India’s Net-Zero Target



    • The paper titled ‘Getting Net Zero Approach for India at CoP 26’ strongly advocates that India should declare its ‘net zero’ target year at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference or CoP 26 starting from October 31 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. 

    Major Points 

    • India could reach a peak around 2035 and get to net-zero sometime between 2065 and 2070 if it caps coal usage in the next 10 years.
    • India needs short-term decarbonisation targets along with trajectories for the next three decades to achieve the net-zero target.
      • The best short term target would be a planned phasing out of coal-based power generation as India has already adopted expanding renewable energy capacity to 450 GW by 2030. 
    • Net-zero target can put India on a green development trajectory, attracting investment in innovative technologies.
    • Arguments against committing to a net-zero target 
      • India should reject net-zero targets put out by the West since they are flawed and inequitable for developing countries. 
      • India should seek enhanced emission reduction from the developed world and finance for the energy transition
    • Implications of phasing out coal
      • Huge revenue loss for poorer Indian states such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 
      • For states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, close to 15% of the state revenue comes from the mining sector. 
        • These states would lose out on employment, as new employment in the renewable sector would be created in western and southern India which has better solar and wind resources.

    India and Net Zero Target  

    •  India, as the country with the third-largest emissions, is under pressure to come up with a higher ambition of cutting CO2 emissions. 
    • India is working to reduce its emissions, aligned with the goal of less than 2°C global temperature rise. 
    • India has committed to reducing the emission intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35% by 2030 and having 175-gigawatt renewable energy capacity by 2030 under the Paris Agreement of 2016. 
    • There is renewed pressure on India to enhance its renewable commitment under the Paris deal with 450 GW by 2030 and phase out coal.
    • But it has not favoured a binding commitment towards carbon neutrality.
      • India has not yet declared its Net-Zero Target
    • The contentious issue faced by India is heavy reliance on coal: According to the International Energy Agency’s India Energy Outlook 2021, coal accounts for close to 70% of electricity generation.

    What is the meaning of Net Zero?

    • A state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere is called Net Zero State; it is also referred to as carbon-neutrality.
    • It is done through natural processes as well as futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

    How is it Different from Gross-Zero?

    Gross Zero

    Net Zero

    A state where there are no emissions at all.

    Emissions are compensated by absorption or removal of equivalent GHGs

    Very hard to achieve.

    Promised by many countries.

    More Beneficial for the environment and ultimate goal.

    Less beneficial and may distract the world as per IPCC report.

    How Net Zero is Achieved?

    • By creating carbon sinks by growing forests
      • Until recently, the Amazon rainforests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, were carbon sinks.
        • But eastern parts of these forests have started emitting CO2 instead of absorbing carbon emissions as a result of significant deforestation.
      • A country may also have negative emissions if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions. 
        • Bhutan has negative emissions because it absorbs more than it emits.


    How are other big countries pursuing net-zero?

    • The net-zero concept has appealed to 130 countries that have either committed themselves to carbon neutrality by 2050 or are considering that target.
      • The New Zealand government-It passed the Zero Carbon Act in 2019.
        • It committed to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner to meet its Paris climate accord commitments. 
      • UK – In 2019, the UK passed legislation to reduce its net emissions of GHGs by 100 percent relative to 1990 levels by the year 2050.
      • The USA- The U.S., as the second biggest emitter with large historical emissions, returned to the Paris Agreement under President Joe Biden with an ambitious 2050 net-zero plan
        • Its Department of Energy announced two programmes that are also expected to boost employment: slashing the current cost of solar power by 60% and putting up 30 GW of offshore wind power by 2030. 
      • European Union (EU)- “Fit for 55” plan of European Union: The European Commission has asked all of its 27 member countries to cut emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
    • China -As the largest emitter of GHGs, China set a target of becoming net-zero by the year 2060.
      •  Its pledge to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality three decades later is among the most high-profile commitments. 


    Why are Net Zero Targets of Less Utility?

    • To tackle the challenge by planting more trees, about 1.6 billion hectares of new forests would be required by 2050.
    • The world needs to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels to limit global warming below 1.5°C. 
      • The sharpest cuts should be made by “the biggest emitters.”
    • Current Net Zero Targets will only lead to a 1 per cent reduction by 2030.
    • It will add extra pressure on already limited land resources.
      • To tackle only energy sector emissions, a land area nearly the size of the Amazon rainforest is required.
        • It is equivalent to a third of all farmland worldwide.
      • Using only land-based methods may push the food prices up by 80 percent by 2050.
    • Carbon neutrality looks to nascent technology to suck out CO2 from the atmosphere. 
    • Youth movements and some scientists call this procrastination since it enables the fossil fuel industry to continue expanding. 

    Way Ahead

    • Nations should shift towards renewable energy sources.
    • Focus on cutting the carbon sources rather than mere mitigation through forest reserves can help.
    • Marine Farming and Blue Economy may help in reducing the pressure on land resources.
    • Getting a stronger economic dividend for the same volume of CO2 emitted by reforming energy, industry and buildings, and achieving higher energy efficiency in all sectors can slow emissions. 
    • India must tap new technologies and business models which are proven but need policy and regulatory support like
      • new technology frontiers (green hydrogen), 
      • new business models (distributed and digitalised services, for distributed energy, EV charging, cold chains), 
      • new construction materials (low-carbon cement, recycled plastic), 
      • new opportunities in the circular economy of minerals, municipal waste and agricultural residue, and 
      • new practices for sustainable agriculture and food systems. 
    • State governments must be part of such a climate plan, and climate governance institutions must be set up at the national and state levels.