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Representational Image.

India’s greenhouse emissions dip with switch to renewables, economic slowdown

India, which emits 7.1% of global emissions and has per capita emissions that are 60 % lower than the global average, recorded a fall in emissions growth in 2019
By Jayashree Nandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 10, 2020 10:00 AM IST

India is projected to meet its pre-2020 climate pledge, also called the Cancun pledge, made in 2010. It is also likely to meet and possibly overachieve its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, the Emissions Gap Report 2020 has said on Wednesday.

India, which emits 7.1% of global emissions and has per capita emissions that are 60 % lower than the global average, recorded a fall in emissions growth in 2019. India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions grew by 1.4% in 2019, lower than the average of 3.3% per year over the last decade according to the report.

This slower than expected growth is primarily due to increased hydropower from a record monsoon and weaker economic growth, along with India’s continued growth in renewables, the report said. In comparison, China’s CO2 emissions grew by 3.1% in 2019 to reach a record high compared to growth of 2.4% in GHG emissions on average for the past decade.

Also read | Low carbon recovery from Covid-19 slowdown can solve climate crisis: Report

Several countries, including Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, are projected to miss their Cancun pledges and Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America are set to fall short of their NDCs under the Paris Agreement.

India had pledged in 2010 to reduce its emissions intensity of GDP (excluding the agriculture sector) by 20–25% below 2005 levels by 2020 which it has achieved. Further, under NDCs, India has committed to reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 over 2005 levels.

Overall, despite the global slowdown and reduction in emissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is not on track to meet global warming goals and 2020 is on track to be one of the warmest years on record.

Due to the pandemic, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to fall by 7% this year compared to 2019 but the world will still be heading for a temperature rise of over 3 degrees C this century, the report said. A green recovery from the pandemic, however, with investments in sectors that will help curb CO2 emissions can take the world to a 2 degree C rise pathway as defined in the Paris Agreement goals, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report said.

For Covid-19 recovery from slowdown, governments are spending at an unprecedented scale the report has found, currently amounting to roughly US$12 trillion globally, or 12% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Most governments have focused on funding rescue measures to reboot businesses and jobs in their immediate economic response to Covid-19, with only a few including conditions that encourage businesses to decarbonize.

India has allocated about 10.1% of 2019 GDP for Covid-19 rescue and recovery measures, according to the report based on data from Oxford Recovery Project which has an overview of total fiscal rescue and recovery measures of G20 members. But most of India’s recovery measures have high carbon effects shows data.

“India’s Covid-19-relief package was nearly 10% of its annual GDP, but had no substantial investments impacting the climate. Additional stimulus must focus on recovery and rebuilding, accelerating an energy transition in the power sector, transport, and urban planning. Without this, the likely drop in emissions from the lockdown will rise again without a green recovery. A long-term strategy may be the most convincing and coherent way of articulating to the international community about India’s ongoing development needs (which are unlikely to be exhausted by 2050). It is imperative that the focus remains on not only a ‘green recovery’ but a resilient one that is beneficial over the long-term,” said Abhishek Kaushik, Associate Fellow and Area Convenor, Centre for Global Environment Research at The Energy and Resources Institute.

There are large disparities in post-Covid-19 fiscal spending around the world. Fiscal spending of some G20 members is as high as 40% for some members and as low as 1.7% for some. France, Germany, South Korea and the UK have among the highest investments with low carbon effects.

The reduction in GHG emissions in 2020 due to Covid-19 is likely to be significantly larger than the 1.2% reduction during the global financial crisis in the late 2000s. But, 2020 is currently on track to be one of the warmest on record, with wildfires, droughts, storms and glacier melt only intensifying. A fall of 7% in CO2 emissions this year means only a 0.01 degree C reduction of global warming by 2050.

On the brighter side, the report says there is scope for course correction now. Investing in zero emission technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, not building any more coal plants, promoting nature-based solutions like large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation could put emissions in 2030 at 44 GtCO2e which would mean a 66% chance of keeping global temperature rise to below 2 degree C compared to pre-industrial levels.

In addition, the ambition of various nationally determined contributions (NDCs) will have to be tripled to meet the 2 degree C target and increased by at least 5 times to meet the 1.5 degree C goal (threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said will mark a menacing milestone in the warming of the planet). The current pledges under the Paris Agreement are inadequate and could only limit global temperature rise to 3.2 degree C, the report has warned.

The report has estimated that following the initial dip in CO2 emissions, there could be a rebound effect in many countries in order to bounce back from the Covid-19 induced slowdown. Some countries could rollback climate policies as part of covid 19 responses, then the decrease in global emissions by 2030 could be significantly smaller at around 1.5 GtCO2e or may actually increase by around 1 GtCO2e compared with the pre-covid 19 current policies scenario.

“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director. “However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change. I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of Covid 19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021.”

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