- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Difficulties for India to attain Net Zero
Context: On his recent visit to India ahead of the U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said he had not received any assurance that India was working to raise its ambition to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
- India, as the country with the third largest emissions, is under pressure to come up with a higher ambition on cutting CO2 emissions.
- The net zero concept, according to the United Nations, has appealed to 130 countries that have either committed themselves to carbon neutrality by 2050, or are considering that target.
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.
How are other big countries pursuing net zero?
- As the largest emitter of GHGs, China told the U.N. in 2020 that it would move to net zero by 2060. It has pledged to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality three decades later.
- The U.S., as the second biggest emitter with large historical emissions, returned to the Paris Agreement under President Joe Biden with an ambitious 2050 net zero plan.
- The European Union (EU) member-states have committed themselves to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 over 1990 levels. In July, the EU published a climate law that binds the bloc to its 2030 emissions target and carbon neutrality by 2050.
Why do some analysts see net zero as controversial?
- Although a global coalition has been reached around the concept, an increasingly vocal group views net zero as a distraction, useful only to score political points.
- Carbon neutrality looks to nascent technology to suck out CO2 from the atmosphere, which is expensive especially for developing countries.
- Youth movements and some scientists call this postponement, since it enables the fossil fuel industry to continue expanding. Many fossil fuel companies support net zero goals.
What is India doing to lower emissions?
- India is working to reduce its emissions and has pledged to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33%-35% by 2030 over the 2005 level. India also has set ambitious renewable energy targets i.e. 450 GW by 2030.
- But India has not favoured a binding commitment towards carbon neutrality. It is also not aligned with the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C temperature rise.
- Among the contentious issues India faces is heavy reliance on coal accounting 70% of electricity generation.
- Cutting greenhouse gases which heat the atmosphere and contribute to climate change involves shifting power production away from coal, greater adoption of renewables, and transforming mobility through electric vehicles.
What are India’s choices?
- Getting a stronger economic dividend for the same volume of CO2 emitted by reforming energy, industry and buildings, and achieving higher energy efficiency in all sectors can slow emissions.
- State governments must be part of such a climate plan, and climate governance institutions must be set up at the national and State levels.
Connecting the dots: