PM resists 2050 net-zero goal pressure

PM Modi on Monday committed India to becoming a ‘carbon neutral’ country through a ‘net zero’ goal by 2070, the first time such a goal has been set for the country, along with major targets on renewables and reductions in green house gases by 2030.

While he announced a ‘net zero’ goal year, the PM resisted pressure for a 2050 deadline as was being pushed as a COP26 target by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It is also 10 years more than the 2060 deadline announced by China. But given the clamour for major emitters to set a net zero goal, the PM’s pronouncement was broadly welcomed as a significant step.

Modi held out five goals (panchamrit) to underline India’s commitment to containing climate change in his speech here setting out the country’s national targets even as he appealed to world leaders to make ‘lifestyle change’ a global movement—World LIFE—by shunning “mindless consumption” and adopting mindful utilisation of resources.

Hitting out at developed countries for their unfulfilled promises of mobilising climate finance of $100 billion per year by 2020, Modi reminded them of their responsibilities and asked them to mobilise $1 trillion to support developing countries.

PM Modi said the world cannot achieve newer targets with old goals of climate finance. In an earlier remark, he said neglect of these responsibilities was an injustice to countries like India. In his main speech, he said he had outlined issues which speak for the developing countries. The announcement of ‘net zero’ was backed by Modi spelling out how the country would take key steps – climate actions – to achieve ‘the target through a clear timeline for other sectoral targets.

This includes meeting 50% of India’s total energy requirements from renewable energy, reducing one billion tonnes of carbon equivalent of greenhouse gases from its projected emissions by next nine years, reducing carbon intensity (carbon emission per unit of GDP) by 45% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and increasing the share of renewable energy from 450 GW to 500 GW by 2030 as part of NDCs.

Reducing one billion tonnes of GHG is quite substantial, considering the fact that the country’s entire GHG inventory is currently less than 3 billion tonnes and it is projected to be 4.5 billion tonnes in 2030. At present, though India is the fourth largest emitter, China’s emissions are manifold. India’s per capita emissions are low.

Modi’s announcement is clearly an enhancement on what India had committed in 2015 as its ‘nationally determined contributions’ under the Paris Agreement. This would clearly update the country’s NDCs by increasing its previous target of 40% share of non-fossil fuels in total energy mix by 2030 to now 50%; decreasing GHG emissions in absolute terms and increasing reduction in carbon intensity from 33-35% to 45% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Modi, in his speech, also underlined how India has fulfilled its promises made in the past as well as under the Paris Agreement, but many developed countries have failed to do it despite big promises. He said India is the only country among the major economies which fulfilled its Paris pledges and has been on track to achieve the rest of its goal, and appealed to the developed countries to do so in terms of climate finance and technology transfer.

He said India’s contribution in climate change mitigation far outstrips its role in emissions. He said India, which has around 17% of the world’s population, is responsible for only about 5% of the total emissions.

Earlier speaking on the sidelines of the leaders' summit, Modi said adaptation has not found its importance in the global climate talks and negotiations the way the mitigation (emission) reduction has got. Citing examples of how the climate change-linked extreme weather events have been affecting agriculture and farmers over the years, he said adaptation must become the key pillar of the world's fight against climate change.

Noting that not giving adaptation an equal importance is an “injustice to developing countries, which are more affected by climate change”, Modi suggested three steps to end such discrepancy.

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