In a renewed climate action plan unveiled ahead of the Paris summit in December, New Delhi late on Thursday vowed to reduce its emission intensity or the quantum of carbon released per unit of GDP by 33-35% from 2005 levels and raise the share of non-fossil fuels in power generation from some 30% of the installed capacity now to 40% — both by 2030. This marks not just an extension but also an enhancement of the obligation the country had previously undertaken in the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference to cut emission intensity by 20-25% by 2020 and, according to the government, is “fair and ambitious”.
While India stressed that developing countries like it needed more liberal financial and technological support to sustain an ongoing reduction in emission elasticity with respect to GDP, it refrained from making a definite commitment to establishing carbon trading. Neither has India set a time frame for reducing emissions in absolute terms (it hasn’t defined when its absolute emissions would peak). The country seems to have kept its rightful development space, even as it remained wedded to the multilateral climate plan.
Green activists have mostly welcomed India’s climate action plan, saying it reflected the country’s “development challenges, aspirations and the realities of climate change”. India’s action plan is as good as China’s and better than that of the US, they said.
According to official sources, thanks to the reduction in emission elasticity being achieved on the back of improvements in technology, energy mix and energy efficiency, all offshoots of high economic growth, India is well on target to meet the goals for 2020. However, the new task could be even more arduous, demand action at multiple levels and involve all stakeholders, they said.
Aggressive afforestation is another prong in India’s strategy for emission intensity reduction: An additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent will be created by 2030 by enhancing forest and tree cover. The afforestation fund to be created with compensation monies from corporates setting up projects on forest land would stand in good stead and so would planting of trees alongside existing and new highways.
According to initial estimates, India would need around $206 billion between 2015 and 2030 for implementing the committed adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. According to a NITI Aayog estimate, the mitigation activities for moderate low-carbon development would cost around $834 billion till 2030. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that, as per preliminary estimates, “at least $2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030”.
In its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, India said that genuine requirements of developing countries like India for an equitable carbon and development space to achieve sustainable development and eradication of poverty should be safeguarded. (India’s CO2 emissions are way below that of China, the US and EU — in 2012, India’s share of global CO2 emissions was just 5.7%, against China’s 28.6% and the US’ 15.1%. In per capita terms, India’s emissions in 2012 was just 1.6 tonnes, against the US’ 16.4 tonnes and China’s 7.1 tonnes.)
“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of our collective enterprise… 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,” India said. The country admitted that coal would continue to be its predominant fuel in the medium term but outlined its ambitious non-fossil fuels plan. The country would 25 solar parks, supply 100,0000 solar pumps to farmers and convert all 55,000 petrol pumps across the country to solar, while also “aggressively” developing hydro and nuclear energy.
“India’s INDC is fair and is quite ambitious, specifically on renewable energy and forestry. It reflects its development challenges, aspirations of large numbers of poor people and the realities of climate change,” said Sunita Narain, director-general, Centre for Science and Environment.
In an action plan submitted to the UNFCCC in June, China had pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 60-65% by 2030, partly through the use of carbon trading. Beijing also said it would bring its absolute emissions to a peak by around 2030.
Targets for 2030: 40% of installed power capacity to be fed by non- fossil fuels; extra carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2.