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Why is it difficult for India to get to net zero?

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  • Published
    28th Sep, 2021


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 emission.


  • The COP 26 UN Climate Change conference, to be hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be held from 31 October to 12 November 2021 at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, UK.
  • Contrary to the shape of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which sounds like "red" in climate change, India will be under a lot of pressure from the West at a climate summit in Glasgow in November and, most likely, before it declared some kind of 'zero ' commitment.
  • However, if the government actually intends to reject any such demands and provide more weather action than a commitment that would be the right approach.

What is the target of Net-zero output?

  • Net-zero emissions are a way of measuring the release of heat gas into the atmosphere by the absorption of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • In zero-carbon combustion, the country will focus on reducing carbon emissions. But in Net-zero carbon the country will focus on bringing carbon emissions to zero.
  • In the first phase, the country will focus on reducing human emissions such as burning mineral fuels, measuring factory emissions, etc.
  • Gradually, however, net-zero releases can be extended to other remaining locations.
  • Globally the idea of ??net-zero emissions by 2050 is gaining momentum. It is being advised by many countries as a solution to tackling climate change.
  • To date 58 countries have announced targets for zero emissions. Together these countries make up more than half of the current GHG emissions worldwide.
  • Over the next 30 years, they all aim to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs. There are requests from international forums that India also needs to accept the release of net-zero emissions.
  • But there are other environmental factors that do not allow you to accept the objectives of the Net-zero release. They say it's not fair in developing countries.

Indian Climate actions

  • India is expected to significantly exceed the Paris Agreement's commitment to reduce its GDP emissions by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Emphasis on renewal: India impresses the world with its leading renewable energy output and target of 450GW by 2030, linked to its leadership in the International Solar Alliance and the latest national hydrogen strategy.
  • Businesses: Indian companies are also on the rise, with Tata team winning awards for sustainability, Mahindra is committed to net-zero by 2040, and Reliance by 2035.
  • In addition to logical arguments about historical obligation, individual exclusion, and equality, India's national interests in climate action are now operating in more efficient ways than waiting for donor support to create prominence.

Why achieving net zero emissions are not easy for India?

  • The country is trying to balance its growing energy needs with demands to slash emissions, which could make the goal of achieving carbon neutrality difficult.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that India's energy demands will grow more than any other country over the next 20 years. By 2030, it is expected to overtake the European Union as the third biggest energy consumer.
    • Although renewable energy’s share in India’s energy mix is increasing, coal accounts for almost 70 per cent of the country’s electricity generation, according to the IEA. It plays a major role in global warming and contributes to deadly air pollution.
  • India is the world’s third-biggest emitter of GHG.
  • India’s per capita CO2 emissions – at 1.8 tonnes per person in 2015 – are around a ninth of those in the USA and around a third of the global average of 4.8 tonnes per person.
  • India must also meet the aspirations of 1.4 billion people for faster economic development. This will limit India’s development potential.
  • Meeting the nation’s existing target of 450 gigawatts of renewables by 2030 is already a massive lift. Hitting net zero will require an even more dramatic acceleration.
  • By 2050, India’s total electricity demand would be about 5500 to 6000 terawatt-hours (TWh), roughly a factor of five on today’s level.
  • In developed countries, emissions have already peaked. Their decision is only about the path to net-zero. Emerging economies like India, instead, will go through a high-growth phase with rising energy demand and emissions. So, before a net-zero year can be targeted, India must discuss options for its peaking year
  • Many argue that net zero is not equitable and fair as it does not differentiate between developing and developed countries in sharing the burden of mitigation.
  • Some also criticise mid-century net zero as allowing uncontrolled emissions today while relying on uncertain technologies to offset emissions in the future.
  • Many net zero pledges are premised upon trading and offsetting emissions, allowing the rich to continue emitting and buying their way out.

Suggestive measures

  • Given the massive shifts underway in India’s energy system, we would benefit from taking stock of our actions and focusing on near-term transitions.
  • This will allow us to meet and even over-comply with our 2030 target while also ensuring concomitant developmental benefits, such as developing a vibrant renewable industry.
  • We can start putting in place the policies and institutions necessary to move us in the right direction for the longer-term and also better understand, through modelling and other studies, the implications of net-zero scenarios before making a net-zero pledge.
  • It would also be in India’s interest to link any future pledge to the achievement of near-term action by industrialised countries.
  • That would be fair and consistent with the principles of the UNFCCC and also enhance the feasibility of our own actions through, for example, increasing availability and reducing costs of new mitigation technologies.


The world is not going to achieve its targets of halting global warming unless India is able to reduce its carbon emissions and India changes its trajectory right now. India is now rightly recognised for having come of age and becoming a major global power. But coming of age also brings with it the ability to take a stand, and resist being buffeted by the winds of shifting political agendas. While we, like others, have a responsibility to the international community, we also have a responsibility to our citizens to be deliberate and thoughtful about a decision as consequential as India’s climate pledge.


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