Understanding India’s Climate Action Plan (INDC)

According to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to meet the 2°C temperature increase target, the world has an emission budget of only 1,000 billion tonnes of CO2 till 2100. With Kyoto Protocol coming to an end by 2020, UNFCCC has urged countries to come up with ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’(INDC) by COP21 so as to negotiate and come up with a legally binding document to cut down emissions.
India has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) at midnight on 1st October to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)., making it one of the last countries to submit its climate action plan in run up to the climate change conference – Conference of Parties (COP21)—that will be held in Paris this December. A total of 146 countries, representing 87 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have submitted their INDCs to UNFCCC before the deadline.
Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr.Prakash Javadekar said “even though India is not part of problem, it wants to be part of solution”. India has historically not been responsible for the emissions, has per capita emissions of 1.6 tons/person and ranks 135th – standing along with most of the least developed countries. But with total CO2 emissions of 1.97 billion tons, it is currently the 3rd biggest emitter making India’s stand a very complex case.
Why Emission Intensity?
It has been historically observed that Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and development of a country increase proportionally. India has a Human development Index of 0.586 and it needs to develop for better quality of living, but at the same time not emit as much as the developed countries since India is highly vulnerable to climate change. So India in its INDC has not made a commitment on reducing its emissions like most of the developed countries have, but has pledged to reduce its Carbon intensity, which means that the emissions would increase for its development but the intensity will be low. In simple terms India will be very efficient unlike the developed countries which have their development models designed on consumption.
India had in the past declared a voluntary goal of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20–25%, over 2005 levels, by 2020, despite having no binding mitigation obligations. A slew of policy measures were launched to achieve this goal. As a result, the emission intensity of India’s GDP has decreased by 12% between 2005 and 2010. India has further pledged in its INDC that it will increase its target to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.
Ambitious Renewable Energy and Enhancing Forestry cover commitment
India has also committed to increase its share in renewable energy to 40% in installed capacity by 2030. Its current share of renewable energy is around 13% (36 GW) making it a very ambitious goal. India says that the ambitious goal will be attained by the following
  • Solar and Wind energy will increase from current 4060 MW and 23.76 GW in 2015 to 100 GW and 60 GW by 2022 respectively and an increase even after that.
  • It is envisaged to increase biomass installed capacity to 10 GW by 2022 from current capacity of 4.4 GW.
  • Special programmes to promote small and mini hydel projects, new and efficient designs of water mills have been introduced for electrification of remote villages and will continue to be promoted.
  • Nuclear energy will be promoted from the current capacity of 5780 MW to 63 GW installed capacity by the year 2032, if supply of fuel is ensured.
  • Clean coal will be promoted by increasing the efficiency standards and old inefficient thermal stations will be assigned mandatory targets for improving energy efficiency
India has also agreed to enhance its forest cover from 24% of the geographical area in 2013 to 33% of its geographical area in long term. And it also mentions that its forest cover will absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030 making it a major sink for absorbing Carbon Dioxideindia climate change national action plan_energy
Overcoming all these challenges comes at a cost. Based on estimates made by NITI Ayog (National Institution for Transforming India), India will need USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030, which will partially be generated domestically and the rest is expected to be supported by the developed countries which have pledged to provide USD 100 billion a year till 2020 as a part of Green Climate fund (GCF). India will need around USD 206 billion (at 2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. It is projected that the economic damage and losses in India from climate change to be around 1.8% of its GDP annually by 2050. Also, mitigation activities for moderate low carbon development would cost around USD 834 billion till 2030 at 2011 prices.
Some other important statements India has made through the INDC were to increase the usage of Fly ash to improve air quality, Promotion of Zero liquid discharge and use of treated effluent for irrigation, Amendment to Municipal Solid Waste Management rules, improving pollution monitoring systems to name a few. The Indian INDC also talks about various programmes that are currently run by the government like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Smart cities mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), existing national missions and addition of new missions for water and waste to energy, green highways program, National Mission for Clean Ganga etc.
What does all this mean?
India is on the edge of a cliff, with it having to mitigate its emissions, adapt to the problems of climate change it faces and at the same time develop. Because of its delay in development, it is both a victim and the culprit of the problem of climate change. This is the precise reason why it cannot commit to an emission reduction pledge or to an emission peaking year. Expectations from India have anyways been low because of its need for development and India’s INDC has been applauded as fair and its renewable energy program as ambitious by many. Even otherwise, India has always stated that as it is a growing economy and has major developmental challenges to deal with, it expects the countries which have historically emitted Greenhouse gases to come forward and commit more ambitious goals and make a change in their living standards if need be.
Some of the key highlights of the India’s INDC are
  • India plans to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030. A jump of 33% over non-fossil fuel capacity of 2015
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030