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How will technology help India realise net-zero emissions in the coming years?

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By Vaibhav Kaushik, Co-founder and CEO, Nawgati

India is amongst the fastest developing nations across the world, and with it come challenges that can not be neglected. India has become responsible for almost 7.09% of emissions in the world, the highest after China and the United States. Several sectors have recorded high demand in manufacturing; fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix; traffic congestion has surged multifold; and open burning of agriculture releases millions of tons of CO2 each year into the atmosphere.

In this unresolved environmental equation, we need various variables, including but not limited to policy, people, and technology, to strike a balance so that we can move towards a net-zero emission nation. While the rest of the pieces are falling into place, we need powerful technology that can help lead to a lower carbon footprint. It has the potential to revolutionize every sector of the economy, driving us toward minimum pollution and reduced wastage, ultimately achieving net-zero emissions. In India, this is not just an ambitious goal but a necessity, and technology will play a pivotal role, and we must first and foremost focus on adopting technologies in the most polluting sectors:

Energy

India is the world’s third-biggest carbon-emitting country, and it’s no secret that fossil fuels have played a significant role in this. However, the energy revolution, marked by renewable sources, is here to drive us towards cleaner and clearer skies. Solar, wind, and hydropower are at the forefront, and advanced technologies are making them more efficient and accessible. Development requires energy to support functioning, and smart grid integration can help create a more sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure. Private sector companies are investing heavily in American energy storage technology that can lower production costs by half compared to lithium-ion batteries.

Electric Mobility

India’s busy streets demonstrate its vibrant culture but also the poor air quality index, which will rise even further over the next couple of months. Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of transportation, and technology will drive this transformation. Initially, there were hiccups in the adoption of EVs. However, with advancements in battery technology, EVs are becoming the primary choice of the masses. Charging infrastructure, IoT-connected vehicles, and governmental policies are all playing an indispensable role in addressing the gap. Another advantage that follows the transition to EVs is that it will not only reduce emissions but also lower our oil import bills.

Agriculture and AgTech

Agriculture contributes over 18.8% to our gross domestic product. It forms the backbone of India and is also a significant contributor to air, water, and soil pollution. Burning of crops, their residue, application of fertilisers and insecticides, heavy-duty machinery, and other sources release pollutants that reduce quality of life. The agricultural sector is ripe for technological intervention. AgriTech startups in India are playing a crucial role in designing advanced tools and technologies that use sensors, drones, and data analytics. AI-driven precision farming, robotics, farm management software, and vertical farming, among others, are also playing a crucial role in revolutionising agricultural practices – helping farmers make informed decisions about planting, fertilisation, and irrigation to increase their yield, optimise resources, and reduce wastage.

Manufacturing

There are a million products in the market, and manufacturing is at its all-time high—one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions with over a 12% contribution. With a surge in manufacturing activities, we have seen a steep rise in emissions directly being released into the ecosystem. The manufacturing sector is another area where technology is propelling us toward net-zero emissions. With the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies in India, including automation, artificial intelligence, and IoT, we have enhanced efficiency and minimised waste. However, it is a long journey ahead, as only big conglomerates have been able to transition to a more technologically advanced manufacturing unit, and many still follow the traditional process. Predictive maintenance and digital twins are also helping Indian industries reduce energy consumption, cut emissions and reduce downtime.

Way Forward

Technology can only be effective if there is a conducive environment to enable it. As we journey toward net-zero emissions in India, here are some steps that we must take:

● Investment in Research & Development: The government, industries, and educational institutions must come together to invest in research and development for innovative, sustainable technologies and also create an ecosystem that encourages a technological mindset. It will help not only initiate a conversation around emissions from ground zero but also encourage advancements in clean energy and eco-friendly industrial processes. The Government of India has recently launched an initiative called MAHIR (Mission on Advanced and High-Impact Research) to facilitate research, development and demonstration of the latest and emerging technologies in the power sector.
● Regulatory Support: The adoption of green technologies requires robust policies and regulations. The government must introduce tax incentives and set carbon pricing and emission reduction targets to encourage the transition to sustainable practices.
● Infrastructure Development: Reducing dependency on non-renewable sources and moving to renewable energy sources, adopting electric vehicles and energy-efficient devices, and introducing farmers to precision farming can help create a favourable environment for net-zero emissions backed by technology.

To Sum It Up

While the government is promoting innovation in technology to help create efficient and effective methods to reduce emissions, it has also been trying to promote green hydrogen, electric vehicles, and renewable energy to encourage Green Growth. Further, the government has introduced a low-carbon strategy – the concept of ‘LiFE’ (Lifestyle for Environment) to promote responsible energy consumption. Several such initiatives will enable the country to realise the net-zero emission goal, as they can further help in dropping India’s greenhouse emissions, which are currently dropping by a faster-than-expected rate of 3% annually. This journey to net-zero emissions in India is an ambitious dream but also a vital one. We are at the crossroads of technology capability and environmental protection, and the balance of both will guide us towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.

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