Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director — Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), believes the auto industry needs to gear up for a “comprehensive lifecycle-based carbon neutrality approach” across the entire manufacturing process.
This is consequent to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which has cautioned about the increasing risks of climate change and greenhouse emissions. In India, manufacturers and their suppliers have already begun working towards fresh targets for energy-efficient carbon neutral components.
According to Roychowdhury, automakers have to “pay extra attention” to designing vehicles to cope with more extreme weather. Be it flooding or extreme heat, “all these climate-sensitive designs” will happen and it is therefore important to be future ready.
As she says, there will be operational changes too. “The IPCC report says the transit infrastructure is also going to be very vulnerable to the extreme — you know, the devastation and destruction we will have to keep in mind.”
It is in this backdrop that financing becomes crucial in order to work towards this new roadmap. “How that is going to change is something we will really have to understand,” says Roychowdhury. For instance, the damages incurred as a result of a sea level rise in Mumbai could be in the range of $50 billion by 2050.
“Global climate finance has to work towards equity and countries like India should be able to source that finance to fund some of the big transitions,” she adds. Within India itself, aligning investments in different sectors, including transport and vehicles, is critical.
Increasingly, all governments around the world are under pressure. India has committed itself to reducing one billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 which essentially means that the future is about steering clear of fossil fuels. Beyond this is the need to ensure a carbon-neutral production process.
With the IPCC report also stating how heat islands are going to increase in cities, Roychowdhury says vehicles need to adapt to extreme climate conditions like heat and floods. “Even testing requirements need to take into account additional climate and heat stress. This is how the whole ecosystem needs to adjust and adapt to the changing scenario.”
In her view, what is “very powerful” about the report this time is that it is an explicit and strong recognition of the problem of equity and inclusiveness. Essentially, it has focused on the “one very critical area” which is displacement that will happen owing to climate change.
The report specifically mentions Mumbai which ranks second among the 20 largest coastal cities scheduled to see flooding and a rise in sea levels. With its river-line coast, where rivers are also flowing in, this “mixed ecosystem is actually going to increase the (city’s) vulnerability”.
Flooding will also lead to higher home repair costs for the low-income group and eat up a big chunk of their income. This is the customer segment that buys entry-level motorcycles and even at this point in time, sales are languishing because their income levels have been badly hit by the pandemic.
The recently drafted Mumbai Climate Action Plan, which seeks to bring about net zero carbon emissions for the city by 2050, is a step in the right direction. The challenge is to ensure that it is implemented with a clearcut roadmap.
The economic implication of climate change is huge and just cannot be ignored especially from the viewpoint of commodity prices and investment patterns. “The whole financing that is now needed from the funding of this new strategy will be a critical part of this transition,” says Roychowdhury.