Infusing new energy in a climate process desperately waiting for more ambitious actions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Monday that India would make a one billion-tonne reduction in projected emissions from now until 2030.
Making five big-ticket announcements at the climate change meeting in Glasgow — he called it ‘Panchamrit’ — Modi also accepted global demands to agree to a net-zero emissions target, setting a 2070 date to achieve it. India was the largest emitter, and the only G20 country, not to have announced a net-zero target until now, and there was increasing clamor for it to agree to one.
That apart, the Prime Minister significantly increased India’s previous climate targets, mentioned in the promises made during the Paris Agreement. India’s target for installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 has been enhanced from 450 GW to 500 GW. At the same time, the share of renewable energy in India’s total electricity generation has been increased to 50 per cent by 2030 instead of 40 per cent earlier. Modi, in fact, said that India will “meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030”, but that has never been the target. It has always been about the share of renewable energy in electricity production.
In addition, the country’s emissions intensity, or emissions per unit GDP, will be reduced by at least 45 per cent by the year 2030 from the 2005 levels. In its existing target, India had promised to reduce its emissions intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by that date.
Emphasising that India’s climate targets were not just another promise amongst several made by other countries, Modi said the Paris climate meeting, for him, was more than a mere “summit”. It was a “sentiment, a commitment,” he said, referring to the targets India had set for itself at that meeting.
India is currently the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, releasing over 3 billion tonne every year. According to World Resources Institute database, India’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 was about 3.3 billion tonne, up from 2.5 billion tonne in 2010. At this rate, India’s projected emissions between now and 2030 could be in the range of 30-32 billion tonne.
But India’s emissions are rising, at about 4 to 5 per cent every year. So the total emissions between now and 2030 is expected to be much higher, in the range of about 40 billion tonne. It is in this amount, that a one billion tonne reduction has been announced.
This is the first time India has taken any climate target in terms of absolute emissions. Before this, the closest reference to altering its emissions trajectory used to be in the form of emissions intensity. This is because under the international climate change architecture, only developed countries are mandated, and expected, to make reductions in their absolute emissions.
Incidentally, Modi did not make any mention of the forestry target, the only one that India is struggling to achieve.
Of the three promises it had made under the Paris Agreement, one related to creation of 2.5 billion to three billion tonne of carbon sink through afforestation efforts. The other two related to reduction in carbon intensity, and increasing the proportion of renewable sources in India’s total electricity generation, both of which have now been enhanced.
India’s new targets are expected to provide a fresh thrust to the climate talks which has been making extremely slow progress for the last few days for the lack of more ambitious action mainly from the developed world.
Of particular concern was the failure of the developed world to deliver on its decade old promise of mobilizing at least US $100 billion every year from 2020. That deadline was pushed back last week by at least three years.
Modi took the developed countries to task on this, and said US $100 billion was not even enough and must be enhanced substantially.
“We all know that all the promises made on climate finance have proved hollow. When we are all increasing our ambition on climate actions, then the ambition on climate finance cannot remain the same that it was at the time of the Paris Agreement,” he said, asking the developed world to commit one trillion dollars every year.
Earlier, Boris Johnson, who as Prime Minister of the host country has been pushing hard for an outcome that could prove decisive in the fight against climate change, said the impatience of young people would become unbearable if the world failed to make Glasgow a turning point, and “a moment that we get real about climate change”.
Borrowing a description from climate activist Greta Thunberg, Johnson even said all the promises made at the previous climate meetings would become nothing more than “blah blah blah” if Glasgow did not deliver something more meaningful.
“We must not fluff our lines or miss our cue because if we fail, they will not forgive us, they will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn,” Johnson said, invoking young people, and those “not yet born”.