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India follows China, to set clean-air goals

india Updated: Dec 03, 2009 01:47 IST

In a shift from its we-won’t-change stance, India is likely to announce a carbon-intensity reduction target in Parliament on Thursday, three days before delegates from 192 countries meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate an agreement to save the world from global warming.

<b1>Pushed to the wall by China’s swift moves on climate change last week, Indian scientists, policymakers and politicians on Wednesday scrambled to do two things: ready a last-minute announcement to show the world that India was willing to follow China in reducing emission intensity; and a simultaneous attempt to jump-start the creation of low-carbon technologies.

Emissions intensity is a measure of emissions per unit of GDP. It allows total emissions to stay intact while creating a cleaner, more efficient economy by forcing energy use to be cut for major industrial products, say, a tonne of cement
or paper.

Since India has already started energy conservation measures — but never totalled the numbers — it should be able to immediately trim 20 per cent off its emissions intensity by 2020; with technological changes, the country could
even commit to a 30 per cent cut.

“Between 1990 and 2005 we reduced emission (carbon) intensity by 17 per cent,” a Planning Commission official said. “There is no harm in declaring our emission intensity aim for 2030 without taking it as a target.”

Most of the emission-intensity reduction will come from the use of better technology in coal-fired power plants. These were the technologies discussed in Delhi in the first-such meeting of top Indian scientists and technocrats, chaired by Shyam Saran, the PM’s special envoy on climate change, and R Chidambaram, the government’s principal scientific adviser.

Coal-fired power plants generate 55 per cent of India’s electricity and are responsible for about 60 per cent of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas implicated in warming the planet.

The annual coal consumption in India is increasing at a rate of 5.5 per cent. The meeting, held in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan, brought together disparate authorities: India’s chief scientist, top coal bureaucrat, top atomic-energy scientist, representatives from India’s top power producer, National Thermal Power Corporation, and oil company, ONGC, and others, including top chemists and agriculture scientists.

The mission document on ‘clean carbon technologies’ will be ready by December 15 and examined by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, a top decision-making body on climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.