Global Climate Change - India to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070: PM Modi; Can India really be a global leader?

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The UK hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 13 November 2021.Speaking at the Global Climate Change conference, UN Secretary General António Guterres demanded that people stop "treating nature like a toilet" he sharply criticised continued use of fossil fuels, saying "we are digging our own graves". UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said future generations "will judge us with bitterness" if they failed at the conference, while US President Joe Biden said that "none of us can escape the worst of what's yet to come if we fail to seize this moment". 

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At the Conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a five-fold strategy to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070. These five points include: 

  1. India will get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatt (GW) by 2030
  2. India will meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030
  3. India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now onwards till 2030
  4. By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45 per cent
  5. By the Year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero

Certainly, India’s climate change targets were noticed across the world. India had "clearly put the ball in the court of the developed world" by announcing 500 gigawatts (GW) of non-fossil electricity capacity, half of energy from renewables, a reduction of emissions by one billion tonnes and emissions intensity of the GDP by 45% by 2030, according to Arunabha Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a leading climate think tank. 


Global Climate Change Meaning
What is Global Climate Change? The awareness Global Climate Change came into being when it was detected that due to climate change and global warming, the world had to have a clear Global Climate change definition and should find Global Climate Change solutions to its root causes. This needs to be understood in the current scenario of changes occurring in world climate due to many reasons. The Global Climate Change is one of the hot debatable global issues that calls for debate and action plan to reduce global warming and how to reduce the climate changes around the world in near future.


Global climate change is caused by the increased concentration of Green House Gases and removals. The greenhouse effect is the natural phenomenon of maintaining global temperature and the depletion of the ozone layer is related to Global climate change in several ways and it has been projected that climate change has induced the global temperature to increase in the range of 0.6–4°C by 2050.


Back Ground: Climate Change Facts
Global temperatures have been on a clear upward path much faster than earlier during past few years causing climate change and global warming. Among other global climate change effects is the key effect that the ozone layer that protects life on earth is getting depleted fast due to this climate change and global warming. 

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To study the global climate change effects and find Global Climate Change Solutions timely, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat the dangerous human interferences with the climate system. It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), known as Earth Summit. Later, Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and ran from 2005 to 2020. It was the first implementation of measures under the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol was superseded by the Paris Agreement which entered into force in 2016. By 2020 the UNFCCC had 197 states parties. Its supreme decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), meets annually to assess progress in dealing with global climate change causes and effects. Chronology of Events for Global Climate change conferences and discussions are:

  • In 1992, governments met in Rio de Janeiro and forged the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change. The Agreement bound governments to take action to avoid emerging dangers of Climate change. Role of Developed and developing countries was not specified.
  • In 1997 Kyoto Protocol happened. The pact required worldwide cuts in emissions of about 5%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2012, and each developed country was allotted a target on emissions reductions. Developing countries, including China, South Korea, Mexico and other rapidly emerging economies, were given no targets and allowed to increase their emissions at will.
  • In late 2004, Russia decided to pass the treaty as part of a move to have its application for World Trade Organisation membership accepted by the European Union. This made up the weight needed, and the protocol came into force.
  • In 2007 an action plan was agreed at Balin in 2007 after much drama. This set the world on the course to a new agreement taking over from Kyoto.
  • The next was the Copenhagen conference 2009. All of the world’s developed countries and the biggest developing countries agreed – for the first time – to limits on their greenhouse gas emissions. This was a landmark, as it meant the world’s biggest emitters were united towards a single goal.
  • To set a goal of limiting Global Warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.
  •  Negotiations for the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change took place during COP 2022 in Marrakech, Morocco.
  • The COP 23  was held in 2017 in Bonn, Germany and was led by Fiji
  • COP 24 was held in Katowice, Poland in 2018
  • COP 25 was held in December 2019 at Madrid Spain and was led by Chile
  • COP 26 was originally scheduled in November 2020 in Glasgow, UK but due to Covid-19 pandemic, it was rescheduled and was held in November 2021 in Glasgow, UK
  • Because key signatory states are not adhering to their individual commitments, the UNFCCC has been criticized as being unsuccessful in reducing the emission of carbon dioxide since its adoption.

India Not as Big an Emitter of Carbon Dioxide as China, USA and EU
Before we talk about the five-fold strategy outlined by PM Modi, let’s understand the context. According to a BBC report, India is the world's fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU. But India’s huge population means its emissions per capita are much lower than other major world economies. India emitted 1.9 tonnes of CO2 per head of population in 2019, compared with 15.5 tonnes for the US and 12.5 tonnes for Russia that year.

climate change

India Commits on 5 Point Climate Change Solutions
What do these five ambitious targets by PM Modi at COP26 mean? Can they be achieved within timeline? Let’s find out… 

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1. 500 GW of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030
India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has done a projection for the country’s energy mix for 2030. According to this, India’s installed capacity of non-fossil energy for electricity generation — solar, wind, hydel and nuclear in 2019 was 134 GW and by 2030 it will be 522 GW. This will require solar energy installed capacity to go to 280 GW and wind energy to go to 140 GW. According to this, total installed capacity will be 817 GW and power generation will be 2,518 billion units in 2030.Under this scenario and energy trajectory, India will be able to meet its 500 GW of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030.


