It's in this uncertain environment that fast developing nations such as India are taking the lead in the global transition to a low-carbon economy. It has both the scale and power to bring about radical positive change. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion and an economy growing at over 6%, there is a lot at stake in making sure the transition is managed successfully.
India, as a nation, is embracing its pivotal role in helping to lead the global transition. In its INDC, the government has committed to the goal of receiving 40 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2030 and to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33% to 35%, by 2030. And ambition has already increased, with recent renewable rollout plans pushing for a far higher 57% to be covered by renewable sources by 2027, with Piyush Goyal - the Minister for Power, Coal, Renewable Energy and Mines - calling for up to 65%.
India is also leading the way in terms of energy efficiency. For example, the Narendra Modi-led government plans to replace all of its incandescent bulbs with LEDs by 2019. When implemented, the scheme is expected to save some 80 million tons for greenhouse gas emissions per year.
As a nation, India is also targeting to sell only electric cars by the end of the 2020s. Recent analysis from the National Institute for Transforming India and Rocky Mountain Institute shows the opportunity for India to lead the world in advanced passenger transport could save 876 million metric tons of oil equivalent, conservatively worth US$330 billion.
These goals represent huge challenges, but also huge potential economic benefits. For example, by 2022 more than 300,000 are expected to be employed achieving the country's goal to install 160 gw of solar and wind power, according to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
But in order to achieve these targets and realise the potential economic benefits the nation will need the full force of its companies to help drive the change that's needed.
Dozens of Indian companies are already taking bold action to transition to the low-carbon economy through the We Mean Business coalition's Commit to Action campaign.
One of the first sectors to realize the benefits of the transition has been the IT sector.
Tech Mahindra and Wipro are both driving business growth and innovation by committing to adopt science-based emissions reduction targets, via the Science-Based Target initiative (SBTi). The SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the United Nations Global Compact.
Wipro has managed growth of 15% over a five-year period alongside a 24% drop in emissions, with overall emissions intensity falling by 33%, CDP data shows.
Meanwhile, Infosys is helping to create real change in the country's energy system by committing to transition to 100% renewable power, via the RE100 campaign - led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP.
Together, the 100+ RE100 members around the world are creating demand for approximately 146 TWh of renewable energy, which is equivalent to more than a tenth of the electricity generated in India in the fiscal year 2016-17.
"We are working towards building a clean energy future. Expanding the share of renewables is key to addressing the chronic energy crisis our country is facing today. By taking the first step towards hundred percent renewables, we want to lead the way in creating a sustainable future and bring about an energy transformation in India," Ramadas Kamath, Executive Vice President and Head - Infrastructure and Sustainability, Infosys, said.
Infosys also joined the Low Carbon Technology Partnership initiative (LCTPi), led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Critically, the heavy-emitting sectors are also engaging with the transition. In the cement sector, Dalmia Cement, Ambuja Cements, Shree Cement and Ultratech Cement have all made bold commitments.
All four of these cement makers are collaborating via LCTPi to collectively work on reducing the carbon intensity of the sector, while helping to future-proof the industry. Dalmia is achieving this through its commitments to both RE100 and to doubling energy productivity via EP100, from The Climate Group in partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy.
"By becoming a RE100 member, we have reiterated our long-term ambition to upscale our renewable energy consumption, because we strongly believe that the future of renewable energy is bright and sustainable," Mr. Prashant Tripathy, Group Manufacturing Head of Dalmia, said.
While in the autos sector, Tata Motors is realising the benefits of committing to 100% renewable energy, via RE100.
"Our climate change policy aims to maximize the use of renewable energy in our manufacturing operations. Doing so will not only reduce our carbon emissions, but also lead to long-term financial savings," Mr. Arvind Bodhankar, Chief Sustainability Officer of Tata Motors Limited, said.
Mahindra & Mahindra, the country's largest tractor and utility vehicle manufacturer, is improving energy productivity to help drive business growth, via EP100.
"Corporations around the world need to reduce emissions if the goal of keeping global warming "well below" 2 degrees Celsius is to be met," Anirban Ghosh, CSO of Mahindra Group, said. "Improving energy productivity is the dominant form of mitigation that a corporation can contribute to. Hence we chose to join the EP100 program and make a firm commitment."
"Using more energy than required is literally like burning money and environmental resources," he added.
These forward-looking businesses are helping India achieve its ambitious trajectory, while harnessing climate action as a driver of innovation, competitiveness, risk management and growth.
However, the pace of corporate action here and globally now needs to radically accelerate to ensure that economic growth is sustainable. Indian companies at the forefront of the low-carbon transition can reap the potential competitive advantages, ensuring that the 'Make in India' initiative stands for climate protection as well as driving Indian growth.
(Nigel Topping serves as the CEO of We Mean Business - a coalition of organisations working on climate change with thousands of the world's most influential businesses and investors.)
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