US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. (REUTERS)
US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. (REUTERS)

India-US partnership to ensure renewable energy target is achieved by 2030

In its Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC submitted in February, India said it has progressively continued decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions
By Jayashree Nandi
UPDATED ON APR 08, 2021 09:09 AM IST

The US and India are likely to collaborate on a clean technology agenda for 2030 to ensure India meets its target of 450GW renewable energy capacity.

Soon after US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the PM announced on Wednesday that the two countries can collaborate on a 2030 agenda to facilitate affordable access to green technologies and requisite finance.

Kerry also tweeted: “Thank you, @narendramodi, for the productive discussion. India has an ambitious 2030 climate agenda, having set a target of 450GW of renewable energy. Looking for shared solutions to drive progress faster.”

On Tuesday, Kerry said in his address to the South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) Leadership Summit that it is already cheaper to build solar in India than anywhere else in the world. “That kind of urgency is exactly what we need to confront global climate change. We are in the decisive decade for action,” he said, adding that he sees India becoming the cleantech hub of Asia.

Also Read | India ‘getting the job done’ on climate crisis, says John Kerry

Under the Paris Agreement, India has three quantifiable nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which include lowering the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030; increase total cumulative electricity generation from fossil free energy sources to 40% by 2030; create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.

In its Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) submitted in February, India said it has progressively continued decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. India’s emission intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) has reduced by 24% between 2005 and 2016. India is therefore on track to meet its voluntary declaration to reduce the emission intensity of GDP by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020. It is implementing one of the largest renewable energy expansion programmes globally with a target of achieving 175GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and later up to 450GW. Installed capacity of solar energy in India has increased by more than 14 times from 2.63GW in March 2014 to 36.91GW in November 2020.

The new partnership with US on clean technology and finance is likely to accelerate the achievement of these targets so that India can enhance its ambition and NDCs in future, sources said. The details of the 2030 deal are yet to be spelt out.

There has been a lot of speculation among officials and former diplomats that US may be nudging India to also announce a net zero emissions target by 2050.

Senior environment ministry officials said one of the key objectives of Kerry’s visit is to get India to join the countries that have announced a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. In September 2020, China announced that it will peak its GHG emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The White House announced on January 27 that President Joe Biden will take steps to put the United States (US) on an “irreversible path” to a net zero economy by 2050. Consequently, Biden has also called for a summit of major emitting nations on April 22 in order to persuade them to commit to ambitious mitigation targets.

Independent experts have cautioned that India should do a careful balancing act when it comes to a net zero emissions target, keeping in sight India’s domestic circumstances.

“A net zero target has no flesh to it. It is not real. It is an aspirational target. Firstly, developed countries considering their historical emissions, should have taken on advanced deadlines. Secondly, even if 2050 is the deadline for them to achieve net zero emissions, there are no pathways to it. The US will definitely miss the 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement. Net zero emissions target is a way to kick the ball in the future. India should demand credible action now. China has announced a net zero target for 2060 and is continuing to build coal power plants,” said Sunita Narain, director general at Centre for Science and Environment.

“There is a lot of pressure on India to phase out coal. India had also planned to retire old thermal power plants but with a recent notification from the environment ministry that has gone for a six. India has not just extended the time period for thermal power plants to comply with emission norms but it has made it easy for thermal power plants to keep polluting. The cost of non-compliance as per the new notification is minuscule compared to cost of compliance,” added Narain.

The environment ministry had issued a notification on March 31 with staggered timelines for thermal power plants to comply with emission norms. It also specified the environmental compensation to be paid by plants that don’t comply.

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