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Two poles of climate targeting: the Net zero-emission and the Climate Justice

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    13th Apr, 2021

By the expected announcement of the Biden Administration, nine of the 10 world’s largest economies are going to set the target to achieve net-zero emission targets by 2050 or so.


By the expected announcement of the Biden Administration, nine of the 10 world’s largest economies are going to set the target to achieve net-zero emission targets by 2050 or so.


  • The idea of net zero emissions by 2050 is being advocated as a universal remedy for climate change.
  • However, the only left-out nation is India, which is also under pressure to adopt it.
  • While the feasibility and efficacy of such a strategy for all countries is questionable, it also strikes at the root of the basic tenets of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Simultaneously, it undermines the achievement of a ‘climate-just world’.

The question is whether the net-zero will obstacle the climate justice or the climate change cure should be a priority?


What is Net Zero Emission?

  • Net Zero Emission is used for achieving the balance between the production and the removal of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
  • Under the Net Zero Emission, countries are free to emit some emission as long as it is offset by the processes that reduce greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere.
  • The removal could be achieved by planting forest or direct air capture technologies.

What is meant by ‘Climate Justice’?

  • In a general sense, the term ‘Climate justice’ is used to shift the focus just from the greenhouse gas emission or the melting of ice caps towards the civil rights movement which includes people and communities who are most vulnerable to climate impacts.
  • In 2015, during the adoption of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, Indian Prime Minister stressed reframing ‘climate change’ to ‘climate justice’.
    • He supported the idea that the countries which are still on the developmental path should not pay the price for the pollution caused by the West.

How India had performed in the past on the climate target front?

  • India has been the forerunner in achieving the Nationally Determined Commitments made under the Paris Agreement in 2015.
  • The country is on track to meet the targets of generating 40% of its power from renewable sources and reducing carbon emission up to 33% to 35% by 2030.
  • India is also committed to achieving 175GW of renewable energy by 2022 and further commits to make it 450 GW.
  • In 2015, with France, India has initiated the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which targets to achieve renewable capacity through Solar based energy.
  • India has launched the National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy in 2018.
  • India has also adopted the BS-VI emission norms directly from BS-IV norms.

International Solar Alliance

  • The International Solar Alliance was launched jointly by the Indian Prime Minister and the French President during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, in Paris.
    • Currently, India is the president of the alliance.
    • At present, 89 countries have signed the framework agreement of the ISA.
  • The coming into force of the amendment of the ISA framework agreement allows all the member states of the United Nations to join the grouping, including those lying beyond the tropics.
  • Expanding the ISA membership is expected to put solar energy on the global agenda with the universal appeal for developing and deploying solar energy.
    • It will also make ISA inclusive.
  • Earlier only thecountries located fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn were the members.

How ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ nations are contributing to climate change?

  • The sharp change in global temperature after 1981 was mainly due to the developed nations with little contribution from the developing countries.
  • It is the developed nations who are responsible for the vast majority of historical emissions.
    • For example, if the United States and India both meet net-zero targets by 2050, the U.S. will have emitted nearly five times carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as India.
  • Now the demand for a common target and timetable is putting pressure on the developmental activities in India.
  • The international order should be justiciable in terms of differential treatment for the developed and developing nations.

Balancing between the Net Zero Target and climate justice

  • India is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and going through the current emission will double its emission by the mid-century.
  • Annual emissions make India the fourth largest emitter though the climate is impacted by cumulative emissions of all the countries, with India contributing only 3% compared with 26% for the United States and 13% for China.
  • The road towards development and the reduction in targets can be achieved by sticking to its targets under the Paris Climate Agreement for renewable energy.
  • It becomes imperative for India to reduce its emission by consistent efforts and renewable energy efforts to achieve the Net Zero target India.
  • In India, more than 1.3 billion of its population is in poverty and they lack basic facilities such power, roads, cars, factories, and industries, which are necessary for the progress. Thus, only focusing on clean climate would be unfair.

Paris Climate Agreement

  • It is a legally binding international agreement on climate change.
  • It was adopted at Conference of the Parties COP 21 in Paris in December 2015, by 196 countries.
  • It aims to limit global warming to limit the temperature rise below 2° Celsius, and preferably limit it to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • To achieve the long-term temperature goal the countries are required to achieve global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggestions for achieving the net-zero target

  • Technology innovation: In curbing emissions, India has advantages over others as most of its factories, vehicles & power plants are yet to be built. It can avoid pollution by locking in polluting technology.
  • Sectoral targets: India can set a target year for its peak emissions and sectoral target for de-carbonization.
  • Environment-friendly environment: An environmentally friendly business environment for carbon-reducing technologies and processes can be adopted.
  • Cooperation: The transfer of technology and adequate financing and investment can be sought from the developed nations. For example, India and Sweden along with other partners will be launching the “Industry Transition Group.” Similar initiatives could be taken forward.
  • Renewable energy: India is a world leader in generating cheap power from solar, water, and wind, and it has plenty of scopes to expand on this front. The savings from reduced oil imports would also make up for the costs of the transition.
  • Demographic dividend:A young and entrepreneurial population can also help develop clean-energy innovations.
  • Transition: India will need a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables for everything from generating power to electric vehicles to cooking.
  • Storage and Transmission: The improvement in the power grid and the storage expansion for wind and solar energy should be adopted.
  • Efficiency: Buildings and construction need to be more efficient.
  • Carbon Sink: India will have to plant millions of trees to create carbon sinks and deploy technologies to capture and store carbon.
  • Otherworld models: India can also learn from China’s model in improving its air quality and curbing temperature rise.

China’s model for curbing its emission

  • Phasing out of older vehicles: The 2008 Beijing Olympics marked the start of significant action taken by the Chinese government as it phased out the 300,000 high polluting vehicles. This brought about an extraordinary change in terms of health benefits.
    • Air quality during the Games improved by about 30% compared to the previous year.
  • War on pollution: The Chinese government declared its “war on pollution” by launching a national action plan. The plan introduced better regulation of pollution activities, factories relocation from the populated areas, and government providing subsidies to farmers to discourage agricultural burning.
    • These measures have made a lasting impact and the air quality improved by 35% in the highly polluted northern Chinese cities between 2013 and 2017.
  • Targets for air quality: Targeting future regulations requires robust initiatives. To this end, the Chinese government has improved its coverage of air quality monitors considerably.
    • The number of federal monitoring stations across China nearly tripled between 2012 and 2020, from 661 to 1,800 with the involvement of local government.
  • Real-time analysis: A new data platform that ingests real-time data to map air quality across this city has been launched.
    • This data platform automatically detects pollution hotspots and pushes this information to enforcement officers through a simple app.
    • This shows the viability and cost-effectiveness of air quality monitoring and its potential to support targeted air quality enforcement.
    • The system is replicable and can help other cities in China and around the world to tackle the lack of capabilities to enforce air quality regulations.


The Net Zero emission is not unachievable and could be targeted more smartly by collaboration with the other nations and taking measures that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. The Climate justice and emission targets could be achieved by putting the steps on a right track.


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