India Increases National Action on Climate Change

Prime Minister Singh at Sustainable Development Summit.  Photo Compliments of TERI.

India recently announced both a “clean energy tax” on coal to create a national fund to support renewable energy projects and a “tax break” for imports on renewable energy equipment.  The clean energy tax levies $1 per metric ton of coal, while the tax break reduces by 5 percent the import tax on renewable energy equipment.  Both measures aim to bolster cleantech investments and innovation to meet India’s national target to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 as submitted to the United Nations on January 31 (as NRDC is tracking here).  India continues to announce increased domestic action on climate change, while resisting international pressure to commit to binding targets in the lead up to Mexico.  

Measures like the clean energy tax demonstrate India’s commitment to vigorous domestic action.  As Prime Minister Singh emphasized during TERI’s 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, India “fully support[s]” the Copenhagen Accord.”  He also provided India’s perspective as a developing country.  “Climate action that delays or makes more difficult the basic task of poverty eradication will be difficult to implement. That is why in our National Action Plan on Climate Change, we have given priority to those activities that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and also deliver substantial collateral benefits by reducing poverty or by improving local environmental quality and human health.”  

Prime Minister Singh, Delhi, February 2010. Photo: TERI

Prime Minister Singh and world leaders at the sustainable development summit also expressed their “full confidence” in Dr. Rajendra Pachauri and the IPCC.  Recently, the IPCC announced that it would undergo independent expert review to strengthen the scientific integrity of its reports and defuse critics.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh also explained India’s new path, which may be moving away from the previous per capita emissions position to one of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”  Minister Ramesh emphasized that India aims to play a productive role in global climate negotiations, “India may not have been part of the problem, but it must be part of the solution.”    

In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Minister Ramesh further discusses that as India continues to grow its economy, it will prioritize a sustainable development approach that focuses on mitigating emissions from India’s maturing energy sector.  “What choices we make on fuel mix, on efficiency targets, on transportation, fuel efficiency standards, public-private mix. Railroad mix, very important. Industry.”

To continue the discussion on equity of carbon emissions, India will hold an international conference this June with international experts to discuss how the burden of emissions reductions can be shared by large emitting developed and developing countries in the near term.

In addition to the coal tax for the clean energy fund and tax breaks for renewable equipment imports, five climate actions that India announced recently are: 

India’s 2011 budget, announced last week, supports its policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy. These measures show that India is working on implementing the target that it recorded under the Copenhagen Accord.  These actions by the Indian government further undercut claims in the U.S. and elsewhere that India is unwilling to address climate change.  In the meantime, the debate will likely continue on whether developed countries, like the U.S., should increase their climate actions or whether developing countries, like India, should increase their climate actions.  As this debate continues, the need for the nations of the world – developed and developing – to work together to seize the opportunity to accelerate clean energy innovation and climate adaption becomes more pressing given the need for global action to fight global climate change. 

Co-authored by Melissa Donnelly, NRDC India Initiative Intern