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Hindus must rally again on climate change –

this time it's shipping

Dr. Nanditha Krishna,

President of the CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, Chennai

Hindu groups and leaders have spoken up many times on the urgent need to tackle climate change.

Just three years have passed since the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change was published. As that declaration said: “We must base our response to climate change on a number of central principles, expanding on the truism that the Divine is all and all life is to be treated with reverence and respect: Internalising vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the family of Mother Earth), promoting sarva bhuta hita (the welfare of all beings), and acting with an understanding of karma and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.”

This statement helped build the most active mobilization of Hindu organizations on climate ever seen leading up to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is only the start of an ongoing process in which nearly all countries in the world have committed to ratcheting up their emissions reductions every five years, while being monitored by their peers.

And crucially there were two global sectors entirely left out of the Paris Agreement – aviation and shipping. Carbon pollution from both industries, already a substantial contributor to man-made climate change, is expected to rise sharply as international trade accelerates. Curbing emissions from planes and ships is challenging because it’s difficult to attribute those gases to a particular nation.

Crucially there were two global sectors entirely left out of the Paris Agreement – aviation and shipping.

If it were a country, shipping’s climate-warming emissions would rank it 6th in the world.

As our lives have sped up over the last few decades, we have lost our balance. Consumerism and the superficial culture of instant gratification distance us from the natural world, and rely on the unsustainable exploitation of the earth’s finite resources.

Ultimately, if we don’t choose to change path consciously, we will be forced to do so painfully.

An incredibly simple first step is to slow down - not only in our own lives, but on a global scale. One proposal being considered by the UN this April is whether to impose a global speed limit on ships. Just like our cars, the world’s fleet runs more efficiently at a reduced speed, emitting less carbon dioxide. By burning less fuel, this technique can also remove billions of dollars off the operating expenses of the world’s fleet.

Another carbon-emission saving and money-saving option is to use wind assisted technology.Entrepreneurs in Japan, the UK, and Germany are developing high-tech automated sails which can cut fuel bills by 20% or more.

Just as solar and wind have finally become cost-competitive with coal-fired power generation and are driving it out of business, eventually zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells and electric batteries will drive oil out of the shipping sector.

Eventually zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells and electric batteries will drive oil out of the shipping sector.

As things stand, India is over-reliant on the global oil industry. India’s oil imports rose to a record 4.37 million barrels per day on average last year. However, as a country blessed with some of the best solar resources, India could well become the most competitive manufacturer of zero-emission fuels in the world.

This is even before considering the fact that when it comes to reducing the emission of air pollutants such as sulphur oxide, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the governing body of international shipping, has already made a decisive effort to diversify the industry away from Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) representing the most common and feasible alternative.

Recent measures by the Indian Government show India is already moving beyond oil and seeking alternatives in other sectors. India is expanding its use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, and encouraging electric vehicles. According to the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, India - the world’s third biggest consumer -is keen to explore biodiesel and other renewable fuels, and would be acting in its national interest by securing inexpensive crude and expanding its use of natural gas as it seeks to honour the Paris climate change agreement.

Recent measures by the Indian Government show India is already moving beyond oil and seeking alternatives in other sectors.

In the year 2017 alone, India added a record 9,255 MW of solar power with another 9,627 MW of solar projects under development. India launched its National Solar Mission in 2010 under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, with plans to generate 20 GW by 2022. This target has been achieved four years ahead of its deadline with India surpassing 20 GW of installed solar capacity in January 2018

In terms of reducing shipping’s contribution to climate change, the next big turning point is at the UN’s International Maritime Agency meeting on April 9-13, in London, where the world will decide on a strategy to de-carbonize the industry.

The next big turning point is at the UN’s International Maritime Agency meeting on April 9-13, in London, where the world will decide on a strategy to de-carbonize the industry.

At this meeting, we must urge our government to do all it can to protect Bhumi Devi - Mother Earth, and take the innovative pathway to India’s prosperity. India’s competitive advantage is in solar, not in oil. We can boost jobs, protect our economy from oil price volatility, and protect our oceans and planet too.

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