In 2030, when countries have to take stock of their commitments under the Paris climate agreement, India will double its carbon dioxide emissions from its 2012 levels, but will still be within its intensity pledge, according to a new study by experts from the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and elsewhere.
This is because India is starting with a very low base. “India’s 2030 per capita emissions will be below today’s global average and absolute emissions will be less than half of China’s 2015 emissions from the same sources,” says the study, the lead author of which is Navroz Dubash of the CPR.
The study notes the models predicting future emissions vary widely because they are based on different, often implicit, assumptions. The authors use a novel interpretive approach where they make clear the assumptions regarding technologies and policies in their model-based scenario analyses. They use these as a benchmark to judge scenario assumptions and results.
According to the study, India plays a key role as a “significant” emitter of greenhouse gases, but starting with a low base level, and as a large emerging economy, is also a major actor in mitigating carbon emissions. It observes that perceptions of India’s role vary from “an energy-hungry climate deal-breaker to a forerunner of a low carbon future.”
Thus a 2017 paper by R. Fofrichof the University of California at Irvine and Christine Shearer from the NGO CoalSwarm on future carbon dioxide emissions and electricity generation from proposed coal-fired power plants in India states: “India represents a critical unknown in global projections of future CO2 emissions due to its growing population, industrialising economy, and large coal reserves.”
It assessed existing and proposed construction of these plants and evaluated their implications for future energy production and emissions in the country. “In 2016, India had 369 coal-fired power plants under development totalling 243 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity. These coal-fired power plants would increase India’s coal-fired generating capacity by 123% and would exceed its projected electricity demand.”
“India’s current proposals for new coal-fired power plants would be forced to retire early or operate at very low capacity factors and/or would prevent India from meeting its goal of producing at least 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2030. In addition, future emissions from proposed coal-fired power plants would exceed India’s climate commitment to reduce its 2005 emissions intensity 33-35% by 2030.”