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November 29, 2009 / Mridul

And Out of Nowhere, India Proposes 25% Emission Reduction Target for 2030

Only days after assuring the parliament that the government stands firm on the issue of opposing carbon emission targets, the Indian Environment and Forest Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh announced in Beijing that his government could propose a target of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030.

India’s move came after almost all advanced developing countries announced emission reduction targets, subject to foreign aid. China, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa have already announced plans to reduce their carbon outputs by using monetary help from developed countries. India has only announced a highly ambitious solar energy plan which aims to install a solar power capacity of 20,000  MW by 2030, up from current 6 MW.

India is the latest developing country to join the bandwagon to announce emission targets. For years the developing countries had been highly determined in opposing any kind of emission cuts, voluntary or mandatory. But once China broke ranks and signaled at adopting voluntary sectoral emission reductions, following talks with the United States, all other developing countries followed suit with some announcing emission cuts even higher than those proposed by the developed countries.

The minister acknowledged that the government was under pressure after President Obama announced his proposal of provisional emission target of 17 percent reduction by 2020 and China’s announcement of 40-45 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020. Speaking to a leading English daily Mr. Ramesh said,

I don’t think we can sweep (aside) the fact that our peer group of nations like China, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa have clearly put down voluntary, unilateral, non-legally binding and quantitative targets. It has implications for us. We have the numbers. We have done the homework. There is a lot of room for reducing energy and emissions intensity in India without jeopardizing 7-8 percent GDP growth. Whether, how and when we announce, has to be decided.

Mr. Ramesh had last month, in a ‘personal communication’ to the Prime Minister, had advised him to consider voluntary emission targets along with strict monitoring and reporting to United Nations. He advised the Prime Minister to officially move away from the G77 stance towards emission targets on order to gain a more powerful and influential strategic standing in the world which could eventually get India a place in the UN Security Council.

Although he had to clear the air after opposition parties condemned his personal views about the issue, it seems that the Prime Minister has listened to his advice and the world could see India announcing an emission target at or before Copenhagen climate talks starting December 7.

But where is the accountability and sincerity in these emission targets. A country which has been opposing emission targets arguing that its per capita emissions are among the lowest in the world, a country which has been arguing that poverty and climate change are connected and that any efforts to reduce emission could adversely affect its efforts to reduce poverty is now claiming that it can reduce it carbon output while sustaining and accelerating its economic growth.

Even the World Bank, in a report, supported India’s stand and said that it was right in opposing emission targets as it would undertake massive rural electrification drive in the next few decades which is expected to be centered around coal based energy.

There are serious questions about the basis of this emission target especially since the Indian government has changed its stance drastically in the last few months. Moreover, the minister made this announcement after meeting the Chinese Prime Minister while he had said no to emission targets in the Parliament only few days earlier.

While the Indian government has a National Action Plan aimed at improving energy efficiency, promoting renewable energy sources and increasing forest conservation it has consistently failed to address important issues relate to these plans like finances and implementation.

In the absence of important details like policy changes and financial inputs it is hard to imagine how the government would be able to achieve the set and proposed targets. That, in turn, raises the questions like whether India (and essentially all other developing countries) is announcing such targets only to dodge international pressure to accept their share of responsibility in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

How is that suddenly the Indian government realized that reducing carbon emissions will not have impact on country’s economic growth. How is that the government suddenly agreed to reduce carbon emissions and relinquished its argument of per capita emissions being low. The seriousness and legitimacy about these targets are under question as they are being proposed at this time with only two weeks to go for the Copenhagen climate summit.

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

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