India plans net zero target around 2050, a decade ahead of China: report
Senior Indian government officials are debating whether to set a target of zeroing its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century, an ambitious target that would require overhauling its coal-dependent economy .
Officials close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi are working with senior officials and foreign advisers to examine ways to meet the 2050 deadline, people familiar with the matter say. A target of 2047 is also being considered, they said, to mark the centenary of India’s independence from British rule. People have requested not to be identified because discussions are private.
India, the world’s third largest emitter, has come under pressure to commit to net zero ahead of global climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland this year. Signatories to the Paris Agreement are expected to step up their commitments to slow global warming, and China – India’s biggest polluter and rival – has won praise from the international community for setting a target of net zero for 2060 in September.
The timing and scope of India’s announcement could depend on pledges made by other countries on April 22, when US President Joe Biden prepares to bring world leaders together for an Earth Day summit. The event is the first such meeting Biden will host as chairman, and he has asked climate envoy John Kerry to secure further commitments from attendees.
The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in New Delhi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Every country needs to step up its ambitions,” Kerry told the BBC during her visit to the UK earlier this month. He explicitly included India while designating “the 20 countries which represent the equivalent of 81% of global emissions”.
Once the United States adopts a widely anticipated net zero target, nine of the 10 largest economies will have made commitments to neutralize emissions. If India did too, it would mark an important step towards the Paris Agreement’s aspiration to prevent average temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial era.
There are signs that support is increasing at the national level for India to set a net zero target. Jayant Sinha, member of parliament from Modi’s Bhartiya Janata party, said on March 12 that he had submitted a private member’s bill to parliament that would make a 2050 target legally binding.
“A Net Zero Bharat will not only lead to a more prosperous future for India, but it will also play an important role in saving the world,” Sinha wrote in an opinion piece for The Economic Times.
On March 16, TS Singh Deo, cabinet minister of the state of Chhattisgarh in the east, said the region’s health sector has set itself a target of net zero for 2050. “Climate change is here. ‘one of the biggest challenges facing the world today,’ he wrote on Twitter. “I am happy to make our small contribution.
In recent decades, developing countries have produced significantly less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than countries that industrialized previously. In 2018, India was the sixth largest historical polluter, after the United States, China, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Even the Paris Agreement recognizes this reality, noting that nations have “common but differentiated responsibilities”. The clause was used to support arguments that rich countries should cut emissions faster, allowing poorer countries to use fossil fuels a little longer to help them achieve the prosperity the West has enjoyed since. decades.
“For countries like India, the most important thing is to achieve the greatest development for the least additional emissions,” said Navroz Dubash, professor at the Center for Policy Research and editor of the book “India in a World in warming “. “You don’t want to do what China has done, which is to quickly increase emissions and then reduce them quickly. You want India to find ways to avoid locking itself into high carbon infrastructure. “
Some government officials want to see what the United States says about the Paris Agreement targets at the April 22 meeting before committing, including whether Western countries change the Paris targets in any way. either, people said.
India’s existing commitments are already relatively ambitious, with the nonprofit Climate Action Tracker giving it the highest rating among major economies. The country aims to expand renewable energy to 450 gigawatts by 2030, nearly five times the existing capacity, and reduce emissions intensity to at least a third of 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
Achieving net zero emissions would require India to set even more ambitious renewable energy targets, electrify not only its transport sector but most industrial processes as well, find solutions for hard-to-reduce sectors like construction and agriculture, and dramatically strengthens its commitments for almost every product imaginable.
With a growing population and a still industrialized economy, a net zero target for India will be much more important than for most economies. “The country may not agree to net zero targets by 2050 without external financial support,” said Shantanu Jaiswal, analyst at BloombergNEF.
Modi will also have to face a possible retreat from within his government. India’s energy ministry previously delayed a campaign to curb toxic emissions from power plants, arguing the sector could not meet the original 2017 deadline to improve releases of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and mercury .
There is no consensus among ministries on the goal of net zero, sources close to them said, with some officials saying India should not bow to the pressure as its fossil fuel consumption is expected to increase over time. over the next decade.
Nonetheless, Modi has already surprised his own government with political announcements that have had a huge impact. In 2016, he shocked the nation by banning some 86% of banknotes overnight as part of a historic demonetization program, while last year he gave no warning by locking the country down. to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
While a net zero goal would clarify India’s position on the climate, it will not be successful without short-term goals, said Jonathan Elkind, senior researcher at Columbia University. Without clear political routes, he said, “any long-term goal will remain elusive.”