India sets 2070 target for net-zero

5 November 2021

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his National Statement to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow said on 1 November that India has set a target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. However, this followed four concrete pledges. 

He said, first, India will reach its non-fossil energy capacity of 500GW by 2030. Second, India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. Third, India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now until 2030. Fourth, by 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45%.

Modi called for global action on climate finance to support developing countries. "While we all are raising our ambitions on climate action, the world ambitions on climate finance cannot remain the same as they were at the time of the Paris Agreement," he said. "India expects developed countries to provide climate finance of $1 trillion at the earliest."

India had previously declined to set targets ahead of the adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 which entered into force in November 2016. Modi's announcement was the first time that India had set a net-zero target.

India's 2017 total CO2 emissions, according to figures from the International Energy Agency, were of 2162 million tonnes - the third highest in the world (after China and the USA). However, its energy consumption of 0.7 tonnes of oil equivalent per capita was one of the world's lowest, and its per capita carbon emissions of 1.6 tonnes are also low.  

Some experts say India’s net zero target is much more ambitious than that of China or the European Union despite the delay.  India had previously insisted that net zero targets were less important than the path towards achieving reduced emissions. However, after China announced its 2060 net zero target last year, India has been under increasing pressure to follow suit.

Dr Vaibhav Chaturvedi, a fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said India’s net zero target is more ambitious than that of China or the European Union. “We at CEEW expect this to provide a clear roadmap to Indian and global energy markets and accelerate the pace towards deep decarbonisation and a 1.5C future,” he said in a statement. “This announcement, in line with CEEW’s latest report, will also provide a blueprint for India’s transition to a low carbon economy. By announcing the net zero year, the prime minister has also accorded a red carpet to foreign and domestic inventors who want to invest in research and development, manufacturing, and deployment of green technologies in India.” 

However, Dr Chaturvedi added that India’s efforts will have to be supported by the availability of climate finance from developed countries. “Without foreign capital, on concessional terms, this transition will prove to be difficult,” he noted.

Following India’s announcement, countries representing 90% of global GDP are now covered by a net-zero target. India’s 2070 date is 20 years later than the 2050 pledged by the UK, USA and other high-income countries, and later than the 2060 date agreed by China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

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