Experts praise India’s ‘bold’ net zero emission pledge at COP26

‘This is an unprecedented bold announcement from the Prime Minister. This is more ambitious than either the EU and Chinese announcements’
IPrime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech during the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on Tuesday. Climate experts praised India’s net zero emission by 2070 pledge at COP26. (AFP)
IPrime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech during the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on Tuesday. Climate experts praised India’s net zero emission by 2070 pledge at COP26. (AFP)
Updated on Nov 03, 2021 07:03 AM IST
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ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

What does India’s announcement of transitioning to net zero emissions by 2070 mean?

After all, it isn’t easy for an emerging economy with extremely low per capita emissions (and low per capita incomes), to declare its intent to decarbonize, however gradual the process may be.

And what does this deadline mean for when the country’s emissions will peak?

The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline—especially those of major emitters like the United States and China—is critically important in determining whether the most dangerous climate impacts can be avoided.

And how significant is India’s announcement?

In the wake of India’s announcements -- enhancing its non-fossil fuel power capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW) by the end of the decade, up from 450GW; getting half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030; reducing carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 45%; and cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by 1 billion tons from the business-as-usual scenario by 2030 -- HT spoke to experts on the ramifications.

Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, CEEW

India’s pledge is very significant. This is an unprecedented bold announcement from the Prime Minister. This is more ambitious than either the EU and Chinese announcements. For an economy that is expected to grow fast for the next two decades, even peaking in the next 20 years is not an easy feat.

Realistically speaking India should peak by 2040-2045. It takes a pretty long time to change our energy systems. I think 30 years is a reasonable time. So, there will be a lot of growth in the near term. We are trying to clarify with the government if it’s talking about meeting 50% of India’s energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. It’s not possible. Then you are referring to all sectors. I think they are referring to 50% installed capacity for electricity from renewable energy.

This announcement will shake Indian and global energy markets and give a sense of much needed long-term certainty to the investors in the energy domain. The enhanced ambition of 2030 targets make the net-zero announcement even more credible. The Prime Minister has stamped India’s leadership in the climate discourse. Any ambitious target would have its share of challenges. The biggest near-term challenge is in electricity market design and distribution sector reforms. For the longer term, it would be managing the human resources in the coal sector. Skilled human resources for the new shape of energy markets would be critical. So, challenges galore, but strategic planning would help see us through.

Professor Lord Stern of Brentford, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (said in a statement)

This was a very significant moment for the summit, with Prime Minister Modi pledging stronger action by India on climate change, with five new targets. These include a further increase in clean energy to 500 gigawatts by 2030, a reduction in emissions intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2070. Together this might mean that India’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases could peak by 2030.This demonstrates real leadership, based on a track record of action and ambitious targets, that can deliver on both economic development and climate change, from a country whose emissions per capita are about one-third of the global average. The rich world must respond to Prime Minister Modi’s challenge to deliver a strong increase in international climate finance.

Sandeep Pai, research lead at Center for Strategic and International Studies

India’s net zero pledge is bold. For a developing country which has not even carbonized to talk about decarbonization is ambitious and sets the targets clearly. However, devil will be in the details or in other words what would be the exact plans to achieve this target. In the absence of these plans, this pledge will not mean much. By when India will have to peak to meet the pledge will really depend on the sectoral pathway the country will follow. For example, when will the coal use peak in the power sector?” he said adding that “India’s 2030 targets are achievable but not easy at all. From DISCOM reforms, raising large-scale finance for deployment of renewables, managing land issues, to aligning centre-state climate policies will be key determinants of whether India will be able meet its 2030 targets or not.

Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment.

Our analysis shows that India’s pledge at Glasgow is achievable. If we just look at Central Electricity Authority’s projections, it shows we are on track. India’s power requirement in 2030 is projected to be 2518 BU and if we target to meet 50% of our requirements from renewables, then the installed capacity will have to increase from the planned 450 GW to 700 GW. If we consider hydroelectricity as part of renewables – as it is considered globally – then we will need to increase new renewable capacity to 630 GW. This is achievable. The issue of net zero emissions is anyway inequitable. If it were to be equitable developed (OECD) countries should have a target of net zero by 2030, China by 2040 and India and rest of the world by 2050.

Apurba Mitra, Chirag Gajjar and Ulka Kelkar, climate experts at World Resources Institute (in a statement)

Net zero and possible target years for India have been hotly debated in the country over the last year. If today’s announcement refers to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, it would be very ambitious and more than India’s fair contribution to global efforts to stay within 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. It would require countering emissions from agriculture and land use, not just emissions from energy and industrial processes.

If it refers to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, it would still send a strong long-term signal to all sectors of the economy and be compatible with 2 degrees Celsius of global warming. Taken together with the other short-term targets for massive capacity growth in renewable energy, India’s net-zero target will provide regulatory certainty to industry to invest in deep decarbonization, and to India’s growing cities and states to plan net-zero pathways to development.

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