India’s New Climate Targets (INDCs) – Explained, pointwise

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The Union Government has revised India’s INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) under the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is a global treaty wherein some 200 countries have agreed to cooperate to reduce GHG emissions and rein in the climate change. The Agreement seeks to ‘limit global warming to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C, in comparison to the pre-industry levels’. According to the Paris Agreement’s provisions, countries must ‘update’ their pledges every 5 years to make higher commitments to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. In this regard, the Government has given approval to India’s New Climate Targets. The pledge will lay out India’s clean energy transition pathway from now through 2030 and will be communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

About India’s INDCs

India had submitted its first pledge in 2015. India’s first pledge had three primary targets: (a) Reduce emissions intensity of the economy by 33–35% below 2005 levels; (b) Have 40% of installed electric power from non-fossil-based energy resources by 2030; (c) Create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5-3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030 through additional forest and tree cover.

What are India’s Updated INDCs?

In 2021, the Prime Minister of India had announced a new 5-point set of targets at COP-26 (Panchamrit) (a) India will increase its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 gigawatt (GW) by 2030; (b) It will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030; (c) The total projected carbon emissions will be reduced by 1 billion tonnes from now through 2030; (d) The carbon intensity of its economy will be brought down to less than 45%; (e) India will achieve its target of Net Zero by 2070.

Read More: India announces new climate targets at COP26 – Explained, pointwise

A press statement on August 3 confirmed that 2 of these, viz. Reduction in Emission Intensity by 45% and Achieve 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based technology by 2030, were upward revision of existing targets and would become part of India’s INDCs.

The notable change from COP-26 declaration is that the 50% installed power capacity target will now be from non-fossil sources, which include large hydropower and not just from renewable energy (RE) sources like solar and wind.

The statement issued by the Government also noted that the Net Zero is a long-term target and does not qualify to be included in the NDCs which seeks five to 10 year climate targets from countries.

The remaining two targets linked with carbon intensity and carbon sink, announced at Glasgow COP-26,  have not been converted into official targets. But these are closely linked with others, and any progress on official targets would get reflected in these goals as well.

India’s INDCs do talk about the need for low-cost international finance and transfer of technology, but do not make achievement of targets contingent on their availability.

What has been the progress regarding India’s INDCs?

India’s emissions intensity was 24% lower than the 2005 levels in the year 2016 itself, the latest year for which official numbers are available. It is very likely that the 33 to 35% reduction target has already been achieved, or is very close to being achieved. A further reduction of 10-12% from here, to meet the new target, does not appear too challenging.

The other target (having at least 40% of electricity coming from non-fossil fuels) has officially been reached. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Power, 41.5% of India’s current installed electricity capacity of 403 GW is now powered by non-fossil fuels. Renewables (wind, solar and others) alone account for more than 28% of this capacity while hydropower contributes over 11%.

What is the significance of India’s New Climate Targets?

First, it demonstrates India’s commitment at the highest level for decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Second, it takes forward the Prime Minister’s vision of sustainable lifestyles and climate justice to protect the poor and vulnerable from adverse impacts of climate change. The Prime Minister had proposed a ‘One-Word Movement’, to the global community; LIFE i.e. Lifestyle For Environment.

Third, the updated INDCs also represents the framework for India’s transition to cleaner energy for the period 2021-2030. 

Fourth, the updated framework, together with many other initiatives of the Government will provide an opportunity for enhancing India’s manufacturing capabilities and enhancing exports. It will lead to an overall increase in green jobs.

Why have the other two targets been dropped?

The 500 GW non-fossil fuel electricity capacity target for 2030 is not easy. Of the current installed capacity of 403 GW, over 236 GW, or 58.5% comes from fossil fuel sources, while non-fossil fuels make up only 167 GW. Capacity additions from non-fossil sources would have to triple in the next 10 years to reach the 500 GW target.

The promise to reduce at least one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the cumulative projected emissions till 2030 has been even more problematic. India does not have any official projection of its emissions in 2030. The emissions pathway from now to 2030 is also not clear. In the absence of a baseline, the target would have been meaningless.

What would be the adverse impacts of 1.5 degree temperature rise on India?

