Black Carbon

Black Carbon


India has promised to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 and accordingly the nation is focusing on using more renewable energy sources. But while long-term plans are crucial for reducing carbon dioxide, it’s also important to take action now to address immediate concerns.

GS-03 (Conservation)

Facts for Prelims:

  • Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6 ): It is the most potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 23,900 times that of CO2 over a 100 year of time period.
  • Major greenhouse gases: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and water vapour.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): Aims to create a smoke-free environment in rural India by providing discounted LPG connections to five crore families, particularly women below the poverty line (BPL), across the nation.

  • Coal Bed Methane (CBM): It  is an unconventional gas that naturally occurs in coal beds which is extracted from coal deposits. It is being exploited for commercial and industrial applications especially in sectors like cement, steel plants, rolling mills, and methanol production.

  • Initiatives to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emission:
    • Kyoto Protocol
    • Paris Agreement
    • International Solar Alliance
    • Global Biofuel Alliance

Mains Question:

Discuss the significance of addressing black carbon emissions in India. (150 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • About Black Carbon (BC)
  • The Issue
  • Causes of the issue
  • Solutions and Way Forward

About Black Carbon (BC):

  • Blackk carbon is also commonly known as Soot.
  • It is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • These particles are released by the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other biomass fuels. This process also releases CO2, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and organic carbon.
  • General Impacts:
    • Climate change: Black carbon contributes to warming by being very effective at absorbing light and heating its surroundings. 
    • Health: It is a component of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution, the leading environmental cause of poor health and premature deaths. 
    • Agriculture and ecosystems: The fine particles settle on plant leaves and increase plant surface temperature, dim sunlight that reaches the earth, and interfere with rainfall patterns. 

The Issue:

  • The prevalence of black carbon emissions in India, primarily from the residential sector, poses grave risks to human health, including heart diseases, birth complications, and premature mortality.
  • Despite strides in decarbonization efforts in industries and transportation, the persistence of traditional cooking practices exacerbates the challenge of reducing black carbon emissions.

Causes of the issue:

  • The residential sector emerges as a dominant source of black carbon emissions in India.
  • Traditional cooking practices that rely on biomass such as cow dung and straw are the major contributors to black carbon emissions.
  • With lack of proper implementation, initiatives like the PMUY that aims to transition households to cleaner cooking fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) also fall upside down.
  • Factors such as affordability, accessibility, and cultural preferences hinder the full realization of cleaner cooking practices, perpetuating reliance on traditional fuels with high black carbon emissions.

Solutions and Way Forward:

  • Government initiatives such as the PMUY play a pivotal role in facilitating the transition to cleaner cooking fuels among vulnerable populations. However, challenges such as low refill rates and last-mile connectivity gaps underscore the need for targeted interventions to enhance the program’s effectiveness.
  • Investments in alternative fuel sources such as coal-bed methane (CBM) gas produced locally through biomass composting, offer a promising avenue for expanding access to clean cooking fuel in rural areas.
  • Empowering local governance bodies, such as Panchayats, to spearhead CBM production initiatives can bolster last-mile connectivity and ensure equitable access to clean energy resources.
  • On the global stage, prioritizing black carbon reduction aligns with India’s commitment to sustainable development goals and climate mitigation efforts.
  • By leveraging initiatives like the PMUY to mitigate residential emissions, India can not only address pressing public health concerns but also position itself as a leader in global climate action.