Road from Paris: India’s Progress Toward Its Climate Pledge

Co-authored with Madhura Joshi

As the world meets in Katowice, Poland for the 24th session of the UN Climate Conference (COP24), the urgency to act on climate change has never been more dire. A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October summarizes the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and save hundreds of million people from the devastating impacts of climate change.

India, the third largest emitter, and one of the largest economies in the world, is key to the success of this unprecedented effort. At the historic Paris climate talks in 2015, India had made an ambitious climate pledge including reducing its emissions intensity by 33 to 35 percent below 2005 levels and achieving 40 percent of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030. Three years later, despite facing huge pressures of economic and social development, India has made strong progress on its climate targets.    

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)—is releasing our annual progress report on “India's Progress Toward Its Climate Pledge” at the COP24 in Poland. Key findings are summarized here.

Greening the Grid

Renewable energy, the centerpiece of India’s strategy to meet its Paris goals, is at an all-time high in the country, contributing 13.4% of the total power generation in August 2018, and growing. India is one of the top three nations leading global renewable energy growth and aims to install 175 GW of renewable energy (including 100 GW solar and 60 GW wind) by 2022. As of November 2018, India is about halfway there, with renewables capacity reaching 71.5 GW, representing nearly 20 percent of India’s total installed capacity. Since the Paris Agreement, India’s solar energy capacity has jumped 500% from about 5 GW in December 2015 to over 25 GW in November 2018. Achieving the 175 GW goal would increase clean energy access for millions of Indians and, additionally, could create up to 1 million job opportunities for over 300,000 workers in the country by 2022.

Building an Energy-Efficient Economy

India recognizes the major opportunity for energy efficiency in new building construction. In 2017, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) extensively reviewed and strengthened the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), which is scheduled to be added as an amendment to the Energy Conservation Act. Telangana is the first state in the country to implement an online energy code compliance system for commercial buildings and more plan to follow.

India has also made significant progress on energy-efficient appliances and has established a mandatory efficiency star-rating system for refrigerators, air conditioners, tube lights, and transformers, and a voluntary star-rating labeling system for more than a dozen other appliances. Improving the efficiency of space cooling systems is especially important because their use is expected to grow dramatically in the coming decades, and cooling systems both consume significant amounts of energy and use highly potent climate-damaging HFCs. India’s Cooling Action Plan prioritizes efficient cooling and the replacement of HFCs with more climate-friendly alternatives.

Cleaner Transportation 

India overtook Germany to become the world’s fourth-largest automobile market in 2017. To boost sustainable transport, the Indian Government has decided to leapfrog from the current BS IV vehicle emission standards straight to much cleaner BS VI (equivalent to Euro VI) emission standards by 2020.

Reducing air pollution in major cities and dependence on oil imports are important drivers for India’s push for electric vehicles. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 was launched in 2013 to subsidize the cost and facilitate the sale of 6 to 7 million hybrid and electric vehicles over five years.

Building mass transit systems across urban centers will further reduce emissions from the transportation sector. For example, Delhi’s mass-transit system serves around 2.6 million daily riders, reducing the number of vehicles on the streets and avoiding the associated emissions. Other major cities such as Chennai, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Kochi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Pune, Nagpur, Varanasi, Jaipur, and Kolkata are following Delhi’s lead to upgrade their metro rail networks.

Mobilizing Green Investment

More than $100 billion in financing is needed over the next four years to reach India’s solar and wind targets. Finance is more of a challenge for small-scale renewable systems, such as rooftop solar and off-grid renewables, and is also scarce for emerging technologies, such as energy storage and electric vehicles, which need capital to scale. However, as India looks towards institutionalizing catalytic finance, international investors are taking note. Between 2017 and 2018, there have been multiple lines of credit from development finance institutions specifically for the rooftop solar market in India. Tata Cleantech Capital is the first private entity in India to get funding from Green Climate Fund for accelerating deployment of rooftop solar in India. Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), the leading renewable energy financier, is also in advanced stages of piloting catalytic instruments such as a Credit Guarantee Mechanism for solar rooftop projects.

Strengthening Climate Resilience and Addressing Air Pollution

Recognizing the growing threat of climate change, cities and states in India are developing resilience programs to expand disaster planning for extreme weather. The city of Ahmedabad implemented its first-ever Heat Action Plan in 2013, providing an early warning and preparedness system to increase residents’ resilience to extreme heat events. Since then, more than 30 cities across 12 states in India have followed suit. Climate solutions, such as cool roofs, are critical for protecting communities from extreme heat. Both Ahmedabad and Hyderabad have piloted cool roofs programs.

Alarming air pollution levels continue to threaten public health in India. To protect communities, cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad have adopted real-time air quality monitoring and alert systems. In October 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), released a draft National Clean Air Program, which is expected to be finalized and launched in the next few months, along with possible targets for percentage reduction of particulate matter by nearly 30 percent by 2024.

In addition to strong domestic action, India has shown global leadership on clean energy. At the Paris conference, India and France launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which aims to mobilize more than $100 billion by 2030 toward promoting solar power globally. As of 2018, 70 countries have signed the ISA framework agreement, 47 of these have ratified and more are set to join.

As India works to fulfill its climate pledges, it continues to show the world that combating climate change is compatible with rapid economic growth and rising standards of living. NRDC has been privileged to be a part of India’s environmental journey over the last ten years, and along with our partners, we are committed to working towards a clean energy future in India.

About the Authors

Sameer Kwatra

Policy Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy, India, International Program

Anjali Jaiswal

Senior Director, India, International Program

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