India rejects net zero carbon emissions target ahead of COP26

October 28, 2021
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the climate conference in Scotland in a sign of how the country is taking climate change seriously, officials say.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the climate conference in Scotland in a sign of how the country is taking climate change seriously, officials say.

NEW DELHI — India's top environmental official on Wednesday dismissed calls to set forth a net zero carbon emissions target, arguing such goals were not the solution to the climate crisis, Reuters news agency reported.

The remarks by Environment Secretary R.P. Gupta come ahead of the Sunday start of COP26, a key United Nations summit aimed at rallying actions to stem emissions that are on pace to bring global warming well beyond the Paris Agreement goals.

India is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, and New Delhi is under pressure to announce plans to become carbon neutral by mid-century at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Gupta told reporters that announcing net zero was not the solution to the climate crisis. "It is how much carbon you are going to put in the atmosphere before reaching net zero that is more important."

The United States, Britain and the European Union have set a target date of 2050 to reach net zero, by which point they will only emit an amount of greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by forests, crops, soils and still-embryonic "carbon capture" technology.

China and Saudi Arabia have both set targets of 2060.

Between now and the middle of the century the United States will release 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere and the EU 62 gigatons, Gupta said, citing Indian government calculations. China would have added a staggering 450 gigatons by its net zero target date, he added.

Representatives of nearly 200 countries will meet in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 for climate talks to strengthen action to tackle global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the conference in a sign of how the country is taking climate change seriously, officials say. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not left China since before the coronavirus pandemic, is not expected.

While working toward net zero, countries are expected to announce new and strengthened intermediate targets for cutting emissions.

Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said India was on track to achieve targets set at the 2015 Paris conference and left the door open to revising them. "All options are on the table," he said.

India has committed to cutting the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 percent to 35 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, achieving a 24 percent reduction by 2016.

Some environment experts say India could consider lowering its emissions intensity by as much as 40 percent dependent on finance and whether it has access to newer technologies.

Yadav said he would measure the success of the Glasgow conference by how much it delivered on climate finance to help the developing world cut their emissions while ensuring economic growth.

In its report to the UN, India made it clear that its responsibility toward mitigation of green-house gases emissions is low, "by any equitable measure of responsibility". It says between 1850 and 2017, India has only contributed about 4 percent to global cumulative emissions.

In fact, in recent decades, India has consumed far less than its fair share of the global carbon budget, while rich countries have consumed much more. Between 1990 and 2017, India's carbon dioxide emissions were 51 gigatons, the report asserts.

Coal dominates India's energy sector, it has 54 percent of the power generation capacity, according to a government dashboard, and the energy sector is 75 percent of the country's green-house gas emissions. The impact on human health is devastating -- coal combustion has been linked to almost 100,000 deaths.

New Delhi says coal will continue to play a critical and integral role. It says in its report that, "Unlike those countries who are pro-active in planning for phase-out of coal, only to replace them by oil and gas, India is transparent in its need for coal for its energy security, lacking any major domestic oil and gas resources. India will however use coal responsibly as testified by the number of clean coal initiatives that are being undertaken." — Agencies

October 28, 2021
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