On Thursday midnight, the Union Environment Ministry submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
The INDCs, which lay out the blueprint for tackling climate change, emphasised eight key goals — sustainable lifestyles, cleaner economic development, reducing emission intensity of GDP, increasing the share of non-fossil fuel based electricity, enhancing carbon sink, adaptation and mobilising finance, technology transfer and capacity building.
Referring to India’s INDCs as “balanced and comprehensive”, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said that for a developing nation, India’s goals for tackling climate change were far more ambitious when compared to that of other developed countries.
The text of the 38-page INDCs submissions reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on ‘climate justice” in his September 25 U.N. General Assembly address.
“When we speak of climate justice, we demonstrate our sensitivity and resolve to secure the future of the poor from the perils of natural disasters,” it quoted Mr. Modi. According to Ministry sources, the INDCs were finalised on September 23, before Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for the U.N. General Assembly in New York and the Cabinet cleared it.
India has committed to 40 per cent of non-fossil fuel energy to be adopted by 2030. It has also set the target of generating 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of carbon sinks in the form of forests.
The INDCs point to tripling of India’s electricity demands by 2030, for which thermal energy is unavoidable. However, Mr. Javadekar pointed out that even for thermal power, emission norms have been made more stringent. India defended its lower per capita emissions, underlining less responsibility to “act” compared to other top emitters such as U.S., China and EU. “Even now, when the per capita emissions of many developed countries vary between 7 to 15 metric tonnes, the per capita emissions in India were only about 1.56 metric tonnes in 2010,” the text said.
India has also stated its challenges in terms of human development goals, for which higher energy production and consumption is a must.
“No country in the world has been able to achieve a Human Development Index of 0.9 or more without an annual energy availability of at least 4 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per capita,” it said.
The added emphasis on non-fossil fuel energy will not affect the common man in terms of increased energy prices, the Minister assured.
He pointed out that solar power price has reduced from Rs.18 /unit to Rs. 5.9 paisa/unit, matching almost thermal conventional energy. The Minister also highlighted India’s ‘Solar Alliance’ mission to connect countries between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, to help generate more renewable energy to meet the non-fossil fuel target.
As far as financial resources for meeting the targets are concerned, India plans to raise them both at home and seek assistance from the Green Climate Fund. Mr. Javadekar said that the coal cess alone could help developed and developing nations augment the finances for green technologies.
The INDCs are the basis for negotiating the climate change agreement at the U.N. climate summit in Paris coming up in December. Of the 196 UNFCCC member countries, 86 have made their submissions so far.
India's focus on renewable energy lauded
Even as India set itself ambitious targets to tackle climate change, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) have drawn both bouquets and brickbats. While most think-tanks have welcomed the comprehensive approach to reducing carbon emissions intensity, environmentalists have expressed concern over the continued dependence on coal-fired plants for fuelling the nation’s development.
Pujarini Sen, climate and energy campaigner from Greenpeace India said she found India’s continued commitment to expand coal power capacity baffling. “Further expansion of coal power will hamper India’s development prospects, by worsening the problems of air quality and water scarcity as well as contributing to the destruction of forests and the displacement of communities. Financial analysts have predicted that electricity from renewable energy, will be cheaper than coal in future.” Instead, the stress must be on developing decentralised renewable energy systems, as this is the opportunity for 300-million Indians who still lack access to electricity, she said.