In a rare bit of good climate news, India commits to being net-zero by 2070

Updated: Nov 6

As domestic politics bash hope for progress from the US and the Biden Administration and China remains recalcitrant on its own emissions targets, the commitment from India to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 is a welcome bit of good climate news.


India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the commitment at the opening of COP26, the regular meeting of world leaders organized by the United Nations and intended to draft a global response to the existential threat posed by climate change.


India intends to boost its renewable energy and non-fossil fuel production to 500 gigawatts by the end of the decade (that’s enough to power at least 1.5 million US homes). Modi expects half of India’s electricity will come from renewable resources by 2020.


At the same time, Modi underscored the need for the world’s wealthiest nations to open up their wallets and start spending more money to fund the adaptation and mitigation projects that emerging economies need to transition from fossil fuels.


Wealthy nations should spend trillions to help support the transition to non-fossil fuel energy production, but right now, they’re falling well short of the $100 billion target that was set during earlier negotiations in Paris.


“[The] $100 billion is iconic in terms of the good faith of the countries that promised it,” Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka told Nature magazine.


“It is India’s expectation that the world’s developed nations make $1 trillion available as climate finance as soon as possible,” Modi said. “Justice would demand that those nations that have not kept their climate commitments should be pressured.”


If India meets its targets, it would be a significant step toward keeping the world below its current warming trajectory, according to the latest science.


Right now, it looks like the world is on track to warm by at least 2.2 degrees, which could have disastrous consequences for millions of people, given current projections.


That’s why India’s revised targets are so important.


The US also has ambitious targets for reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions, but those targets are dependent on President Joe Biden passing an ambitious package of climate policies as part of an infrastructure package that’s currently held up in Congress.


Even with the passage of the new law, there’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle that are outside of the realm of federal policy that would need to fall into place to make reductions happen.


And China, whose net-zero emissions targets remained unchanged with a projected date of 2060, is not doing nearly enough to keep warming within the 1.5 degree scenario that experts have said is the least catastrophic outcome.


To keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that the global goal of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions needs to happen by 2050 and then hit net zero across all greenhouse gases by 2070, Bloomberg wrote.


“Country-wise net zero cannot be the same for all nations,” Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, who has advised the prime minister’s office, told Bloomberg. India’s target is “equitable and just,” he said.


Among the largest greenhouse gas emitters, India’s contribution to global climate change represents a fraction of the largest emitters — led by the US.

“In the last few months, India has been lining up policies that can take it towards these goals, policies about hydrogen, electric vehicles, renewable energy, and industry decarbonization,” Chandra Bhushan, president of New Delhi-based International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology told Bloomberg. “Now India needs investments.”

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