India’s Climate Control Blueprint: Will it Come True? Can It?

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Recently, when Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar referred India’s plan for tackling climate change as “a huge jump” for the country, he was not far off the mark, really.

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It’s been only a few days since India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for 2030 with a focus on clean energy to the United Nations (UN). The plan was presented about a month ahead of a major global warming conference in Paris, with India being the last of the 140 nations in the conference to submit a strategy.

A Vague ‘Plan’

While the plan, overall, received a thumbs up from a vast section of domestic and international environmental groups, the question on everyone’s mind is will India be able to pull this balancing act between development and climate control? Before going into that, let’s just understand some of the salient points of the INDC:

  • India intends to produce about 40% of its electricity in 2030 from “non-fossil fuel based sources” like solar, wind or hydroelectric power, with help from international funds and technology advances.
  • It pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 35% over 2005 levels by 2020.
  • It will plant more trees by 2030 to absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

The INDC mentioned some big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the dedicated rail freight corridor to shift the population from fossil-fuel-intensive road transportation. Researchers such as Navroz Dubash, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, has dubbed this section as “somewhat vague.”

Environmental Community Still Embraces It

Yet, in the same breath, researchers have welcomed it because the plan will bring a climate-influenced perspective to a huge portion of the economy, including energy, transportation, water, forests and agriculture.

Unlike countries such as China and the US, the Indian plan does not commit to an absolute reduction or peak level for carbon emissions, acknowledging, tacitly, that India’s pollution will continue to grow, although (maybe) at a slower pace.

“India, even though not a part of the problem, has been an active and constructive participant in the search for solutions,” was one of the remarks in the 38-page INDC. Thus, the country made it clear that though its contribution to causing global warming is “relatively small as compared to the developed nations,” it was game to mitigate its adverse impacts, something that was expected to cost anything between $1 and $2 trillion.

Responsibility for Emissions

India, incidentally, is the world’s 4th-largest carbon emitter – after China, the USs, and the European Union. It has, so far, resisted attempts to limit its energy use, asking developed nations, which it largely blames for the greenhouse gases, to fix the problem. So, in that sense, yes, India’s INDC was indeed “path-breaking.”

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Economists as well as industry analysts were trying to figure out how the country would juggle its 2 responsibilities – development of India’s infrastructure and industry, especially in the light of the Make In India campaign, and trying to keep the pollution levels down.

The author, Sohrab Darabshaw, contributes an Indian perspective on industrial metals markets to MetalMiner. This is part 1 of a 2-part look at India’s climate blueprint.

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