Business Standard

India may set bigger climate change targets before Obama's R-Day visit

Union cabinet is expected to clear the final brief on Tuesday for the negotiating delegation to Lima talks

Nitin Sethi New Delhi
In what could push the country into the same league as the US and China, India is likely to announce new, bigger and more effective climate change targets by the time US President Barack Obama comes here as chief guest for the Republic Day parade in January next year. The announcement is likely to include an ‘aspirational’ peaking year for India’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The move follows discussions in the government, led by the Prime Minister’s Office.

It is expected on Tuesday, the Union Cabinet will clear the final brief for the negotiating delegation to the Lima talks on climate change, led by environment minister Prakash Javadekar.

In 2010, India had committed to a 20-25 per cent cut in its carbon intensity by 2020, compared to the levels in 2005.

The process to make fresh and enhanced commitments to the international community was in the works for the past few months, with the government commissioning studies to assess and project India’s greenhouse gas emissions. The results of these studies are due in December. A joint US-China announcement has incentivised India to make an early announcement in this regard.

Though the announcements by the US and China weren’t seen as ambitious by the Indian government, these were appreciated for their political significance.

In a joint statement with the US, China had announced its greenhouse gas emissions were likely to peak around 2030 and fall subsequently. Developing countries, requiring more space for their developmental priorities, are expected by the global community to draw a lower-than-usual emission trajectory of their increasing emissions through the coming years and suggest a year by which their emissions will start falling in absolute terms, while developed countries are required to announce absolute emission cuts.

A source in the government said, “The consultations have begun for it. We should be able to narrow down on the nature of targets we should aspire to. It is likely to include an indicative year by which India’s emissions could peak, as well as a fresh target for lowering the economy’s carbon intensity.”

Another official Business Standard spoke to said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was looking at announcing a package that would include the ambitious solar power targets it was planning on the domestic front. This is expected to be further beefed up with indications of the extra efforts India will make under the energy efficiency mission. The mission is also being revamped.

“Confabulations are being held with various experts and ministries and discussions have also been held at the Prime Minister’s Office,” the official said.

India and all other countries are required to formally submit their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’, or INDCs, to the UN climate convention after March. These INDCs are meant to be the voluntarily and domestically determined action these countries will take to fight climate change under a new agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015.

As of now, it is unclear how these will be reviewed on the principles of common but differentiated responsibility and equity, or for adequacy to keep global temperatures within tolerable limits.

Even as more than half a dozen Indian delegates have flown to Lima, Javadekar is slated to travel to the Peruvian capital during the weekend for the second week of talks, which are led by ministers. It is expected he will get his red-lines for the coming negotiations cleared from the Cabinet on Tuesday. "The advantage with this NDA government taking a call on multilateral negotiations such as these is the sense of decisiveness right from the top," said an official on the Indian delegation. He was referring to the differences that remained entrenched between different key personalities in the United Progressive Alliance government on climate change, leading to changes in its international stance through the years.

The discussions for the big announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take several more rounds of discussions between relevant ministries and experts, government sources said. They added these should be ready for announcement around the time Obama visited the national capital.

  • India likely to announce an indicative greenhouse gas emissions peaking year by January, when US President Obama visits Delhi; the discussions are being led by the Prime Minister's Office
  • Targets could include emission intensity numbers
  • Indicative solar power targets and energy efficiency targets could also be bundled in
  • New emission profile studies commissioned by government to be in place by December
  • Announcement will then lead to formal submission of 'intended nationally determined contributions' to the UN Climate Convention for the Paris 2015 agreement

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    First Published: Dec 02 2014 | 12:57 AM IST

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