India’s long-term strategy to transition to a ‘low emissions’ pathway involves more nuclear power, more ethanol

While 195-member countries, signatories to the UN climate agreements, were obliged to submit the long-term document by 2022, only 57 — to which India is the latest addition — have done so

November 14, 2022 09:39 pm | Updated November 15, 2022 11:37 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the emissions from industries. Photo used for illustration purpose only. File

A view of the emissions from industries. Photo used for illustration purpose only. File | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

India on November 14, 2022 announced its long-term strategy to transition to a “low emissions” pathway at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) ongoing in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which is premised on expanding its nuclear power capacity by at least three-fold in the next decade, apart from becoming an international hub for producing green hydrogen and increasing the proportion of ethanol in petrol.

These steps, Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said, were consonant with India’s “five-decade journey” to net zero, or being carbon neutral by 2070 — a commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Glasgow, where the 26th COP was held last year.

While 195-member countries, signatories to the UN climate agreements, were obliged to submit the long-term document by 2022, only 57 — to which India is the latest addition — have done so.

“The LT-LEDS (Long Term-Low Emission Development Strategy) has been prepared in the framework of India’s right to an equitable and fair share of the global carbon budget. We have ensured that the strategy emphasises energy security, energy access, and employment, while keeping focus on our vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat,” Mr. Yadav said. “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 “aspires” to maximise the use of electric vehicles, with ethanol blending to reach 20% by 2025 (it is currently 10%) and a “strong shift” to public transport for passenger and freight traffic. India will also focus on improving energy efficiency by the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, the National Hydrogen Mission, increasing electrification, enhancing material efficiency, and recycling and ways to reduce emissions.

India’s forest and tree cover are a net carbon sink absorbing 15% of CO2 emissions in 2016, and the country is on track to fulfilling its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) commitment of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of additional carbon sequestration in forest and tree cover by 2030, the document notes.

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 or 2 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century. Thus, India’s most updated NDC commits to ensuring half its electricity is derived from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, and reducing the emissions intensity by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The LT-LEDS are qualitative in nature and are a requirement emanating from the 2015 Paris Agreement whereby countries must explain how they will transition their economies beyond achieving near-term NDC targets, and work towards the larger climate objective of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero around 2050. This is what, scientists say, offers the best chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Centigrade. So far, no country is on track towards such a pathway.

The document, however, also underlined that this transition entailed costs ranging in “trillion dollars” that the developed countries, responsible for the existing carbon accumulation, ought to be making good. “The transition to low carbon development pathway will entail several costs pertaining to the development of new technologies, new infrastructure, and other transaction costs. While several estimates exist, varying across studies, they all fall generally in the range of trillions of dollars by 2050. Provision of climate finance by developed countries will play a very significant role and needs to be considerably enhanced, in the form of grants and concessional loans, ensuring scale, scope and speed, predominantly from public sources, in accordance with the principles of the UNFCCC.,” the document noted. 

Experts welcomed the document but said more could be done.

“India’s long-term strategy (LTS) can guide the growth of Indian industry, urban planning, and infrastructure creation. Connecting India’s net-zero target with near-term climate actions is critical to avoid investments that might be incompatible with a low-emissions and climate-resilient future,” Ulka Kelkar, director, climate change programme, World Resources Institute (India), in a statement. “Currently, just half of the 50+ long-term strategies submitted by countries have full or partial legal backing. Going forward, India might also like to create a legal or institutional framework to pursue policies based on its long-term goal.”

“India’s long-term strategy (LTS) follows up on the net zero pledge. It clearly outlines key interventions across sectors that are going to be the focus of India’s efforts. Importantly, the document is an outcome of intensive stakeholder discussions. However, it could have included carbon pricing through a domestic emissions trading scheme as a key element of India’s strategy, given that the government has already announced the creation of the same in India,” Vaibhav Chaturvedi, fellow, Council for Energy, Environment and Water, said in a statement.

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