According to a study undertaken by the Centre for Science and Environment (Down to Earth) based on the information released by the IPCC Assessment Report 6 (Working Group I); (a) India could become 1.2°C warmer and receive almost 10 per cent more rainfall every year; (b) Ladakh is likely to be the worst hit (2.23°C warmer). Annual mean temperatures may rise in five other Himalayan states / UTs by more than 1.5°C (Refer image). Arid Rajasthan and Gujarat will likely see 1.43°C and 1.33°C increases respectively in annual average temperatures; (c) The temperature rise is most likely to trigger the rapid melting of glaciers and precipitation change; (d) The northern and western parts of India will likely be more vulnerable than the eastern part, in terms of temperature rise; (e) The warmer temperatures may translate into an increase in the number of days of heatwaves. Rajasthan can record 13 additional days with temperatures beyond 40°C, followed by Delhi, Gujarat (12 additional days each), Telangana (10 additional days) and Andhra Pradesh (8 additional days); (f) Most of India is expected to see an increase in rainfall, the distribution of this increase is likely to be uneven. The maximum increase in rainfall is expected in northwestern India. Rajasthan can receive up to 22.87% more rain than the 1850-1900 average, followed by Gujarat with 22.16% and Punjab with 20.54%.

Impact of Global Warming on India's Average Temperature and Precipitation India's INDCs UPSC

Source: Down to Earth. Impact of Global Warming on India’s Average Temperature and Precipitation.

What is the criticism of India’s INDCs?

The Paris Agreement advocates revision of the INDCs every 5 years to nudge the countries to continually improve their self-determined ambition. Hence the revised INDCs should reflect more aggressive targets compared to earlier targets. However, critics argue that India’s revised INDCs do not result in significant improvement over earlier target.

First, India’s 2015 INDCs contained a target to create new forest cover capable of absorbing 2.5 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030. However, this has been dropped from the new INDCs altogether. This was an ambitious target. Critics argue that there was little clarity on its actual scope and it was dropped because India was unlikely to meet it.

Second, India’s emission intensity had already fallen by 24% (of its 2005 levels) by 2016. The new target of 45% is thus not a significant improvement, but more of ‘business-as-usual’ target, because this reduction can be achieved without any significant enhancement in climate action.

Third, India hasn’t made the target of 500 GW non-fossil fuel electricity by 2030 as official target. This show continued dependence on coal for power generation in the near future.

Environmentalists are saying that India has dropped the tough-to-achieve targets from its INDCs.

What should be the approach going ahead?

First, No developed economy has declared INDCs reflecting their ‘fair share’ to historic emission. Neither has the climate finance target been met.Developed countries must accept historical responsibility and provide financial resources to the developing countries based on equity and justice principle. Experts say India needs US$ 1.4 trillion over next 2 decades to decarbonize its energy sector. Developed countries must step-in here.

Second, India’s PAT Scheme (Perform, Achieve, Trade) has proven to be ineffective in curbing emissions from energy intensive sectors. According to a study, the emission reduction under the scheme has been only 1.57% and 1.44% over the two cycles. The scheme must be revised, and there should be sector-specific targets. This would make the scheme more effective to realise the actual emission reductions.

Third, countries must switch to Green GDP or Green Accounting in order to decrease damage to the environment. 

Fourth, Adaptation efforts must go hand in hand with ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As with increased warming, the effectiveness of many adaptation options declines. In this regard, the successful local level adaptation plans in cities such as Surat, Bhubaneswar and Indore can be adopted. They have enabled its people to make cities resilient to climate change. 

Fifth, the general public should be made more aware towards climate change by taking support of NGOs. Lifestyle for Environment (LIFE) must become a popular movement.

Read More: Breathing LiFE into the climate narrative

India’s INDCs do not bind it to any sector specific mitigation obligation or action. India’s goal is to reduce overall emission intensity and improve energy efficiency of its economy over time. At the same time, India aims to protect the vulnerable sectors of the economy and segments of our society.

Syllabus: GS III, Conservation, Environment Pollution and Degradation

Source: Down to Earth, Down to Earth, Down to Earth, Indian Express, PIB, The Diplomat

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