India Unveils Climate Change Plan

India Unveils Climate Change PlanIndia Unveils Climate Change Plan

India says it will produce 40% of its energy from sources other than fossil fuels by 2030 and reduce the intensity of its carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 33-35%.

The country’s highly anticipated announcement comes ahead of United Nations talks in Paris this December, at which nations hope to reach an updated agreement to fight climate change.

India is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and it is the last major economy to announce its climate commitment ahead of the Paris meeting. But it is also a nation where 300 million people still lack access to electricity and its per capita greenhouse-gas emissions are well below the global average, Nature reported.

“India is not part of the problem” of global warming, environment minister Prakash Javadekar told Nature. “But we want to be part of the solution.”

He calls the country’s plan “comprehensive, ambitious and progressive”.

The pledge eschews an overall cap on carbon dioxide emissions to protect vulnerable sectors of India’s economy and society. Instead, India says that it will reduce its carbon intensity—emissions per unit of gross domestic product—by 33-35% in 2030, compared to the 2005 level.

Javadekar estimates that meeting this goal will prevent 3.59 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The country will also aim to generate 40% of its electricity from renewable or low-carbon sources by the 2030, with technology-transfer and financial assistance from the Green Climate Fund, an organization headquartered in Songdo, South Korea, that was formed to help developing nations to address climate change.

Carrying out the entire plan will cost at least $2.5 trillion, the government says, with some of that money coming as international aid.

  Mixed Reaction

“India traditionally has taken a very hard line in the negotiations, and done its best to avoid assuming obligations,” says Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions in Arlington, Virginia.

“This reflects a very encouraging shift in attitude toward an acceptance that all major economies share a responsibility to address this challenge.”

Others were more critical of the new plan. Navroz Dubash, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, says that the carbon-intensity goal is “conservative at best”.

It is well below the 45% intensity cut recommended in a draft 2015 report by the CPR and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

And Dubash notes that the plan does not offer many details on policies for specific economic sectors.

“We will need more transparency, monitoring and assessment down the line to see what the sectoral actions add up to and whether they will help India avoid a lock-in into a high-carbon growth pathway,” he says.

Shreekant Gupta, an economist at India’s Delhi School of Economics, approves of the pledge’s emphasis on promoting economic growth and access to energy to reduce poverty. But Gupta would have liked to a more radical approach to these issues, such as a cap-and-trade scheme patterned after the European Union’s emissions-trading program.

And Chandra Venkataraman, a chemical engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, says India has missed an opportunity to reduce its emissions of black carbon, a sooty pollutant that is produced by the incomplete burning of biomass and other fuels.

Black carbon harms human health, and it has potent—although relatively shortlived—warming effects on the climate.