The story so far: The Climate Change Conference (COP27) at Sharm el-Sheikh was to end on Friday but the deadline was extended to the weekend because there were divisions among member countries on the final text of the agreement. While India unveiled its much-awaited Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy during COP27, several outstanding issues remain.
What has India committed on carbon neutrality?
The Paris Agreement of 2015 required countries to submit a plan demonstrating how they would switch their economies from being reliant on fossil fuel to clean energy sources. This was to include measures to be taken to keep temperatures from rising beyond 2°C, and preferably keep it at 1.5°C by the end of the century and becoming carbon neutral or achieving net zero. India has committed to being net zero by 2070. The deadline to make a commitment was 2020 but the pandemic meant deadlines were extended. India is now in a group of about 60 countries — the Paris Agreement has over 190 signatories — to have submitted a strategy document to the UN.
What are the elements of India’s low emissions strategy?
The 100-page document that lays out India’s strategy underlines the use of nuclear power and hydrogen as critical to transition India into a carbon-neutral economy.
Environment minister Bhupender Yadav said the Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy, as India refers to it, underlines India’s right to an equitable and fair share of the global carbon budget. The remaining budget for a 50% likelihood to limit global warming to 1.5°C, 1.7°C and 2°C is 380 GtCO2 (nine years at 2022 emissions levels), 730 GtCO2 (18 years) and 1,230 GtCO2 (30 years), according to an analysis by the Global Carbon Project. One gigatonne (Gt) CO2 is a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. “The journey to net zero is a five decade long one and India’s vision is therefore evolutionary and flexible, accommodating new technological developments and developments in the global economy and international cooperation.”
India’s plan is to maximise the use of electric vehicles; ensure that by 2025 the percentage of ethanol blended with petrol increases to 20% from the existing 10% and making a ‘strong shift’ of passenger and freight vehicles to public transport. India will also focus on improving energy efficiency by the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, expand the National Hydrogen Mission, increase electrification, and enhance material efficiency and recycling. The PAT scheme refers to an emissions trading scheme where industries such as aluminium, fertilizer, iron and steel, that are extremely carbon intensive, have to reduce their emissions by a fixed amount or buy energy saving certificates from firms that have exceeded reduction targets. This scheme has been on since 2012 and, according to the Ministry of Power, has so far prevented 60 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted.
Is the strategy different from Nationally Determined Contributions?
The NDCs, which India must periodically update, are voluntary commitments by countries to reduce emissions by a fixed number relative to a date in the past to achieve the long-term goal of climate agreements of preventing global temperature rising beyond 1.5°C or 2°C by the end of the century. Thus, India’s most updated NDC commits to ensuring that half its electricity is derived from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reducing the emissions intensity by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. They are concrete targets unlike the low-carbon strategy which is qualitative and describes a pathway.
What are the sticking points?
During COP26 in Glasgow last year, India and several other countries announced a net zero timeline. COP27 was labelled as an “implementation” conference, in the sense that countries were determined to solve outstanding questions on climate finance. This refers to money that developed countries had committed to developing countries to help them turn their economies away from fossil fuels, build infrastructure resilient to climate shocks and access technologies to enable widespread use of renewable energy. Of nearly $100 billion annually committed in 2009, which was to have been arranged for by 2020, less than a third has come in. Much of this, and this has been pointed out by several countries including India, is in the form of loans or come with conditions that increase the economic burden on developing countries. Now there is a demand that developed countries must come up with a new target, described in negotiations as a New Collective Quantified Goal, with a clear path of delivery and a higher amount, to the tune of “trillions of dollars” to account for increased costs of energy transition. Another major issue is on the question of Loss and Damage (L&D). This is a proposal to compensate the most vulnerable countries and developing countries who are facing the brunt of climate change for the damage that has already incurred. Again a topic that has been discussed for years, this year triggered hope that a dedicated fund for L&D would come into being. The European Union was resistant to announcing a fund this year, on the grounds that it would take years to materialise and there were other options to get money flowing where it was most needed. However, there were indications that they were amenable provided that contributors to the fund include large developing economies which are significant emitters — a pointer to China.
- The Paris Agreement of 2015 required countries to submit a plan demonstrating how they would switch their economies from being reliant on fossil fuel to clean energy sources.
- The 100-page document that lays out India’s strategy underlines the use of nuclear power and hydrogen as critical to transition India into a carbon-neutral economy.
- Bhupender Yadav said the Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy, as India refers to it, underlines India’s right to an equitable and fair share of the global carbon budget