List of Contents
- What is the meaning of Net Zero?
- What is India’ approach to low carbon development?
- What is India’s Long Term Strategy for Net Zero?
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India had announced the target to achieve Net Zero by 2070 at the COP26 (in 2021) at Glasgow. At the COP27 in Egypt, the Government has released it Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LT-LEDS). All 195 signatory countries to the UN Climate Agreement are supposed to submit their long-term strategy document by 2022, only 57 countries have done so far. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries have to prepare and submit two kinds of climate action plans — one for the short term, and another for long-term. The short-term climate action plans are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). They have to be submitted every 5 years, with specific actions being taken over 5- or 10-year periods. At present, countries have submitted the NDCs for the actions they are taking till 2030. Apart from NDCs, the Paris Agreement also requires countries to submit their long-term strategies to reduce emissions. Countries don’t have to report progress on their long-term climate plans as the case with NDCs.
What is the meaning of Net Zero?
Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of 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. This will limit the global warming, and hence crucial to limit climate change.
The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero. It requires Nations to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’. Net Zero is necessary to achieve as the carbon budget
The ‘net’ in net zero is important because it will be very difficult to reduce all emissions to zero e.g., it is hard to reduce emissions to zero in hard-to-abate sectors like aviation or agriculture. As well as deep and widespread cuts in emissions, there is a need to scale up removals.
In order for net zero to be effective, it must be permanent. Permanence means that removed greenhouse gas does not return into the atmosphere over time, for example through the destruction of forests or improper carbon storage.
Net Zero is closely linked with Carbon Budget. As the carbon budget for a 1.5°C or 2.0°C rise in global temperature is getting exhausted, the imperative to achieve Net Zero becomes more urgent.
|Read More: Achieving Net Zero by 2070 and the Associated Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
What is India’ approach to low carbon development?
India’s strategy for Net Zero is based on the following four key considerations that underpin its long-term low-carbon development strategy:
India’s Low Contribution to Global Warming
The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  has noted that the contribution of entire Southern Asia is only about 4% of cumulative net anthropogenic emissions between 1850 and 2019. Thee region includes almost 24% of the global population. North America and Europe together have contributed almost 10 times (~40%) to global cumulative emissions, though they have only ~13% of the global population. India’s per capita annual emissions are about a third of the global average. From a global carbon equity perspective, India is justified in seeking that developed countries undertake early net-zero, well before 2050, by investing heavily in negative emissions, and providing adequate climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building support.
India’s Energy Needs for Development
Energy is essential to erasing India’s development deficits and meeting its developmental needs. India’s annual primary energy consumption per capita in 2019 was 28.7 gigajoules (GJ), considerably lower than both developed and developing country peers. Energy is needed for social development, to support India’s demographic transition and consequent job creation needs, its agrarian and urban transition, and infrastructure development. India is actively pursuing energy efficiency as one of the key means of promoting low-carbon development. India’s efforts to decouple growth from emissions is in contrast to the developed countries, as India already has very low baseline of emissions.
India’s Commitment to Low-Carbon Strategies According to National Circumstances
India’s mitigation efforts are driven by broader development choices. India seeks to identify and explore opportunities to shift to low-carbon development pathways, while ensuring adequate access to household energy, energy security, and energy for the development of all sectors of the economy.
The social and transaction costs of making a low-carbon transition are considerable. India will pursue low-carbon growth and development strategies in accordance with national circumstances and at a pace and scale that is nationally determined, without compromising development futures. Consequently, the need for climate finance for India’s low-carbon transition is considerable.
Equity and the need for sustainable development will guide India’s national objectives in the rational utilization of fossil fuel resources, with due regard to India’s energy security. India’s per capita fossil fuel consumption is much below the level of developed countries.
India needs to build Climate Resilience
India has a diverse geography that encompasses a wide range of ecosystems, from mountains to deserts, from inland to coastal areas, and from plains to jungles, and is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Adaptation measures and building resilience to potential climate impacts are necessary to maintain India’s development gains and human development outcomes and sustain its development.
What is India’s Long Term Strategy for Net Zero?
India’s LT-LEDS rests on seven key transitions to low-carbon development pathways. The following are the components of India’s long-term strategy for Net Zero, which will serve as a roadmap for the country’s actions during the next half-century:
India’s strategy for Net Zero has prioritised 6 strategic sectors — electricity, transportation, urban design, industry, carbon dioxide removal and forests. Of these, electricity and industry sectors together account for over 75% of India’s CO2 emissions, while rapid changes are happening in the transport and urban systems.
Electricity: More renewable power, demand side reductions and a just transition for phase down of coal will be priorities in the electricity sector.
Transportation: India will look to transition to cleaner fuels, increase energy efficiency, and aggressive electrification.
Urban Design: The urban transition will focus on material efficiency of buildings and sustainable urbanization. Adaptation measures will be mainstreamed in urban planning.
