.5 concentrations than the INDC scenario in 2050. The Low Growth scenario in 2050 assumes lower penetration of efficient technologies.
- Ozone concentrations are expected to increase significantly in future in the BAU scenario due to projected increase in emissions of both of its precursors—NOx and VOCs and will be reduced by3-4% in INDC and AMBI scenarios.
- The AMBI and INDC scenario shows a decline of 9%–11% in mortalities due to air pollution which can be attributed to improvement in air quality.
- Study suggests that the decrease in the consumption of energy in different sectors does not necessarily lead to a proportionate decrease in the associated emission of air pollutants and their effects on human health and agriculture. However, there are significant co-benefits of low carbon energy policies on air quality, human health, and agricultural productivity. Evidently, there is a need for drafting integrated and synergistic strategies to control emission of both GHG and air pollutants.