Why an economy-wide net-zero emission target won’t work for India

India will not only meet its climate commitments but is also set to overachieve, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on November 22, 2020, speaking at a side event at the 15th summit of the G20 countries.

The announcement came just days after the United States, the world’s second largest emitter, elected Joe Biden as its next President, who has avowed net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Biden promptly appointed John Kerry–a former diplomat instrumental in getting the US to sign on the Paris Agreement back in 2015–as his climate envoy. Just weeks ago, China, the world’s largest emitter, had announced that it would achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. [What is net-zero carbon emissions? See box]

This has turned the spotlight on India–the world’s third largest emitter of climate change-inducing carbon dioxide (CO2).

PM Modi’s speech was underwhelming for some climate researchers, who saw it as yet another proof of India’s hesitation to aim high. India’s global climate strategy has always been about under-promising and over-delivering, said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, fellow with the think-tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

“We knew back in 2017-2018 that India is going to overperform on its climate commitment of reaching 40% renewable energy in its electricity mix by 2030,” he said.

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