Achieving Net Zero by 2070 and the Associated Challenges – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

In the recent Glasgow climate summit (COP26), India announced new climate targets. One such ambitious target is achieving Net Zero by 2070. Achieving Net Zero by 2070 requires India to fundamentally alter its development model during this decade. This is because of various challenges associated with the Net Zero emissions targets.

Must read: India announces new climate targets at COP26 – Explained, pointwise
What is the Net Zero emissions target?

Net Zero is aimed at balancing the greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It means that whatever carbon emissions have been added to the atmosphere through various processes are removed, thus stabilizing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

More than 70 countries have promised to become Net Zero by the middle of the century, and this is being considered vital for meeting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

Read more: Net Zero Emissions Target for India – Explained, Pointwise
Why does India need a fundamental shift for achieving Net Zero by 2070?

Despite accounting for 17% of the world’s population, India has the lowest per capita emissions of the world’s major economies. According to the World Resources Institute, India’s total greenhouse gas emissions were about 3.3 billion tonnes in 2018.

However, scientific studies indicate that the present development model will cause the greenhouse gas emissions to continue to increase every year. If current model is followed as such (business-as-usual scenario), India’s emissions will reach above 4 billion tonnes per year by 2030 and 7 billion tonnes by 2050.

To achieve Net Zero by 2070, India must reduce the net carbon emissions to 2 billion tonnes by 2050. These last 2 billion tonnes of emissions would be associated with the agriculture sector which will require considerable time and effort to reduce.

To achieve this India needs to first flatten emissions curve and then drive them down so that India can get close to Net Zero by mid-century. In short, India will have to bend its emission curve.

Business-As-Usual (BAU) scenario: It is a scenario for future patterns of activity which assumes that there will be no significant change in people’s attitudes and priorities, or no major changes in technology, economics, or policies so that normal circumstances can be expected to continue unchanged.
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What are the impediments between the BAU scenario and the achieving net-zero by 2070 scenario on various parameters?
Business-As-Usual (BAU) scenarioAchieving net-zero by 2070 scenario
Energy mix: Today, India has about 400 GW of installed generation capacity with 205 GW of installed coal capacity and another 40 GW under construction. India currently has about 170 GW of renewable capacity. The remaining capacity is from natural gas.

According to the recent commitments, India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. It is expected to reach 75% in 2050.

Achieving Net Zero by 2070 requires India to increase the renewable capacity from 475 GW to about 620 GW by 2030. By 2050, 90% of India’s power generation has to come from renewable sources compared to 75% in the BAU scenario.
Electric Vehicles: India’s installed capacity in 2050 in the Net Zero scenario is about 2,300 GW compared to 2,100 GW in the BAU scenario. Much of this increased electricity consumption comes from the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).

In the BAU scenario, about a third of India’s passenger vehicles and two-wheelers will be EVs by 2050.

Achieving Net Zero by 2070 requires 40% of all the passenger vehicles and buses to be EVs.

In addition, virtually all the two-wheelers and three-wheelers will be EVs. A quarter (25%) of India’s commercial vehicles also have to become EVs.

Industrial Sector: In the BAU scenario, about 15% of the energy usage in industrial sectors like cement, steel comes from zero-carbon sources.In achieving Net Zero by 2070 scenario, about 60% of Industrial sector energy will have come from zero-carbon sources.
Fossil Fuel and Carbon Tax: Today the Central and State Governments derive some INR 6 trillion, or about 20% of their revenues from taxing fossil fuels. This represents around 3% of India’s GDP.

In the BAU scenario, there is no need for carbon taxes because fossil fuel usage continues at about today’s levels.

In the Net Zero by 2070 scenario, fossil fuels will decline in usage dramatically, thus massively reducing Central and State Government revenues. These revenues can be made up by a carbon tax framework.
What should India do for achieving Net Zero by 2070?

India has to massively revamp the power sector: India requires huge investments in building grid and battery storage. Further, India will have to retire coal by 2050. This necessitates fundamental changes to current coal and thermal power policies.

A complete change in the tax structure: India has to shift to carbon taxation framework that will contribute about 2-3% to the GDP with carbon tax at about $70-80 per tonne.

Aggressive EV promotion policies: Like in the European Union, India will probably need to implement an EV mandate immediately that becomes progressively stricter. Moreover, India will also have to rapidly build out a fast-charging network.

Read more: India’s electric vehicle push will lead to brighter, greener future

A shift towards greener sources: Many key industrial sectors such as cement, steel, chemicals, and fertilisers will have to accelerate their shift from fossil fuels to electricity and green hydrogen.  A strict emissions trading system with high carbon taxes will likely be required to drive transformation in the industrial sector.

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Reformulate policies: All stakeholders including policymakers, company executives, financial institutions, investors, research institutes, civil society, need to engage in serious, multi-year collaborative dialogue to reformulate India’s policies and plans to achieve Net Zero by 2070.

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Facilitate carbon-neutral planning: The Government has to encourage all States and UTs to make their respective carbon-neutral plan. The UT of Ladakh and the state of Sikkim are already planning such a carbon-neutral plan.

Further, at the local level, cities like  Bengaluru, Chennai, and the Panchayat of Meenangadi in Wayanad, Kerala also planning such a carbon-neutral plan.

In conclusion, reaching Net Zero will require immediate and sweeping changes to the overall tax structure, as well as major changes to regulations and policies in many sectors. Each of the Net Zero@2070 policy packages requires a complete transformation in the Indian economy. But, considering the climate emergency, it is a much-needed transformation.

Source: Business Standard

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