COP27: India unveils strategy for net zero goal by 2070, takes moral high ground

Published on Nov 14, 2022 11:10 PM IST

India’s long-term plan builds on the goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 with six elements including an optimum energy mix complimenting national development scenarios

Union minister for environment Bhupender Yadav at a news conference, as India publishes a long term emissions strategy, during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (REUTERS)
Union minister for environment Bhupender Yadav at a news conference, as India publishes a long term emissions strategy, during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (REUTERS)
ByJayashree Nandi

SHARM EL SHEIKH: India submitted its long-term climate action strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at UN Climate Conference (COP27) on Monday, joining a select list of countries that have articulated how they will achieve their net zero emissions goal in the long-term.

India updated its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement to the United Nations apex body on August 26 which has two broad quantifiable goals - that India will reduce the emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 45% from 2005 levels by the year 2030, and achieve about 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030. The NDC said the update will help achieve a long-term goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2070.

The overall climate finance requirement by 2050 to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 will be in the order of tens of billions of dollars and around 85.6 trillion by 2030 for India’s adaptation needs, the document that runs into over 100 pages said.

“Overall, although the estimates vary widely and are not directly comparable, these are in all cases substantial and of the order of tens of trillions of dollars by 2050,” the LTS said on India’s net zero goal.

According to Article 4.19 of the Paris Agreement, all parties should strive to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. The Glasgow Pact last year also urged parties to submit their long-term strategy.

“We have released India’s ‘Long-term Strategy for Low Carbon Development’ which will be submitted to the UNFCCC. This is an important milestone. Once again, India has demonstrated that it walks the talk on climate change. With this release, India joins the select list of less than 60 parties that have submitted their LT LEDS (long-term low emission development strategy) to UNFCCC…. India’s Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy that articulates India’s vision and action plan for achieving its NDC goals and the target of net zero emissions by 2070. And we are placing before all, the key elements of India’s transition to a low-carbon development pathway,” said Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav said at the launch of the strategy document.

The strategy is based on four key considerations, Yadav said. First, India has contributed little to global warming despite being home to a sixth of the world’s population; Second, India has significant energy needs for development; Third, India is committed to pursuing low-carbon strategies for development and, fourth, India needs to build climate resilience.

“The LT-LEDS has been prepared in the framework of India’s right to an equitable and fair share of the global carbon budget. This is the practical implementation of India’s call for “climate justice.” We have ensured that the strategy emphasises energy security, energy access and employment while keeping the focus on our vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat or Self-Reliant India, and Make in India. A strong emphasis on research and innovation is the key in all sectors and will be pursued vigorously,” he explained.

With the submission of the LTS, India also took a high ground to call for accountability and action from developed nations. “We also call upon developed countries to elaborate on their immediate plans on how they will achieve their targets. We see that following the current energy crisis, many have turned back to increased fossil fuels for energy security. It is not enough to say that targets for emissions reduction will be met, when the reality is that they will unequally consume even more of the carbon budget.” Yadav said.

“In a COP of Implementation it is essential to make progress on adaptation and loss and damage. Now is the time to tell the developing world how the promise of USD 100 billion is to be met. We, at Glasgow, noted with regret that it is indeed not being met. The world would like to know how the resources for meeting the world’s adaptation needs, whose estimates are rising constantly, are to be mobilised.”

The long-term plan now builds on the 2070 goal with six elements: These include: expanding renewables and strengthening the grid; exploring a greater role for nuclear energy and enhancing support for R&D into future technologies such as green hydrogen, fuel cells, and biofuels; appropriate demand-side measures such as energy efficiency improvements; rational utilisation of fossil fuel resources; enabling a focused transition towards low carbon development; and optimum energy mix complimenting national development scenarios.

The strategic transitions will be sectors including electricity, transport, urbanisation, industry, CDR (carbon dioxide removal), forests, finance and investment, research and innovation, adaptation and resilience, LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment, and international cooperation. Under electricity for example, the focus will be on expanding renewables and strengthening the grid.

On carbon removal, the focus will be on economic, technical and political feasibility of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), which is highly uncertain according to officials from the Indian delegation.

A transition to a low-carbon development pathway will involve costs, pertaining to the deployment of new technologies, development of new infrastructure, and other transaction costs. “In the longer term, such a transition will also have broader economic impacts. Several estimates regarding India’s financial needs exist. Many of them focus on the energy sector, including industry, buildings, and transport. Estimates vary across studies due to differences in assumptions, coverage, and modelling approaches, but fall in the range of trillions of dollars by 2050. In general, finance needs – and the domestic financing gap – are considerable, indicating a need for greater international support,” the LT-LEDS report has said.

Meeting finance needs require mobilising and scaling up financial resources internationally as well as mobilising domestic finance. International sources include multilateral and bilateral sources, dedicated climate funds, international institutional investors, and the private sector will be key. “India’s LT-LEDS is an important statement of intent to pursue low-carbon strategies for development, and a sound beginning toward doing so,” said Navroz K Dubash, professor, Centre for Policy Research, which anchored the research for India’s long-term strategy. The strategy is firmly, and appropriately, anchored in considerations of climate equity. It calls for developed countries to undertake early net-zero and to provide adequate finance and technology in support of India’s plans for low-carbon development, CPR said in a statement. “India’s LT-LEDS should be viewed as a living document. Future iterations should emphasize robust and transparent modelling towards net-zero by 2070, clearer identification of sectoral co-benefits and trade-offs, and more detailed discussion with states,” Dubash added.

Independent experts said it is an important move by India to release kits long-term strategy at COP27.

“The framing of a long-term strategy for low emission development by the Government of India and its public release at CoP27 is significant as it closely follows the announcement of net zero goals by India’s PM in Glasgow last year. With this, India joins the club of 57 countries that have long-term low-emission growth strategies as required by the Paris Agreement. Unlike the NDCs which specify targets to be achieved in the 2030 timeframe, the long-term document is more strategic in nature. But, it outlines seven key sectors or areas of intervention where coordinated climate actions will help India move towards the eventual goal. However, the strategy makes it clear that the long-term vision is likely to take several decades and is contingent on the development of technologies, missions, and mainstreaming of climate finance. The strategy emphasises, in particular, the necessity and willingness of the international community to provide space for growth to developing countries like India on the basis of equity and avoid linkages with trade. Significance of the LT-LEDS lies in the fact that it underscores India’s commitment to depart from ‘business as usual’ growth and eventually achieve net zero emissions goal. What is required now is to mainstream this strategy in the overall development plan of the country and develop a roadmap for targetted transition of each identified sector within a specific time frame. This will give it implementability and make it more monitorable from a national point of view. It would be ideal if this is done before the global stock take so that India can claim and lay out its vision for an equitable and yet low emission growth of the world in an early timeframe,” said R R Rashmi, distinguished fellow, The Energy Resource Institute (TERI).

“India’s LTS can guide the growth of Indian industry, urban planning, and infrastructure creation. Connecting India’s net-zero target with near-term climate actions is critical to avoid investments that might be incompatible with a low-emissions and climate-resilient future. Its sectoral approach is important since some sectors like transport currently have a small share in GHG emissions but are projected to grow in the coming decades. Involving several sectoral ministries in the LTS is commendable as they can coordinate to introduce transformative actions that go beyond current programs. It is also heartening that India’s LTS acknowledges the need for just transition measures not just in the electricity sector but also in transport. Currently, just half of the 50+ long-term strategies submitted by countries have full or partial legal backing. Going forward, India might also like to create a legal or institutional framework to pursue policies based on its long-term goal,” she said.

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