- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India Opposition to Net-Zero
John Kerry, the US President’s Special Envoy on Climate, is currently on a three-day visit to India trying to rekindle a climate change partnership that had been all but put on hold during the four years of the Donald Trump administration.
Also, virtual Climate Leaders’ Summit has been convened by US President Joe Biden on April 22-23, where the US is widely expected to commit itself to a net-zero emission target for 2050
Several other countries, including the UK, France and China have already enacted laws promising to achieve a net-zero emission scenario by the middle of the century.
India, the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China, is the only major player holding out.
The net-zero goal
- Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero.
- Rather, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
- Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
- This way, it is even possible for a country to have negative emissions, if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions. A good example is Bhutan which is often described as carbon-negative because it absorbs more than it emits.
- It is being argued that global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.
- Most impacted Country: Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions.
- Expensive Technologies Involved: Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive. India points towards the poor track record of developed countries on their commitment to provide money, and technology, to developing and poor countries to help them deal with the impacts of climate change.
- Not a part of Paris Climate Accord: The net-zero goal does not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, it only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can. Countries need to set five- or ten-year climate targets for themselves, and demonstrably show they have achieved them. The other requirement is that targets for every subsequent time-frame should be more ambitious than the previous one.
- No need of parallel discussion: India has been arguing that instead of opening up a parallel discussion on net-zero targets outside of the Paris Agreement framework, countries must focus on delivering on what they have already promised
- Doesn’t involve any emission reduction targets: Theoretically, a country can become carbon-neutral at its current level of emissions, or even by increasing its emissions, if it is able to absorb or remove more.
- Dilution of CBDR Principle: From the perspective of the developed world, carbon neutrality is a big relief, because now the burden is shared by everyone, and does not fall only on them. This is seen as dilution of Common but Differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and Historical responsibility principle of tackling Climate Change
- India is already doing more: Several studies have shown that India is the only G-20 country whose climate actions are compliant to the Paris Agreement. Even the actions of the EU and the US are assessed as “insufficient”. In other words, India is already doing more, relatively speaking, on climate than many other countries.
- Past record of developed countries: No major country achieved the emission-cut targets assigned to them under the Kyoto Protocol. India has been arguing that the 2050 carbon-neutrality promise might meet a similar fate, although some countries are now binding themselves in law. India has been insisting that the developed countries should, instead, take more ambitious climate actions now, to compensate for the unfulfilled earlier promises.
- Not totally opposing Carbon Neutrality: India has been saying that it does not rule out the possibility of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050 or 2060. Just that, it does not want to make an international commitment so much in advance.
Connecting the dots: