India promises to aggressively cut its carbon emission intensity by 2030

New Delhi, Oct. 9 (ANI): India’s long anticipated climate action plan that it submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on October 02 signalled the world’s largest democracy’s clarion call for climate justice.

In its 38-page national document, India pledged to adopt the energy efficiency route by committing to reduce greenhouse gas intensity — the ratio between gross emissions and a country’s GDP at a particular point in time – by 33 to 35 percent of its 2005 levels by 2030, as well as increase its share of clean energy by ensuring 40 percent of its electricity will come from non-fossil fuel sources.

India is banking on its ambitious goal of installing 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2022.

These national pledges, known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions comprising mitigation (emission cut promises) and adaptation measures, will form the basis of climate negotiations in Paris in December this year.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International’s global climate policy manager, called India’s INDC to be ‘extremely comprehensive’.

“It’s solution-oriented,” he said of the INDC. “It talks not just about national circumstances, but how energy needs are going to grow and the number of initiatives we have to make sure of a low-carbon pathway,” Singh added.

The country also commits to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional tree cover. The plan prioritises efforts to build resilience to climate change impacts, and gives a broad indication of the amount of financing necessary to reach its goals.

“While this target is admirable, the government needs to ensure that any afforestation or forest regeneration programmes recognise the primacy of community rights and avoid monoculture plantations. The government should prioritise protecting existing forests, including from threats such as coal mining, to achieve the stated forest targets,” commented Pujarini Sen, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace India.

The country, however, clarified that India’s INDC do not bind it to any sector specific mitigation obligation or action, including in agriculture sector and said its successful implementation would depend on cooperation from the developed countries.

While coal and other fossil fuels will continue to play a role in India’s energy mix in the decades to come, the announced targets will spur a transition toward cleaner sources. That’s good news for the environment, economy and the estimated 300 million Indians who do not have adequate power supply.

New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment’s projections show that in 2030 India’s total emissions could reach about 4.5-5.0 billion tonnes. Its per capita emissions would be about 3.5 tonnes. In comparison, the per capita emissions of the US and China are projected to be around 12 tonnes.

“From all angles, India’s INDC is as good as China’s and better than the US’s considering that both these countries have higher emissions than India and are economically more capable of reducing their emissions and mitigating climate change,” said CSE’s deputy director general, Chandra Bhushan.

India’s carbon dioxide emission per year is 1.97 billion tones as compared to China’s 9.86 billion tones and 5.19 billion tones by the US.

Sanjay Vashist, South Asia director of Climate Action Network (CANSA), said, “India, through its announced INDC, demonstrates its willingness to play an important role on the international stage ahead of the climate talks in December in Paris.”

The document reveals that India planned to develop 25 solar parks, supply 1,000,000 solar pumps to farmers and convert all 55,000 petrol pumps across the country to solar. It also pledged to ‘aggressively’ develop hydro and nuclear energy.

“The real benchmark for India’s INDC is whether it avoids lock-in to a high-carbon future,” said Navroz K. Dubash, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research.

“By this standard, the most serious component is the detailed list of sectoral actions. This shows that key economic and infrastructure ministries have been closely engaged in formulating climate policy, which is an important break from the past,” Dubash added.

India said its plans were ‘fair and ambitious considering the fact that India is attempting to work towards low carbon emission pathway while endeavoring to meet all the developmental challenges the country faces today’, adding that its long-term plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions builds on its Copenhagen pledge of a 20-25 percent intensity reduction by 2020.

“Despite the challenges in implementation, this plan reaffirms India’s intent to achieve its bold renewable energy goals. If PM Modi succeeds in building international partnerships, India will go a long way toward achieving his ambitious vision for renewable energy,” World Resources Institute’s India CEO, Nitin Pandit, said.

Preliminary estimates indicate India would need to spend around $206 billion between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems, the submission said.

India referred to an estimate given by National Institution for Transforming India, saying the mitigation activities for moderate low carbon development would cost around $834 billion till 2030 noting that mitigation requirements are even more enormous for the country.

“India’s climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources. A substantial scaling up of the climate action plans would require greater resources…,” said the 38-page document.

India’s INDC raises a prickly issue still unresolved on the road to Paris – the extent to which rich nations will help others to reduce their emissions and to handle climate change effects. It says the government wants ‘to mobilise domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap’.

Throwing its weight behind a strong deal in Paris, the government has said, “The successful implementation of INDC is contingent upon an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties, technology transfer and capacity building.”

“I hope that developed countries will fulfill their financial commitments for climate change and developments, without in any way putting both under the same head,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his speech at UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York last month.

The government has not yet finalised how much climate money India will need from rich nations. According to a preliminary estimate, India will need at least $2.5 trillion for meeting climate change actions between now and 2030.

India is set to seek out the developed world to share some of the extra costs of putting up projects that help cut the green house gas emissions. In return India could offer over $100 billion worth of business opportunities in the next five years to firms producing solar equipment and setting up such plants.

Prime Minister Modi said that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of India’s enterprise for a sustainable world.

As a country exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, there is heavy focus on adaptation and resilience in India’s INDC.

A World Resources Institute analysis points out, “While India currently spends 3 percent of its GDP on adaptation, the INDC noted that enhanced investment in these activities will require additional support through domestic and international funds.”

The Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, scheduled from November 30 to December 11 this year, will for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

It will determine what the 196 countries will do in their respective individual capacities post-2020 to save the world from disastrous consequences of climate change.

Despite its low per-capita emissions, India is already the world’s third-largest carbon emitter. Its huge population of 1.2 billion, a fast-growing economy and rising use of coal make its role crucial if the U.N. summit is to succeed.

As the world’s third-largest emitter and a country that’s highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, it is encouraging to witness India invest in actions to tackle climate change while addressing poverty, food security and access to healthcare and education.

By Avik Roy (ANI)

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