India unveils green energy targets

NEW DELHI • Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India has announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energy.

India, the world's third-largest carbon polluter, was the last major country to issue its plan before a major summit meeting in Paris, France, in December aimed at forging a sweeping new accord that would for the first time commit every country on earth to enacting new policies to cut fossil fuel emissions.

At the heart of the Paris deal will be the plans put forth by each government detailing how it will help its economy make a transition to low-carbon energy sources.

At the core of India's proposal is a commitment to reduce the intensity of its fossil fuel emissions by 33 per cent to 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, while producing 40 per cent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources such as wind, solar power, hydropower and nuclear energy by the same year.

For years, India has been viewed as an intransigent outlier in global climate-change talks. Indian leaders have long argued that their priority was lifting a vast population out of poverty, and that this could not be done swiftly without the rapid expansion of coal-fired power, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution. They also maintain that rich countries like the United States bear moral responsibility for global warming and should not deny poor countries the chance to build their economies.

Under the plan, India does not commit to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions levels, unlike other major polluting economies, including those of the US, China, the European Union and Brazil.

India's emissions would continue to rise - but at a slower pace than business as usual. Still, some environmental advocates praised the plan's commitment to renewable energy and said that, if enacted, it could put India on track to reduced carbon emissions in the long run.

"This is a really significant step for India," said Ms Anjali Jaiswal, director of the India programme for the Natural Resources Defence Council, an advocacy group in New York. "It puts renewable energy at the centre of the plan and positions India for further reductions in emissions going forward. It is a shift from what we've seen," she said.

At the core of India's proposal is a commitment to reduce the intensity of its fossil fuel emissions by 33 per cent to 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, while producing 40 per cent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources such as wind, solar power, hydropower and nuclear energy by the same year.

Under the terms of the plan, India's economy would grow roughly sevenfold by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, while its carbon emissions would triple. Yet if India took no action, emissions would also grow sevenfold. Significantly, the pledge to reduce the pollution rate is not conditional on financial contributions from wealthier countries, a move that climate policy activists praised as a major step forward from India's earlier positions.

However, in rapidly expanding the use of renewable and other zero-carbon forms of technology, the Indians do demand the "transfer of technology" from other countries, as well as aid from the Green Climate Fund, an entity established by the United Nations to solicit donations from wealthy countries to help poor countries adapt their economies to lower-carbon technologies.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'India unveils green energy targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe