Cabinet okays India’s climate commitments

Updated on Aug 04, 2022 12:52 PM IST

The NDC, which count as the official commitment for climate action under the Paris Agreement, will be communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) soon, according to a statement from the environment ministry.

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

India on Wednesday updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) on emissions, promising to reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030, from the 2005 level, and achieve about 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, as promised by the Prime Minister in the Glasgow climate conference late last year.

And while there was no mention of the previously articulated net-zero-by-2070 deadline, an official at the environment ministry said that the two quantitative commitments are in sync with achieving that.

The NDC, which count as the official commitment for climate action under the Paris Agreement, will be communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) soon, according to a statement from the environment ministry.

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In addition to the commitments on emission intensity (in relation to the Gross Domestic Product) reduction and the increase in electric power share, a third new goal included in the NDC is to promote a healthy and sustainable way of living, based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation through what the government has called a mass movement it titles LIFE, or Lifestyle for Environment.

The Union environment ministry, in an explanatory note on the updated NDC, stated that the target on achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based sources would be taken up with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance including from the Green Climate Fund.

“India’s climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources. However, providing new and additional financial resources as well as transfer of technology to address the global climate change challenge are among the commitments and responsibilities of the developed countries under UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. India will also require its due share from such international financial resources and technological support,” the ministry said.

Responding to a question on whether the second quantitative goal is conditional to the delivery of technology and climate finance, a senior environment ministry official said on condition of anonymity: “That’s a commitment of developed countries as the problem of CO2 is due to the historical emission contribution due to them. CO2 remains in atmosphere for at least 100 years and up to more than 500 years. There is a commitment of $100billion every year by developed countries under UNFCCC. For us, therefore, a mitigation target like this is contingent on availability of adequate finance and technology.”

Wednesday’s decision, the ministry statement added, demonstrates India’s commitment at the highest level for decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. “India’s updated NDC has been prepared after carefully considering our national circumstances and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC). India’s updated NDC also reaffirms our commitment to work towards a low carbon emission pathway, while simultaneously endeavouring to achieve sustainable development goals.”

Experts said it will be crucial for India to stick to these commitments.

“It is very important that India walk the talk on climate change and it is significant that the Cabinet has cleared the NDC. But instead of a target on achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources, the government should have committed to 50% electricity usage from renewable sources including hydel. It’s good that India is saying that the target is conditional because to upscale and transform our energy systems we will need climate finance,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment.

Speaking at the Glasgow climate summit on November 1 last year, PM Modi announced that India’s non-fossil energy capacity would reach 500 GW by 2030, meeting 50% of the country’s energy requirements by then. He said India will reduce its total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030, reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030, over 2005 levels, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.

Also read: Climate crisis behind heat extremes in India, UK: Study

Modi also added in Glasgow that such ambitious action would be impossible without adequate climate finance from developed nations, calling on rich countries to make $1 trillion available as climate finance “as soon as possible.”

“These announcements are a step towards achieving the 2070 net zero announcement at Glasgow. The updated NDC is till 2030 while the net zero goal is for 2070,” explained the first environment ministry official.

India last submitted its NDC to UNFCCC in 2015. That commitment comprised eight targets for 2021-2030 including reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33- 35% by 2030 from the 2005 level; achieving about 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance; and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5- 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Other targets pertained to sustainable lifestyles, climate adaptation, and climate friendly growth.

“Out of these, India achieved an emission intensity reduction of 24% back in 2016. The next update on emissions intensity is expected early in 2023 when the next Biennial Update Report will be submitted to UNFCCC. India’s non-fossil installed capacity is 41%. Our target was 40% by 2030,” added the second environment ministry official, detailing India’s performance on the earlier NDC. This person admitted that India is lagging behind on achieving the carbon sink target.

A third environment ministry official and climate negotiator said India’s net-zero-by-2070 goal is still alive. “The NDC and long-term strategy are two separate issues and documents. We are also working on a long-term climate strategy for India. But for now, the NDC is meant to capture our commitments till 2030. India will again submit a revised NDC in 2025,” he explained.

“The decision by India to update its NDCs is in line with the PM’s Glasgow announcements. It reaffirms the ambition and yet puts sustainable development at the centre of the debate. It is clear that India does not envisage sectoral emission reduction obligations as part of its NDC at least till 2030. It has also removed a lingering doubt by clarifying that 50% of energy by 2030 is to be counted in terms of non-fossil fuel based electricity production,” said RR Rashmi, former climate negotiator and distinguished fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute in a statement.

“The revised NDC does not include 500GW of non-fossil fuel-based capacity by 2030 and a reduction of 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. The current renewable energy target stands at 175GW by 2030. In order to achieve 2070 net zero goals, India needs actionable short-term targets till 2030 that can help the country to achieve its long term goal,” added Vibhuti Garg, energy economist & India lead, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, in a statement.

The updated NDC also represents the framework for India’s transition to cleaner energy for the period 2021-2030. “The updated framework, together with many other initiatives of the government, including tax concessions and incentives such as Production Linked Incentive scheme for promotion of manufacturing and adoption of renewable energy, will provide an opportunity for enhancing India’s manufacturing capabilities and enhancing exports ,” the environment ministry’s statement said.

The net zero target by 2030 by Indian Railways alone will lead to a reduction of emissions by 60 million tonnes annually. Similarly, India’s massive LED bulb campaign is reducing emissions by 40 million tonnes annually, the statement added.

“The updated NDC has the virtue of simplicity. It resolves what were unclear and confusing statements in the Glasgow Panchamrit announcement. For example, a confusing pledge on reduction of 1 billion tonnes by 2030 (from what baseline? Cumulative or per year?) has disappeared. It also streamlines the pledge on renewable and non-fossil fuel energy, by boiling down what were two somewhat confusing pledges, one in percentage terms and one in GW capacity terms, into one clear pledge,” said Navroz Dubash, professor at the Centre for Policy Research.

“But what does this add up to in terms of India’s contribution to the climate challenge? First, the carbon intensity pledge of 45% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 remains intact, and this is a substantial pledge. According to CPR’s analysis in Ideas for India, India’s emissions intensity has been dropping steadily compared to others even though India is at a lower level of GDP. A 45% carbon intensity reduction is likely to be achievable based on current policies. Nonetheless, this is not a trivial task and will require deep structural changes in the economy,” he said.

“On electricity, the story is more mixed. Instead of a specific capacity number (500GW non-fossil capacity in the Panchamrit) the updated pledge states ‘about’ 50% cumulative installed electricity capacity by 2030. Notably, India is already at 40% non-fossil fuel capacity (which includes nuclear and large hydro), and the Central Electricity Authority has projected that just solar and wind could amount to 50% of capacity by 2030. Moreover, India already has a domestic target of 450GW renewable energy capacity, but nothing analogous now remains in the international sphere,” Dubash explained.

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“The cabinet approval of enhanced NDC targets is a significant step in the path towards India’s 2070 net-zero ambition. Share of non-fossil sources in India’s power generation capacity has already crossed 41% on the back of dedicated policies, and emissions intensity GDP declined by 24% between 2005 and 2016. That India’s ambition has been enhanced in the post-pandemic scenario needs to be emphasised and appreciated,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

India’s updated NDC will be implemented over the period 2021-2030 through programs and schemes of relevant Ministries /departments and with due support from States and Union Territories.

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