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India will achieve net zero emissions by 2070, pledges PM Modi

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India will cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2070, pledged prime minister Narendra Modi at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 November. Modi also revealed a number of near-term commitments, the most ambitious of which is to cut India’s carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030. In addition, half of the nation’s energy is to come from renewables by the end of this decade, and the carbon intensity of its economy will be reduced by 45 per cent.

Photograph: Government of India

India was the largest emitter, and the only G20 country, not to have announced a net-zero target until 1 November, and there was increasing pressure for it to agree to one.

Also, Modi significantly increased India’s previous climate change targets, mentioned in promises made during the Paris Agreement. The nation’s target for its installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 has been enhanced from 450 gigawatts (GW) to 500GW. At the same time, the share of renewable energy in India’s total electricity generation has been increased to 50 per cent by 2030 instead of a previous, lower target of 40 per cent. In fact, the prime minister said India will “meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030”, but that has never been the target. It has always been about the share of renewable energy in electricity production.

In addition, India’s emissions intensity, or emissions per unit of GDP (gross domestic product), will be reduced by at least 45 per cent by the year 2030 from the 2005 levels. In its previous target, the country had promised to reduce its emissions intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by that date.

This is the first time the country has set any climate target in terms of absolute emissions. Before this, the closest reference to changing its emissions trajectory was in the form of emissions intensity. This is because under the international climate change architecture, only developed countries are mandated, and expected, to make reductions in their absolute emissions.

Meanwhile, India’s business community hailed Modi’s promise that the country will achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070, terming it a practical long-term target and said the nation is well on track to achieve the aspirational targets.
However, Indian industry said the onus now lies with the developed nations to “walk the talk” and ensure that the issue of climate finance is addressed fairly, according to news agency PTI.

“The CII [Confederation of Indian Industry] welcomes the bold and ambitious scale of the prime minister’s announcements at COP26 with aggressive short-term goals and a practical long-term target on net zero for a credible commitment on climate action,” said CII president T.V. Narendran, according to PTI.

The secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Deepak Sood, said it is now up to the developed nations to walk the talk and ensure that the issue of climate finance is addressed fairly.

Uday Shankar, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), said Modi’s net zero emissions commitment by 2070 at COP26 Glasgow is pragmatic. “Huge investments, tech transfer and innovation in deep decarbonisation technologies will be required for the industry to rise to the occasion, net-zero transition should ensure just transition,” he added.

Read the summary of PM Modi's statement at COP26.

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