2. India expected to meet 50 per cent of energy requirements from renewable
Green energy is the new wave sweeping India. In 2019, India was meeting 9.2 per cent of its electricity generation from renewables. By 2021, with an increase in renewable energy capacity to 102 GW the generation had increased to roughly 12 per cent and so, it means that we need to increase this to meet the 50 per cent electricity generation target by 2030.India’s power requirement in 2030 is projected to be 2,518 BU and if we target to meet 50 per cent of our requirements from renewables, then the installed capacity will have to increase from the planned 450 GW to 700 GW. If we consider hydroelectricity as part of renewables — as it is considered globally — then we will need to increase new renewable capacity to 630 GW. This is definitely achievable. India’s target and energy plan for 2030 also implies that India will restrict its coal-based energy; currently, roughly 60 GW of coal thermal power is under construction and in the pipeline. India’s coal capacity will be 266 GW by 2030 — which is an addition of 38 GW (which is roughly, what is under construction currently). This means India has stated that it will not invest in new coal beyond this. 


3. India will reduce projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tones (Gt) from 2021-2030
This is the third challenge. India’s current CO2 emissions (2021) are 2.88 Gt. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s projections based on the median annual rate of change in the past decade 2010-2019, India’s generation in a business-as-usual scenario will be 4.48 Gt in 2030.According to this target, India will cut its carbon emission by 1 billion tons (1 Gt) and therefore, our emissions in 2030 will be 3.48 Gt. This means that India has set an ambitious goal to cut its emissions by 22 per cent.


4. Carbon intensity reduction by 45 per cent
Carbon intensity measures the emissions of CO2 of different sectors of the economy and demands that these are reduced as the economy grows. According to CSE’s observations, India has achieved 25 per cent of emission intensity reduction of gross domestic product between 2005 -2016, and is on the path to achieve more than 40 per cent by 2030.But this means that India will have to take up enhanced measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector, the energy-intensive industrial sector, especially cement, iron and steel, non-metallic minerals and chemicals. It would also require India to reinvent its mobility systems so that we can move people, not vehicles — augment public transport in our cities and improve thermal efficiency of our housing. All that is in our best interests. 


5. Net Zero by 2070: A big challenge to developed countries and China
According to the IPCC, global emissions must halve by 2030 and reach Net Zero by 2050. Given the enormous inequity in emissions in the world, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries must then reach Net Zero by 2030, China by 2040 and India and the rest of the world by 2050.Therefore, India’s Net Zero target of 2070 is an extension of this and cannot be argued against.


So, according to Global Climate Change experts, India can achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070 and most of the other targets laid by PM Modi at the COP26Global Forum. But will India really be a global leader of Climate Change, only time will tell. It requires both a political resolve that PM Modi has shown and Public Support which must come, sooner not later.


Indian Stand on Developed Countries for Climate Change Solutions

  • Countries like India have been firm on the position that it is the developed countries who should contribute to the Green Climate Fund. In 2011, they had pledged 100 billion dollars per year after 2020 to the fund.
  • India has taken a tough stand with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying any agreement without differentiation would be “morally wrong” and asked rich nations to ratify the second commitment period of the existing climate treaty, Kyoto Protocol.
  • India's position is that it will make contribution to its neighbouring countries but under "south-south solidarity" and nothing should serve as an excuse for developed nations to avoid their own responsibility to add to the fund.

Global Climate Change Effects
Climate change transforms global ecosystems. It affects the very life on the Earth. The Global Risks Report 2021 of World Economic Forum clarifies that unless we minimise the adverse effects of climate change, it  is “the most impactful” risk facing communities worldwide higher than the weapons of mass destruction and water crisis. The key effects of Climate Change and Global Warming are:


Disturbed Weather
The recent changes in climate are causing higher temperatures that worsen and increase the frequency of many types of disasters, including storms, floods, heat waves and droughts

Polluted Environment
With the rise in earth temperature, the air gets polluted and dirtier. Also it gets filled with more allergenic pollutants, such as circulating mold, floods and pollen


Health hazards
The World Health Organization has emphasized, “Climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year” between 2030 and 2050. With the rise in global temperature fatalities from heat stress, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney disease would happen.


Endangered Ecosystem
Many species are seeking out cooler climates and higher altitudes, altering seasonal behaviours due to climate change which is increasing pressure on wildlife to adapt to changing habitats. It will impact entire ecosystem. According to a 2020 study, one-third of all animal and plant species could face extinction by 2070. Another study showed that mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and other vertebrate species are getting eliminated faster. In early 2021, experts issued a report with illustrations and urging simultaneous action on both fronts.


High Rising Seas & Disturbed Marine Life
Seas & oceans absorb one-third of fossil fuel emissions and are now 25-30% more acidic than they were two three decades ago. This poses a serious threat to marine life. Rising sea temperature is also altering the range and population of underwater species. The Arctic Ocean is heating up twice as fast as any other place on the earth as its ice sheets melt into the seas. The oceans are expected to rising from 0.95 to 3.61 feet by the end of this century, threatening coastal ecosystems and low-lying areas. 


Global Climate Change Solutions
The world as a whole needs to think and take corrective actions to mitigate the Global Climate changes causes and effects. India has already shared a 5 point plan to combat Global Climate effects. Below are some of the Global Climate Change solutions


Moving to Clean & Renewable Energy
Clean and renewable energy sources like solar and wind are not only cheaper but are also non-hazardous and risky. The auto makers around the world are working to develop new technology to run non polluting battery operated cars to reduce pollution from gas powered cars. This will help to sustain a cleaner and pollution free environment


Industries to Run on Clean Energy
The concept of clean energy based industries has started but is yet to spread its wings across the world. In some parts of United States of America like Californa, Lowa industries have started operating with cleaner and renewable energy fuels like solar and wind.


The world is thinking and moving up to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. Although it is the mammoth task, but the initiative has been taken and with concerted efforts the Global climate problems can be solved by taking firm steps.  

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