Industrial Sector: The industrial sector will aim to improve energy efficiency, electrification, material efficiency and decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors. Promotion of energy efficient/low carbon technologies, digitization of processes, and creation of trading schemes and other market-based enablers to achieve these goals will be pursued. Green Hydrogen technology and infrastructure will be promoted.
|Read More: Green Hydrogen Policy – Explained, pointwise|
Carbon Removal: There is a lot of scepticism and uncertainty about carbon dioxide removal (CDR). The emphasis is on R&D and building human and infrastructure capacity to evolve technologies that address issues related to high capital costs, safety, logistics and high power consumption. India requires considerable climate finance and technology transfer in this dimension.
Forests: India has a strong forest policy and will continue to protect its forest and expand tree cover to act as a carbon sink. Forests are also covered under India’s NDC target to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.
|Read More: Managing Climate Change: A Strategy for India – Explained, pointwise|
Finance and Investments
According to a Council on Energy, Environment and Water assessment, India will need $10 trillion to achieve the 2070 net-zero target. The LTS has moved beyond this high-level number and done a comprehensive assessment of the finance issue.
The plan has gauged the country’s financial requirement, potential sources, the importance of mainstreaming of climate finance and international climate finance, and multilateral arrangements for climate finance At the same time, India must continue to push developed countries to pay the billions of dollars they promised.
|Read More: Climate Finance: Meaning, Need and Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Invest in Research and Innovation
India’s Strategy for Net Zero considers research and innovation in new technologies to be essential to meeting the challenge of climate action, including both adaptation and mitigation (both globally or nationally). It identifies multiple technologies in the energy and industry sectors that need to be explored and scaled up. It only focuses on technology related innovations. Innovations on business models are equally important to push low-carbon technologies.
Adaptation and Resilience
Adapting to climate change will require: (a) An understanding of risks and vulnerabilities; (b) Economic and infrastructural development; (c) Strengthened individual resilience through enhancing livelihoods and incomes; (d) New governance capacities and improved coordination; (e) Raising resources for adaptation including in the form of adaptation finance; (f) Addressing loss and damage; (g) Ensuring equitable and inclusive strategies. India’s adaptation actions attempt to achieve all of these goals.
Changes to Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE)
LiFE is India’s call for citizens, communities, industry leaders, and policymakers of the world to adopt a lifestyle for the environment. The LTS nudges people to make simple yet effective sustainable choices, industries and markets to scale these, and government policies to support them. LiFE elevates the importance of individual contribution to the larger climate goal, giving it as much importance as industry and policy level actions, an aspect largely missing from the climate discourse till now.
India’s approach to international cooperation is founded on the principles and commitments of the UNFCCC that climate action should be on the basis of equity and in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, as per national circumstances. India has developed several forward-looking and participatory global initiatives, partnerships, and coalitions to combat climate change and foster greater collaboration like International Solar Alliance (ISA), India-UN Development Partnership Fund, Leadership Group on Industry Transition (LeadIT) etc.
India’s stated climate goals can be fully realized only if financial assistance, low-carbon technology transfer and capacity-building needs are met under the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement. A collaborative international mechanism needs to ensure that barriers, such as intellectual property rights, are lowered to facilitate technology transfer. India emphasizes that international cooperation is necessary to low carbon transition.
What are the shortcomings of India’s Strategy for Net Zero?
While environment and climate experts have lauded India’s strategy, they point out certain shortcomings.
First, Carbon pricing through the emission-trading scheme could have been a key part of the LTS document. The Union Government has already said that a carbon market will be set up in India, and the Lok Sabha has passed the plan. This will be a big part of India’s strategy, but the LTS is keeping quiet about it.
|Read More: Carbon Markets: Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Second, India’s LTS strategy should include a way to measure and report how well it’s doing at reaching its intermediate goals and undertake steps for course correction if needed. The Paris Climate Agreement does not require countries to report progress on its long-term efforts. However, India could have gone a step further to undertake periodic reviews and set an example before developed countries.
Third, India’s long-term plan does not mention agriculture, which is the main source of methane emissions. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, after carbon dioxide. It has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years. This is because methane is a much bigger threat to global warming than carbon dioxide. India must make effort to reduce emissions from agriculture sector as well.
Fourth, at present just half of the 50+ long-term strategies submitted by countries have full or partial legal backing. Going forward, India might also like to create a legal or institutional framework to pursue policies based on its long-term goal.
India’s Strategy for Net Zero shows India’s commitment to address climate change while meeting its development needs. India’s has already performed commendably in its domestic climate action. It is time the developed nations follow India’s lead and fulfil their promises for climate finance and green technology transfer. This will facilitate a faster transition of global economy to low carbon pathway and limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Syllabus: GS III, Conservation, Environment pollution and degradation.