Union Budget 2022-23: To go net-zero by 2070, environment, energy, water needs to become the mainstay of every Budget
That climate change is for real is no longer a question. Governments play a major role in determining the speed at which to arrest it. It is everyone’s responsibility that the next generation inherits the earth as we got it and more so for the government to lead by defining the right policies.
Here’s a ten-point agenda for the Budget to set the right process rolling.
Focus on R&D in clean energy
First, to ensure a self-reliant India, focus on R&D in clean energy – hardware and science. Allow MSMEs to get exemption on their inhouse R&D expenditure in the areas of clean energy under Section 35 to the extent of 200 percent. CSR funds to be allowed the same exemption, if used for scientific research. This will encourage the industry to spend more on research and development.
Make it mandatory for new construction to use green materials
Make it mandatory for new construction to use green materials, thermal energy storage technologies for heating and cooling to reduce demand load for electricity. Extend income-tax rebate for expenses made towards the use of green materials in construction.
Increase research grants for energy efficiency
Increase research grants from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and relevant ministries for energy efficiency, clean energy, sustainable solutions directly to industry. The Department of Biotechnology has done it very efficiently and the grant-giving is very smooth and extremely fast. DST, however, is still bureaucratic. The same process needs to be followed for DST grants.
Merge Ministries of Environment, Health, Sports
Merge the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Youth and sports. Sports need a good environment and lead to better health. A focus has to be on the environment and physical activity to reduce the healthcare expenses of the country in the long run. A healthy individual is a result of a clean environment and physical exercise besides nutrition. These are interlinked and need to be looked at holistically. Ministry of Environment, Health, and Sports would be an ideal Ministry to have. This ministry should be considered as important as the Ministry of Defence or External Affairs.
Prioritise adoption of EVs, sustainable means of transport
The adoption of Electric vehicles and other sustainable transport means like metros, buses need to be prioritised. Encourage office goers to move towards the use of public transport by reducing costs through subsidized transport. Waive road tax on EVs or introduce higher taxes on petrol or diesel vehicles. Give a fillip to the automotive industry by phasing out all diesel buses more than 10 years old and incentivising states to introduce electric buses. Make it mandatory for all petrol pumps to have at least 4 EV charging stations. Petrol pumps already have access to electricity, only space for cars needs to be carved out.
Create dedicated cycling, walking paths in cities
Increase spending on infrastructure for the ease of living – through creating dedicated cycling and walking paths in all cities. This will give a great boost to the bicycle industry, electric cycles, reduce pollution substantially, encourage walking and cycling and indirectly reduce health expenses for the state. Learning from the pandemic is that we need to prepare for future pandemics. Shutting down cities will only create poverty. But if you create open cities for people to go about their work, shutting down will not be necessary.
Provide grants for cold chain agri storage, transport
Cold chain transport and storage in the agriculture space has become a necessity to prevent food wastage as well as double farmers’ income. Simplify the process for village entrepreneurship models through startup India grants. Let village youth come together and associate themselves with a company of their choice and start providing distributed renewable energy-based solutions as a service.
Cooling appliances should get energy star ratings
Eighth, cooling is going to be the largest energy guzzler as India modernises. Make it mandatory for all cooling appliances to get energy star ratings.
Connect industrial hubs to port via rail
Prioritise investments in moving from road to rail. Every industrial hub in each state should be directly connected to the port via rail. This will allow cheaper transport and make the export of goods competitive.
Introduce energy-related curriculum in ITIs
Introduce energy-related curriculum and capacity building in the ITI’s. Each ITI must be adopted by industry in the energy sector to train individuals on the latest technology. Trained manpower is required for India to become a manufacturing hub.
India made an ambitious commitment at COP 26 – to go net-zero by 2070. A distant dream, but if it is to be achieved, no time can be lost and the environment, energy, and water need to become the mainstay of the Budget every year for the next 50 years.
The writer is MD, Pluss Advanced Technologies. Views are personal.