OCTOBER 29, 2021
While a net zero commitment can be avoided, India stands to gain from an energy transition
As it prepares to face pressure at the COP26 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, India is adopting the stand that a national deadline for net zero carbon dioxide emissions is uncalled for, given its moral claim to a far greater share of the remaining global carbon budget. The budget, which represents the estimated volume of future emissions that will allow global average temperature rise to be kept within safe limits — well below 2° C or 1.5° C under the Paris Agreement — must anyway be shared by all countries. Since China, the U.S. and the EU collective, representing the highest emissions, are expected to occupy a big share of the remaining budget calculated at between 420-580 Gigatonnes of CO2, India will again rely on its historical energy poverty, underdevelopment and low per capita emissions to convince the world that a net zero target is incongruous with the present reality. Yet, as the Centre must acknowledge, a minimalist approach is not an option, given the global repercussions of emissions for all vulnerable nations, and India’s own alarming losses from periodic extreme weather events. It can seek convergence with the world on identifying green growth pathways, aligning future investments with a smart recovery plan for COVID-19, embracing renewable energy more widely and averting long-term lock-in effects of fossil fuel dependence in energy generation, buildings, mobility and so on.