Co-authored with Madhura Joshi and Marie McNamara
While many plans have been canceled in 2020, the world cannot afford to have climate ambition canceled. World leaders are gathering for Climate Week during the United Nations General Assembly to discuss future climate action. China announced new ambition that aims to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Indian Prime Minister Modi is expected to outline India’s climate commitment later this week.
India’s progress on climate change remains strong, despite COVID-19 and the ensuing economic slowdown. India is on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets—to reduce emissions intensity by 33% to 35% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 from 2005 levels and achieve 40% of installed power capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030.
India is halfway toward meeting its domestic goal of 175 GW renewables by 2022 goal, with renewables reaching 88 GW—23.5% of India’s total installed capacity. Factoring in large hydro and nuclear, India’s non-fossil fuels totaled 38% of the country’s installed capacity. Advancing renewable energy and charting a low carbon future is the main focus of India’s commitment. The country’s emissions intensity has reduced by 21% over the period 2005-2014. By 2030, India’s emissions intensity is projected to be even lower—in the range of 35% to 50%.
The UN Conference of the Parties 26 (COP 26) has been rescheduled to November 2021 giving countries more time to enhance their climate targets. Held virtually this year, Climate Week NYC as part of the UN General Assembly is only major international summit on raising climate ambition in 2020. Discussion during the UN General Assembly, such as China’s, will shape the course for increased climate ambition as part of a green recovery going into COP 26 by governments, businesses and stakeholders.
The Road from Paris: India’s Progress Towards its Climate Pledge is an updated issue brief on India’s climate actions that was released during the Climate Week NYC session “Industry Charter for Near Zero Emissions by 2050” this week. Also during the session, six leading market players from Indian industry voluntarily came together to pledge for near zero emissions by 2050. The companies committed to pursues a set of vigorous decarbonization measures, both at the company level and collectively, to set an example for industry peers to contribute in meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The signatories of the charter included Thermax, Tata Consulting Engineers, Siemens Energy India, Dalmia Cement, Shell Group of Companies, India and Hindalco Industries.
The Road from Paris Issue Brief captures climate action progress made in India during 2020 and highlights opportunities for a green recovery. It summarizes India’s advancements in renewable energy, transport, green buildings, and energy efficiency. NRDC and 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) developed the 12th edition of the issue brief.
Some of the key climate action highlighted for India from 2020 include:
- Renewables: Renewable energy (solar, wind, and biomass power) accounted for nearly 24% of India’s total installed electricity capacity as of July 2020. The share of installed capacity from renewable energy (not including large hydro) sources increased from 13% to 24% (36 GW in July 2015 to 88 GW in July 2020) while the share of thermal capacity declined from 70% to 62%.
- Solar Tariffs: Reaching one of the lowest tariffs globally, in July 2020, India’s solar tariffs dropped to ₹2.36 ($0.0316)/kWh. The cost of solar is 20% to 30% lower than the existing thermal power tariffs. India also took encouraging steps towards Round-The-Clock (RTC) renewable power supply in May 2020.
- Electric Vehicles: India ramped up its investment in electric mobility with FAME-II, which provides ₹10,000 crore ($1.4 billion)for demand incentives, charging infrastructure subsidies, and battery storage manufacturing. Spanning over three years from 2019 to 2022, FAME-II will provide both demand and supply incentives to promote the electrification and market penetration of electric public buses, commercial vehicles, four-wheelers, three-wheelers, and privately-owned two-wheelers.
- Air Conditioners: India requires that all room air conditioners have a default temperature setpoint of 24℃ (75.2°F) as of January 2020. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency also released an updated room air conditioner standard that requires an Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) of 3.3-5.0 for split air conditioners and an ISEER of 2.7-3.5 for window air conditioners effective January 2021.
- Efficiency Buildings: Residential and commercial buildings in India account for nearly 30% of total electricity consumption. With skyrocketing urbanization, this is expected to increase to 48% by 2042. In 2017, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) released an updated Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), which sets minimum energy standards for commercial buildings. As of August 2020, thirteen states have notified ECBC with four states, including a detailed compliance program and five states incorporating the ECBC into their state bye-laws.
India continues to step-up its climate cooperation through several international partnerships and initiatives. India and France launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA), and as of June 2020, 120 nations have affirmed their participation in the alliance. India also co-created the Leadership Group for Industry Transition, a cooperative to promote innovation and technology exchange. The initiative will target steel, cement, and aviation to reach net-zero emissions from heavy industry by mid-century. India remains a critical international stakeholder when it comes to increasing ambition and charting a low carbon future.
Delaying climate ambition is not an option; firm commitments are needed today. Though some plans may have changed due to COVID-19, the world cannot afford to lose sight of the urgent need for climate action. Greater climate action is critical to a building back better as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Madhura Joshi is a climate policy expert working with NRDC based as consultant in New Delhi.
Marie McNamara is a Duke Stanback NRDC Intern.