Will India phase out fossil fuels as pledged by G7 nations?

To keep the increase in global average surface temperature at 1.5 degree Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 40-70% by 2050, says climate expert Indrajit Bose.— File Photo: AP  

After G7 countries committed to phase out fossil fuel consumption by 2100 in Germany recently, is it time that India also pursued this goal? While some climate experts argue that should be the case, others say that developed countries have a greater share of responsibility, which they haven’t lived up to as yet, and it is they that need to be pressured to do more.

“The long-term goals for decarbonisation in the G7 communiqué are not matched by the pledges on emission reduction that they have tabled for 2020 and 2030,” senior economist Nitin Desai, a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, told The Hindu , to a query on whether the G7 countries’ announcement was indeed significant.

Indrajit Bose, climate expert at the Third World Network, said that the G7 countries had shifted the goalpost to the end of the century which was “highly unambitious.”

“These countries should have cut fossil fuel consumption long ago. In fact, the latest Structured Expert Dialogue report released in Bonn, Germany, shows that 1.5 degree Celsius is the desired global average surface temperature we should be aiming for and even 2 degree Celsius is unsafe. For this 40-70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are required by 2050, which won’t be achieved by pushing the goal to 2100.”

No consensus yet

After the U.S.-China deal on climate change came through in November last year, there have been expectations that India too would commit itself to an emissions target. But no consensus with regard to cutting fossil fuel consumption was reached at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sessions which concluded on June 11 at Bonn, Germany, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), who attended it, told The Hindu.

“Although some streamlining of probable goals did happen, a more concrete document would only emerge in the next session of the UNFCCC meet scheduled in August-September,” he said.

No headway has also been made in determining India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) for the 2015 Paris agreement. “Any decision on this front made by India would be keeping in mind our development and growth requirements,” he said.

Abhishek Pratap, senior campaigner (renewable energy) at Greenpeace India said that India’s coal consumption had not reached the same levels as China’s for it to commit to a peaking year as China did last year. According to him, for India to be able to phase out fossil fuels it would require financial support from the $100 billion Green Climate Fund available per year till 2020. However, European countries are not willing to extend this assistance, on the grounds that India is a rich country.

Prof. Sudhir Chella Rajan of IIT, Madras who tracks climate policy, said India could nevertheless safely pledge to cut fossil fuel consumption by 2100. But he emphasised that deep emission cuts must come from developed countries like the U.S. “It is no good saying that the U.S. is constrained by conservative politics. If we have to save the earth, we have to move beyond national politics.”