Climate Action: All Eyes on India

Co-Authored with Madhura Joshi

On the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, world leaders are gathering virtually for the Climate Ambition Summit 2020. The European Union, China, the United Kingdom and many more countries have already stepped up climate action ahead of the summit. India has not made a major announcement this year, and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to speak at the summit, all eyes are on India.

While interest is piqued, India is tempering expectations. India is “walking the talk” on climate change, said India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar ahead of the summit. India is one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris target, achieving 21% of its pledge to reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030. India’s stance has been that India did not cause climate change and looks to developed countries to do more.

The aim of the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 is to increase momentum in the lead up to the United Nations climate talks, COP26, postponed to next year in Glasgow. Major studies are ringing the alarm bell and showing that current commitments are not enough. The recent UNEP Emissions Gap 2020 report projects a 56% expected shortfall in emissions between the countries’ commitments and progress toward 1.5ºC (26% shortfall for 2ºC). 

In the lead up to the summit, the European Union took a big step, committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. New Zealand and 32 countries declared “climate emergencies.” China and 125 countries have committed to carbon neutrality by mid-century. Together, these represent 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The percentage could increase to 63% once United States re-joins the Paris and potentially announces a carbon neutrality or net-zero target.

India’s Road From Paris

Taking a closer look, India is on track to achieve two of the three components of its Paris target. First, India has already reduced emissions intensity by 21% given its target to reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030. Second, with 38% of non-fossil fuel capacity (includes renewables, large hydro and nuclear), India is just 2% short of its 2030 target of 40% of installed non-fossil fuel electricity capacity.  But on the third component, to achieve 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in forest cover by 2030, much more work is needed.

On the domestic front, India aims to install an ambitious 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. India already has 90 GW or renewable energy, representing 24% of total installed capacity. In addition, India has some of the lowest solar tariffs globally, dropping to ₹2.36 ($0.0316)/kWh and thermal capacity has declined from 70% in 2015 to 61% in 2020. The India Cooling Action Plan at the national level and progress on building efficient buildings and cool roofs at the state level are also driving efforts to save energy and reduce heat trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The government’s FAME-II scheme provides ₹10,000 crore ($1.4 billion) is moving forward with electric vehicles.

On the international front, India is leading efforts with the International Solar Alliance (ISA), Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), and Leadership Group for Industry Transition. India recently created an Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA). The aim of AIPA is to increase coordination among 14 key ministries and to engage business, stakeholders and the U.N. on delivery of the Paris Agreement.

The Road from Paris Issue Brief captures India’s climate action progress, developed by 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).

Expectations for India at the Climate Ambition Summit

While expectations are high, India will likely continue to its salvo for greater ambition from developed countries. Ahead of the summit, India emphasized that it is making strong progress on its climate commitments even though developed countries have not. “We’ve gone well beyond. Why don’t you ask the countries lecturing us to mend their own ways instead? None of the developed countries are Paris Agreement compliant,” said Minister Javadekar.  

Finance is another major issue that India will likely raise at the summit. Minister Javadekar emphasized that the over $11 trillion needed for climate change has not come through. Meeting India’s renewable goals alone requires at least $20-$30 billion investment annually. To meet India’s clean energy and climate goals, catalytic financial solutions, such as Green Banks or Green Windows, which leverage limited public funds, including development assistance, to attract private capital will be critical, as discussed in NRDC and CEEW’s new issue brief, Investing in a Green Future: India’s Initiatives in Clean Energy Finance.

While unlikely to have a new emissions target, India could discuss sectoral policies to address the climate crisis. India’s sectoral policies are falling short of aligning with its Paris targets, according to TERI and partners’ Brown to Green Report. Government policies for key sectors from—power, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture and forest—need to be stronger to decarbonize the economy and achieve India’s climate targets.

Delaying climate action is no longer an option for the world. As countries around the world emerge from COVID-19 and ramp up investment to boost economies, investing in green recovery and committing to greater climate ambition can help create jobs, protect communities, and make the future more sustainable.

Watch the Summit Here: https://www.climateambitionsummit2020.org/index.php#watch

Madhura Joshi is a climate policy expert and consultant with NRDC’s India program based in New Delhi.

About the Authors

Anjali Jaiswal

Senior Director, India, International Program
Blog Post

Five years after the Paris Agreement was adopted, big actions are necessary from major players to bring global emissions to net zero no later than 2050 and put the world on the necessary trajectory to hold temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees celsius.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.