Initial Impressions on India's Net Zero 2070 Target

India caught everyone off guard after declaring it’s Net Zero Targets. A plethora of views and opinions are being revolved around since the announcement. Let’s look at a few initial thoughts on this announcement.

It is important to know that these are targets/ambitions it is not an implementation. A trajectory can be traced, a blueprint can be analyzed but again the results can be judged in upcoming years majorly close to 9 years and this is true for all nations. Also Net Zero means that net emissions are zero, so the emissions can be offset elsewhere. The trajectory right now is to cut emissions in half by 2030 and achieve Net Zero by 2050 (Global Net Zero), China has pledged for 2060 and India for 2070.

India is a developing country with a population of 1.38 Billion with heavy reliance on coal for energy needs. Although it is the fourth major emitter, its emissions per capita are low and historical contributions are far lower compared to the western countries.

Let’s take a look at India’s commitments (hopefully revised in NDCs)

  • Achieve Net Zero by 2070

  • 50 percent of India’s energy being sourced from renewable sources by 2030

  • Boost renewable energy capacity to 500 GW from 450 GW by 2030

  • Cut CO2 emissions by 1 billion tonnes in 9 years.

  • cut its carbon intensity – emissions released for each unit of GDP – by 45 percent

IPCC’s, The Physical Science Basis, AR6 stresses that Global Net-Zero has to be achieved by 2050 for a chance to limit rising global average temperature to 1.5C The notion of 2070, 50 years ahead of today may seem on a temporal scale a far fetched delusion but keeping in mind India is developing country and cannot be compared with Western countries of today, it looks like a feasible target. Another important aspect is the use of the word ‘energy’ in the context of demand being sourced by renewables, here it looks like it is focusing on electricity, not whole energy. India is heavily reliant on coal. Certain rural areas gained the access to electricity recently through diesel generators and are content with the use of it. Coal is embedded in India’s economy at different folds with heavy reliance of rural people on it. India has the opportunity to leapfrog the steps but still has a few coal projects in the pipeline and locking in these new projects now will set the course of future actions, as usually, it takes around more than 3 decades to phase coal away. Increased renewable in the system mentioned in the target comes from hydropower projects lined up for India.

This ambition relies on climate finance, technology transfer from developed countries. This target does set India on a climate neutrality course and signals investors to tap into the potential market of India which can be helpful especially in increasing renewable energy generation. However, India’s demand is projected to increase and currency 80% of this demand is fulfilled by coal, oil and gas. The shift from Fossil especially Coal will burden India with social and economical effects.

To achieve this target, India needs a roadmap to attract potential investors in future renewable projects. Reliance on coal has to start phasing away with peak emissions hitting soon. Future Fossil lock-ins in buildings and transportation have to be avoided. Electrical infrastructure needs to be modified to accommodate intermittent renewable energy. Rules and Laws should be stringent in the context of emissions.

India has the potential to leapfrog fossil lock-ins and join the world in shaping a sustainable planet.