India does the most it can on climate, onus on rich nations to provide adequate climate financing
New Delhi’s promise, at the COP 26 climate summit, that it will cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2070 surprised many because India had seemed reluctant to agree to a deadline. Tight-lipped officials were offering the standard bureaucratese to say India would go to Glasgow with a positive mindset, meaning it would not play deal-breaker.
However, prime minister Narendra Modi has committed to putting in place non-fossil energy generation capacity of 500GW by 2030, by which time 50% of the country’s energy requirements would be met from renewables. The PM said at the climate summit, India would reduce the total projected carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes, again by 2030, and also lower the carbon intensity of the economy to below 45% by the end of the decade.
Most rich countries have set themselves earlier deadlines, of around 2050. However, China’s distant date of 2060, has been seen by many as the country not doing enough. Indeed, the faraway target would allow it to continue to set up coal-fired power plants. Against this backdrop, India’s even more distant 2070 might also be perceived to be not meaningful and the negotiations could get tricky.
However, given the cost of the exercise it would have been difficult for India to do more in less time. Moreover, it’s not as though the rich countries are displaying much more urgency, in terms of their own plans, than they did at Paris in 2015. Experts believe the 2070 timeline would give India the necessary opportunity to deliver on development; for developing nations to have the space to grow, the developed nations will need to get far more ambitious about net zero targets for themselves than they have set.
Given India is the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, combatting climate changes and reducing carbon emissions would require major financial and technological support. The PM has called out developed nations on the promises made by them to make available funds for the mitigation and adaptation and exhorted them to aid the transition with a corpus of $1 trillion, a ten-fold increase over prior estimates.
It is not clear how developed nations will respond to the quantum increase over levels set by them; it is hard to see funds of this magnitude being committed even if many more countries have raised the bar in their shift to clean energy.
Experts who have cautioned that funding must be both transparent and measurable, must be heeded; Sunita Narain recently observed in a column in Business Standard, it is not simply the scale of the funding that needs to be decided on, but also the rules that would govern the corpus so that the transfers can be counted and verified. Narain cautioned that a repeat of the complicated, convoluted, and cheap Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) should be prevented.
Apart from global aid, India will also need source funds internally; it is unlikely carbon taxes will be levied for the next few years, but it is possible some kind of a cess will come into force thereafter. Some countries are already imposing carbon tariffs on imports of certain goods, especially those relying on fossil-fuel derived power. Against this backdrop, the final outcome at the G20 summit was disappointing. Although there was unanimity on putting an end to international financing for coal-fired power generation, no targets were set for phasing out coal domestically.