Good news on the climate front, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on an official trip to the UK, India and Britain have agreed on a package on energy and climate change which includes commercial deals worth 3.2 billion pounds. The package encompasses commercial agreements, joint research programmes and initiatives to share technical, scientific, and financial and policy expertise. They will invest up to 200 million pounds in renewable energy and energy efficiency in India and Africa. This may sound like great news especially ahead of the climate summit in Paris.
But just last month – precisely on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on 2nd October, the Modi Govt presented its INDC or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The INDC released by India unveils its climate action plan for 2030, with some ambitious goals. It promises a 33-35 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It also pledges to nearly triple the renewable energy capacity by 2022 and to raise the share of zero-carbon electricity generating capacity to 40 percent of the total by 2030. Though it sounds great on paper there are many grey areas in the proposal which need to be clarified.
To begin with – the cost is a huge factor. The Government estimates that at least $25 trillion would be required between now and 2030 to implement all planned actions and $ 206 million would be required for adaptation actions and much more would be needed for strengthening resilience and disaster management and another $ 834 billion would be required for mitigation actions till 2030. This is a significantly higher price tag than what other countries have put forward to date. Some 90 other developing countries so far have set out actions in their INDCs that they say would, in total, cost $1.01tn to implement. But the big question is where is this money going to come from? The plan has not explicitly set out how it has arrived at the $2.5tn figure , neither has it said how much is expected to come from its domestic budget, and how much it expects to receive from international funds. Its scaled-up ambition will require greater resources than are currently being committed by the Government, says the INDC. It is pretty clear that it will be requesting money from international funds, including the Green Climate Fund. But given the history of climate negotiations many experts and scientists say they aren’t very hopeful. Developed countries have promised to provide $100 bn a year in climate finance by 2020 to the developing world and India is entitled to some of it but that’s not likely to be enough. Sure the Government has set aside a sum for climate change and has collected 170 billion rupees by cess on coal but is that enough?
The INDP also promises a reduction of 33 to 35 percent in emission intensity as compared to 2005 levels. This is built on an earlier target that India had set for itself in 2009. At that time, in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference, India had committed itself to a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions intensity by the year 2020 on 2005 levels. Achieving a 33 to 35 percent reduction by 2030 is going to be a slightly more difficult task than that, as industry-wide efforts would be required to take the emission intensity further down. As the officials say, the target is very ambitious. While India’s pledge promises to cut its emissions intensity in 2030 to a third below 2005 levels, its growing economy means actual emissions will still increase.
According to the INDC, it will try to achieve a renewable energy target of about 320 GW by 2030. The current installed capacity target for 2022 are 100 GW of solar and 60 GW wind, the Modi Govt is looking to further increase solar power to 250 GW and wind to 100 GW by 2030 the targets set for 2030 look very difficult though To reduce dependence on fossil fuels the proposal lumps nuclear and hydroelectric energy with renewable energy. The mentioned goals state that nuclear power would be increased from the current 5.7 GW to 63 GW by 2032, and hydropower could rise from 46 GW (mostly large hydro) to 100 GW. Both of these targets, however, seem difficult to achieve in the current scenario. Proposals for nuclear plants have faced very stiff resistance, and so have plans for large-scale hydro-power. Coal, on the other hand, is expected to form the major part of the remaining 60 percent of the generation capacity in 2030.
The ministry in its plan is also depending heavily on its afforestation drive to make the change. Through its INDC India wants to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. It said its forest cover grew from 24.3 percent of its geographical area in 2005 to 24 percent in 2013. The cabinet has already approved a proposed legislation to manage a huge afforestation fund that is built using money that companies are charged as compensation if they set up projects on forest land. But experts warn against this as the ability of trees to act as a carbon sink is limited as compared to natural dense forests, so it’ll only have a limited utility.
But the Government has already set the tone for the political discourse of the conversation as well by clearly stating that cleaning up was the ‘historic responsibility’ of the western world. The Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar even emphasised on the need for the western world to take up responsibility and vacate carbon space for the developing world. How far the developed world listens and how the negotiations go will now only be known in December. All eyes are now on the upcoming Conference of Parties in Paris this December, which would aim to achieve a legally-binding and universal agreement on climate, aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.