India’s Commitment to Climate Action: From Paris to New York and Beyond

Solar and wind farms in India
Credit: MNRE

Post written by Nehmat Kaur, India Representative in New Delhi

Signaling strong support for climate action, major economies around the world—almost 150 nations—are coming together to sign the Paris Climate Agreement in New York on Friday. Continuing the momentum from COP21 in Paris, India is looking forward to signing the agreement in New York with two senior ministers demonstrating India’s commitment. Reinforcing the broad support for India’s commitment, the Union Cabinet approved the signing of the Agreement as well earlier this week.

As the second fastest growing economy in the world and the third largest single-emitter- nation, India is critical to the global battle against climate change. Recognizing its role as well as domestic priorities, Indian leaders are showing clear conviction to be a part of the solution even though India’s historic role in global emissions has been limited. Significant national efforts on clean energy and subnational efforts at the state and city level on energy efficiency and climate resilience are increasing, actions that are essential for India to not only meet its climate targets but also tackle real challenges, such as increasing energy access, cleaner air and healthier, smarter cities.

Paris Agreement: India’s International Commitment

India’s targets under the Paris Agreement are focused on clean energy expansion. The targets are based on domestic action and have been approved by the Indian Cabinetthe highest ministerial group that supports the Prime Minister. With the cabinet approval, India does not need any further internal Parliamentary approval to implement its plan to achieve the targets.

The key features of India’s targets are:

  • Reduce energy emissions intensity by 30-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels
  • Increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 40% of India’s energy mix by 2030
  • Focus on a climate adaptation strategy of enhancing investments in development programs in areas vulnerable to climate change, including health and disaster management
  • Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billon tonnes of CO2 equivalent through increasing forest and tree cover by 2030

India’s Domestic Action: Building a Clean Energy Economy

India’s targets are ambitious and achievable. They focus on both fighting climate change as well as priorities of energy access and economic development.  At the national level, India is putting its weight behind ramping up clean energy capacity in a big way. The Prime Minister announced new targets for renewable energy. For example, India dramatically increased the solar energy target from 20 GW in 2022 to a 100 GW in 2022 with big economic opportunities for bringing in billions in foreign and domestic investments and creating millions of jobs for India’s growing population.

To supplement the plans for clean energy which already reached grid parity, the government is also announcing initiatives on supportive infrastructure for integration of renewables into India’s grid, including a financial scheme for distribution companies, waiving of charges for renewable power evacuation, as well as promoting solar rooftops and clean energy access. 

On the subnational level, states are showing leadership in India. For example, NRDC and partners are supporting the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the implementation of the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) to lock in energy savings in the buildings market in rapidly urbanizing cities.

India’s cities are also preparing for climate change. With record breaking temperatures, the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in partnership with NRDC and other organizations has launched and implemented South Asia’s first-ever early warning system to safeguard vulnerable groups such as slum communities, construction and outdoor workers, street vendors and the traffic police from the dangerous health effects of extreme heat. In March 2016, 10 Indian cities launched extreme heat early warning systems to support 10 million Indians to build climate resilience in the face of rising temperatures.

India is unique. It is a major emerging economy with a growing population and a priority to provide electricity to millions of those without modern energy access. India recognizes clean energy as an economic opportunity but also as a way to provide access and lift millions out of poverty. Committing to its targets under the Paris Agreement is an opportunity for India to define a new paradigm for low carbon development based on renewable energy, energy efficiency and creating cleaner, healthier communities for its citizens. 

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