The recently released first part of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has set the backdrop for the conclave of world leaders at COP26, beginning in Glasgow on October 31. The conclave is scheduled to take stock of the progress in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement based on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which aimed at limiting global warming to below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C and strengthening the ability of countries to cope with the impacts of climate change and supporting their efforts.
Ahead of COP26, participating countries are reviewing and updating their NDCs which formed the Paris Agreement framework to align their greenhouse gas emission targets with net zero emission economy by the middle of the century. By the end of July, over 100 countries had filed their new/updated NDCs which account for about 49 per cent of global emissions.
China, the top emitter, accounts for 29 per cent and the US follows with 16 per cent while India is the third highest polluter, emitting 6.6 per cent of the global emissions. Their NDCs and progress in achieving them is critical to reach the goal of net zero carbon emission global economy by the middle of the century.
China, with its huge population and ranking in the world on its relentless pursuit of economic growth, still has a lower percentage of per capita emission than the US. Recently, in a tectonic shift in its energy policy, China pledged to speed up reduction in emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Aspiring to be a superpower, China is seeking to lead by example, but it has not yet detailed the path to reach its targets.
The second largest emitter, the US, with the highest per capita emission, at the recent leaders’ summit pledged to reach net zero emission in the power sector by 2035 and move up to zero emission economy by 2050. The US federal, state and local governments will follow multiple paths, working with industry and civil society to reach the goal.
The third biggest emitter, India, has neither submitted its updated NDCs nor committed itself to any date for a net zero-carbon economy.
Reiterating its sustainable development goals (SDGs) and emphasising the overarching priority of poverty eradication, India has committed itself to a low carbon path to progress, leading to a reduction of the carbon intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent of the 2005 level by 2030.
Under the National Environment Policy 2006, the National Action Plan on Climate Change, through its eight national missions in India, seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without compromising on its development objectives. The policy framework covering strategies for abatement, adoption and mitigation is backed by a wide range of legislations, institutional mechanisms and financing instruments.
Taking into account the quasi-federal character of the Indian polity, the states of the union have also put in place state action plans which sub-serve the national plan. These plans embrace every facet of development activities impinging on environment.
On the eve of COP26, the buzz about climate change is intensifying at every global forum, including the United Nations General Assembly. Countries are being asked to come up with their emission reduction targets to align with net zero emission by the mid-century.
China and the US, the top two global emitters, have already unveiled their respective pathways to the goal. For obvious reasons, India, the third largest source of global emission, is coming under increasing pressure to update its NDCs and commit itself to net zero emission by the mid-century.
The largest source of GHG emissions in India is the energy sector, with 68.7 per cent, followed mainly by agriculture, industrial processes and transport. The National Action Plan on Climate Change has already identified the ways and means of reducing GHG emissions in these sectors.
The mitigation strategy for the energy sector, which envisages several measures for the promotion of alternate sources of energy, has already become integral to our energy scenario. At the same time, several innovative technologies, including clean hydrogen, are on the horizon. They have tremendous potential for revolutionising the energy sector and transforming the economy.
Already, e-mobility is gathering momentum, thanks to a whole host of enabling policy initiatives of the government, paving the way for decarbonising the transportation sector. Several innovative technologies of proven merit could be introduced in different sectors of the economy which would help reduce the increasing carbon emission considerably. Flow of funds and access to new technologies hold the key.
The second most populated country in the world, India, with 2.4 per cent of global land area, supports 16.7 per cent of the world population. Out of the total land area, nearly 30 per cent, or about 97mh, is degraded on account of extreme weather events like droughts and floods and other factors, including human interventions. Regenerating the wastelands and making them productive ought to be one of the top priorities, especially in view of the comparatively low cost and large employment potential of the process. Under the Green India Mission, it should be eminently possible to cover over 10 million hectares of the degraded forest/non-forest land to enhance carbon sequestration on the path to net zero emission by the mid-century.
As India is mulling over its NDCs in the backdrop of the latest sombre projections and warnings of the IPCC, without compromising on its top priority of poverty eradication, it could consider committing itself to a net zero GHG emission economy by the middle of the century, provided the flow of funds and access to emerging technologies for adaptation and mitigation are suitably assured and enacted into binding international law under the United Nations Conference on Climate Change so that India is enabled to access them for realising its enhanced climate ambitions.
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