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Indian government approves new emissions targets

Smoke rises from a coal-powered steel plant near Ranchi, India.
Smoke rises from a coal-powered steel plant near Ranchi in eastern India in 2021.
(Altaf Qadri / Associated Press)

Nine months after India announced its target of “net zero” emissions by 2070 at the United Nations climate conference in Scotland, the country’s federal Cabinet finally approved a new climate plan on Wednesday.

The new goals will be submitted to the U.N.’s climate agency as part of an international agreement where nations publish how they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, known as nationally determined contributions. The U.S. hopes to achieve “net zero” by 2050, and China by 2060.

The approval comes as India is preparing to celebrate 75 years of independence on Aug. 15 and with just three months left before the next climate conference.

When India’s plans were originally announced in November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that India would increase its capacity for non-fossil-fuel electricity, with energy from clean sources able to meet half of the country’s needs. India’s greener power generation has already passed 41%.

The emissions goals that India’s federal Cabinet ultimately approved are largely in line with Modi’s announcement.

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India now stands committed to reducing the emissions caused by activities for the nation’s economic growth by 45% by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to the new targets.

The nation will also aim to achieve about 50% of its energy requirements from non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources by 2030, and promote a federal government program that encourages people to make green lifestyle changes.

Vaibhav Chaturvedi, an economist at the New Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water, called the approval a “significant step” toward India’s climate aims.

The U.N.’s climate agency had set a deadline of July 31, 2021, for various nations to update their targets that were initially announced after the climate conference in Paris in 2015. India was not the only laggard nation, as China and dozens of others also failed to meet the target date.

Indian officials say that the delay was a reflection of the peculiar challenges facing the country: On the one hand, as a nation with quickly growing energy needs, what it does has an outsized impact on the world’s climate goals; on the other hand, it believes that it’s often unfairly asked to prioritize climate goals over its developmental needs.

“India’s updated climate action plan comes in a context where Europe and most developed countries are going for more drilling of oil and gas,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the Climate Action Network International.

“The delay in updating the targets could have been avoided, though. If they had announced these targets a few months earlier, it might have inspired other countries to act faster and more decisively on climate change,” he added.


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