The Road from Paris: Progress on India's Climate Pledge

Credit: NRDC.

Guest blog by Madhura Joshi

Leaders from around the world are meeting in Madrid this week to focus on implementing the Paris Agreement. The conference started against a stark backdrop with the recent United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report ringing the alarm bell for stronger action. While India is one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris commitments, much more is needed from all countries around the world.

The UNEP report highlights that the need to act on enhancing action on climate mitigation is even more urgent. Unless the global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 percent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will not be on track to meet the 1.50C temperature goal of the Paris agreement.

To avoid a catastrophic future, countries need to act now. The G20 countries account for more than 78% of the all emission. Some countries—China, The EU28, India, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey—are projected to meet their unconditional Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) target emission levels. India is one among three countries estimated to meet or exceed its NDCs emissions target. Yet, the momentum at the 25th session of the UN Climate Conference (COP25) is direly slow and not enough of what the world needs to combat the climate crisis.

India’s Road from Paris

India is an emerging economic powerhouse. It is also the world’s third-largest energy consumer and greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, although its per capita emissions, and historical emissions are low. For instance, India’s per capita emissions in 2017 at 1.61 tons of carbon dioxide (tCO2) are just over a third of the global average (4.37 tCO2/capita), and around a fourth of China’s at 6.67 tCO2/capita in the same year.


NRDC, with our partners—the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), Indian Institute of Public Health - Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)—release an annual progress report on “India's Progress Toward Its Climate Pledge.”

The issue brief released today with Indian government officials and partners highlights India’s advancements in areas such as renewable energy, transport, green buildings, and power sector. The issue brief also discuss India’s progress on energy access goals, climate resilience efforts, and mitigating air pollution; and highlight India’s increasing footprint on international cooperation on climate action.


India’s Progress on Climate Actions

To build a low-carbon future and curb climate change, the Indian government is committed to deploying expansive solar and wind energy capacity and adopting an array of ambitious climate actions. As a result, the country has made good progress towards meeting its Paris Agreement targets.

In its NDC, India committed to achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil-fuel energy resources by 2030. India’s non-fossil fuel electricity capacity, which includes renewables, large hydro, and nuclear, was 38 percent of its total installed electricity mix, as of September 2019—just 2 percent its 2030 target. Of this, the share of installed renewables alone (grid-connected solar, wind, small hydro, biomass, and waste-to-energy) is 23%.

During the UN’s Climate Week in New York this past September, India’s Prime Minister committed to a target of 450 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy installations, likely by 2030—equivalent to five times more than India’s current installed renewable capacity (82.6 GW) and bigger than the size of India’s electricity grid size in 2019 (362 GW).

India is also committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. India’s emission intensity has reduced by 21% over the period 2005-2014. By 2030, India’s emission intensity is projected to be even lower—in the range of 35 to 50 percent. Thus, India is on track to not only achieve but likely exceed its non-fossil fuel electricity capacity, and its targeted reduction in emission intensity of its 2030.

India’s third NDC commitment is to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. However, the progress has been limited and the country has more work to do on this target.

As a developing nation, India has to multiple priorities including sustained economic growth for millions of its people and reducing air pollution and climate impacts to vulnerable communities. While technical, financial, regulatory challenges exist, India has made significant progress in fulfilling its climate pledges. It continues to show the world that combating climate change is compatible with economic growth and raising standards of living.


Madhura Joshi leads NRDC’s climate policy work based as a consultant in New Delhi.