India doing well on climate change; on path to meet Paris Agreement targets

Two waves are set to wash over, and transform, parts of the world: The move towards net-zero emissions power, and the phase-out of conventional fossil fuel vehicles — or those with internal combustion engines (ICEs).

In recent weeks, three countries in Asia have announced their intention to move towards a “net-zero” emissions target: South Korea (2050), Japan (2050) and China (2060). They join the European Union, and others such as New Zealand, Singapore, and California, all of which have committed to neutralising their impact on the environment. The path and shape of this neutrality are still evolving, and there are many questions that countries will need to answer on what their net-zero target actually means—whether it is carbon neutrality, climate neutrality, zero-carbon emissions or zero greenhouse gas emissions.

India is doing well on the climate stage. Its commitments are on a path compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement target of 2-degrees global warming, according to the global Tracker.

Walking the talk

Further, India is set to overachieve on those commitments, and meet them ahead of time. As the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar proclaimed in an interview with BloombergNEF last month: “We are one of the few countries walking the talk.” India’s promises include increasing the share of non-fossil-fuel based power to 40 per cent of total installed capacity by 2030. 

“We are already at 38.5 per cent, and by 2030, 60 per cent of our energy capacity is expected to be from non-fossil-fuel sources,” Minister of State for Power RK Singh said last month.

There is some speculation that India may also spring a surprise by taking on bolder climate targets. There is a precedent in the renewables sector: The solar target of 20,000 megawatts (Mw) by 2022 was bumped up to 100,000 Mw, the overall renewables target was raised to 175,000 Mw, and now the ambition is for 450,000 Mw of renewables by 2030. 

“Every climate action has a cost. The cost is ultimately borne by the common people,” Javadekar said, ruling out any new climate promises from India until the global stocktake in 2023. 

Climate actions have benefits too, including economic ones. These are driving some countries to aim for more ambitious climate goals, and to take the lead in emerging opportunities, such as in hydrogen. 

There are broadly four main sources of emissions: Power generation, transport, industry and agriculture. Besides trying to reduce them from each of these sectors, many countries are expanding natural carbon sinks, such as forests. A tiny country in the South Asian neighborhood, Bhutan, is climate-negative.

Big oil goes green

ConocoPhillips announced last month its intention to be neutral to the environment. “We’re the first US-based oil and gas company to take this step,” Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said during a call intended to discuss the company’s $9.7-billion deal to buy Concho Resources. 

Shell aims to “become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner”, while BP aspires to “become a net-zero company by 2050 or sooner.”

Reliance Industries aims to be “net carbon-zero by 2035.” There are inevitably nuances in these pledges. These relate to the actual emissions that are to be reduced or eliminated, and whether the pledge extends to those resulting from the usage of the company’s products (scope 3 emissions). The latter would be the most challenging bit for oil companies.

Clean mobility

California will be the first US state to phase out conventional ICE vehicles and replace them with so-called zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, it announced last month. All new sales of passenger cars and light-duty trucks will be of the zero-emissions variety by 2035. 

“Globally, 44 national governments, regions and municipalities have committed to phasing out the sales of ICE vehicles,” BNEF said in a recent report. European countries take the lead. Norway’s share of electric vehicles in total passenger car sales was over 66 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, with incentives there tilting the scales in their favour.

India has been promoting electric buses, and many states now have an electric vehicle policy to encourage sales, and manufacturing, by offering incentives. Telangana approved its policy last week. Delhi announced one earlier in the year.

Javadekar is also the minister of heavy industries and public enterprises — the nodal ministry for routing the incentives for electric vehicles under the government’s FAME programme. He said: “We want to move fast on this track of electric mobility, and particularly in [the most polluted] cities. We are expanding both electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.”    


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