Paris Agreement: Can India keep its big promises?

Jayesh Dhyani | Updated: November 30, 2020, 12:39 IST

Paris Agreement: Can India keep its big promises regarding climate change?

India’s leadership at the global level in the fight against climate change has just been acknowledged in the recent Climate Transparency Report of 2020. According to the report, India is the only G-20 country which is doing its “fair share” to achieve the target of keeping the average global temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius as per the Paris Agreement. 

The promises made by India in the Paris Agreement include reduction in emissions intensity by 33-35% of the 2005 level by 2030, increase in non-fossil share of cumulative power generation capacity to 40% by 2030, and per capita emissions to never exceed those of developed nations.

How are other countries faring?

How are different countries doing according to the Climate Transparency Report of 2020

China, which is the second largest emitter of Green House Gases, has fared badly in this report as its efforts have been rated as “highly insufficient”. It is estimated that such a performance would result in an increase of more than 4 degree Celsius in the global temperature. A 4 degree increase in the average global temperature is dangerous, and certainly not in line with what has been envisioned in the Paris Accord. Even the countries like Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates have received the same ratings.

The European Union, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Australia have fared a little better being rated as “insufficient”. This means that at this rate the global average temperature rise will be less than 3 degree celcius.

Unsurprisingly, United States which tops the list of biggest emitters has been rated as “critically insufficient” along with Russia.

The United States had formally withdrawn from the Paris deal on this November 4th, courtesy of the current president Donald Trump who called the deal as “unfair to the USA’s interests”. However, the president-elect Joe Biden has promised that his administration will make the US rejoin the deal on the very first day of his presidency. 

The next round of talks will happen in Glasgow, Scotland in November, 2021 where all the member countries will submit their performance reports and set targets for future.

A Glance at Paris Agreement & its Goals

India's promises at the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is an ambitious accord signed by 198 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015 during the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, France.

The agreement aims to bring together member countries in their fight against the phenomenon of climate change which includes global warming, and change in weather patterns caused by human activities responsible for emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The main goal of this treaty is to limit the increase in global temperature well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to put efforts to limit the increase to below 1.5 degree Celsius by the year 2100.

Also, the climate change is inevitable, although we aim to mitigate it, so this agreement envisages a ‘climate change resilient’ world which can efficiently cope with the challenges of climate change and its adverse effects, thus assuring the survival of human race.

According to the Paris Agreement, all the participating countries have set for themselves some self-determined goals regarding the reduction of GHGs emissions, and have promised to fulfill these goals in a stipulated time. These self-determined targets are called as Nationally Determined Contributions. This agreement is not legally binding, and the countries cannot be penalised for not performing accordingly.

India’s performance

The Indian contingent will surely enter the Conference of Parties (2021) with its head held high as India is the only G-20 nation that has managed to get a rating of “2 degree Celsius compatible”, thanks to its consistent efforts towards reducing Green House Gases (GHGs) emissions and adoption of renewable sources of energy through its various schemes and policies.

Energy Supply

India has officially achieved complete electrification of its households in the year 2020. The electricity production in India is also moving towards de-carbonisation, plus it is fairly consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Considering fossil fuel resources, India’s coal power share in total electricity generation has also reduced. However, it is still nowhere consistent with the Paris Agreement as the total coal operation capacity of India is supposed to increase to 300 Giga Watt by 2027, that too after all the planning.

India’s coal production is also seeing an increase, especially after the sector’s privatisation, and some of the coal mines are located in ecologically sensitive regions.

Talking of renewable sources of energy, earlier India had set a target of attaining 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, but last year this figure was increased and the target was set to a whopping 450 GW by the year 2030. The 450 GW figure includes 275 GW of renewable energy (solar and wind power), 75 GW of hydroelectricity, 15 GW of nuclear energy, and 100 GW from other “zero emission” sources.

Currently, about 89 GW (Solar and Wind) capacities are already operational, and projects worth 48 GW capacities are at bidding stage.

Industry

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency launched a scheme named Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) Mechanism according to which energy efficiency targets have been set for industries. The industry which fulfills these targets is given a certificate and rewarded with incentives. This sector includes thermal power, cement, aluminium, textlies, iron & steel, and accounts for 40% of the total energy consumption.

Transport

India has set a goal for 2030 that 30% of the newly sold vehicles till then will be electrically powered. This, in itself, is a ratification as the earlier target was of a 100%. This new bar is barely consistent with the Paris Agreement according to which India should have targeted at least 80%.

One of the measures taken by the GOI to increase the production and sale of electric vehicles is the scheme called Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME-II). This scheme provides incentives to the manufacturing companies as well as the customers through subsidies and tax concessions.

Notably, the Indian Railways announced in July this year that it will achieve complete electrification of railway networks till 2023, in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

Agriculture

India’s large population is engaged in agriculture sector where electricity (at subsidised rate) is used for pumping large amounts of water during irrigation, especially in the semi-arid areas like Punjab and Haryana. To address this issue, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has brought a scheme called PM Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) that will allow setting up of solar plants in rural areas with the help of the Government. These solar plants will be used by farmers to power their irrigation pumps and they will be paid for the surplus units by the power corporation. 

The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, launched in 2012, sought reduction in agricultural emissions, but failure of allocation of funds has dented its progress over the time.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Development (NABARD) has also launched various projects focused at rural energy management, renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency. The bank also educates farmers about the climate change and its impacts, and how to fight against it.

Forestry

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change has come up with a National Forest Policy which aims to guide India’s forest management for the next three decades, and calls for a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area to be under forest or tree cover. 

Green India Mission is another initiative launched in 2014 under the same ministry, and sets goals to “protect and enhance” the “diminishing forests” of India while responding to climate change. However, the environmentalists have complained that only 34% of the fund has been allocated, thus limiting the success of the mission.

Economy wise

India’s economy has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as the demand and production both had fallen down. However, as the economy recovers slowly, India might not be consistent with the Paris Agreements when considering the targets for 2040 and further.  

Considering the population of India, which is about overtake China very soon, the emission levels are expected to increase although the per capita figures for the same are much lower in India’s case when compared to other major global powers.

Climate Change is a relevant issue, and must be dealt with full sincerity from both the Government and the civil society. India is on its way to achieve the targets which were set by it back in 2015, but to become a world leader when it comes to tackling climate change and shifting to new & renewable ways of energy production, India will have to make structural changes, backed by a solid policy implementation.

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