AT THE start of the second week of negotiations on Monday at the climate change conference, India will unveil its long-term decarbonization plans in pursuit of its goal to reach a net-zero status by 2070.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries are mandated to submit long-term action plans with estimated low-emission pathways till 2050 that are consistent with the global goal of keeping temperature rise within 1.5 degree or 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times. This is apart from the short-term action plans, called nationally-determined contributions or NDCs, that the countries have to submit, detailing the climate actions they are taking over five- or ten-year periods.
The long-term action plans were supposed to be submitted by 2020 itself, but could not be done due to the pandemic. Most of the developed countries submitted their long-term strategies during the Glasgow meeting last year. So far, 62 countries have submitted their long-term strategies, including the three largest emitters — China, the United States and the European Union. India is the fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, if the contribution of EU is considered as a block.
India’s long-term strategy will have details of the key sectoral low carbon transition pathways till the goal of net zero is realized by 2070. It is expected to be keenly watched for the plans on the phase-down of coal-based power generation which often comes under criticism from developed countries and climate NGOs.
Why it is different from NDCs
LONG-TERM strategies are different from the NDCs, or nationally-determined contributions that India, like every other country, has promised. NDCs contain specific actions or targets that have to be achieved by 2030. The long-term strategies have to reveal estimated low-carbon pathways that will lead to a country attaining the net-zero status, in India’s case, by 2070. The long-term strategies are unlikely to have any mid-way targets.
Anticipating more demands on it to curb emissions from its coal sector, India on Saturday stressed that meeting climate goals required the phasing out of all fossil fuels and not just coal. At the same time, it also called out the duplicity of the developed countries, saying the selective labelling of some energy sources as ‘green’ had no basis in science. Though India did not mention it, its argument was clearly aimed at a recent decision of the European Parliament to classify some uses of gas as ‘green’.
India made these arguments in the proposals it made for inclusion in the cover text, a set of political resolutions that is likely to come out at the end of the meeting alongside the main negotiated decisions.
Selective singling out of sources of emissions, for either labelling them more harmful, or as “green and sustainable” even when they all are all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, had no basis in the best available science, India is learnt to have argued. The cover text must, therefore, acknowledge that all fossil fuels contributed to greenhouse gas emissions, and call for the acceleration of global transition towards clean energy but keeping in mind the national circumstances of individual countries, India argued.
India’s proposals did not mention coal as well, but used the latest IPCC reports to emphasise that a phase-down of all fossil fuels was required. At last year’s Glasgow meeting, India had forced a last minute change in one of the decisions on elimination of coal, getting the phrase “phase-out” replaced with “phase-down”.
In a separate intervention on Saturday, India, backed by some other countries, blocked the introduction of a proposal by the developed nations to focus a new mitigation work programme on the top 20 emitters of greenhouse gases. There are a number of developing countries amongst the top 20 emitters with no historical obligations to reduce their emissions. These countries argued that any new mitigation work programme must not result in the reopening of the Paris Agreement which clearly mentions that climate commitments of countries have to be nationally-determined, and not forced by outside.
India is constantly criticised for not doing enough to curtail its reliance on coal-power. Nearly 55 per cent of India’s energy needs come from coal-based power, even after a massive expansion of renewable energy sector. India has maintained that in keeping with its fast-growing energy requirements, it would continue to depend on coal as a major source of power generation for three to four decades, even though new coal-fired power plants are unlikely to come up. At the Glasgow climate conference last year, India, with the help of some other countries, was successful in getting a reference to quick “phase-out” of coal changed to “phase-down”.
India also proposed that the cover text take note of the references in the IPCC report on the disproportionate use of global carbon budget by the developed countries since 1850. It said the cover text should urge all countries to follow sustainable methods of production and consumption, and to promote a global mass movement for sustainable lifestyles. India has been arguing that lifestyle changes were necessary to move towards a sustainable future.
India said it also wanted the cover text to “express deep regret” that we continued to live in an unequal world with “enormous disparities in energy use, incomes and emissions”, and stressed that the basic principles of the global climate change architecture — common but differentiated responsibilities with respective capabilities, equity, nationally determined nature of climate commitments under the Paris Agreement — all needed to be strongly reflected in the cover text.