India ratifying the Paris Agreement on October 2, the birth anniversary of Gandhi, infused great momentum, helping to ensure that we will see the global deal coming into force ahead of COP22. Once the applause dies down, every part of India’s great economy, from its industries to its individual citizens, will need to take action.
Building a sustainable model of economic development
In submitting its ratification, India flagged some key issues. As Academic and global negotiation expert Lavanya Rajamani has noted: “If India engages meaningfully in the post-Paris negotiations, it can address all the concerns underpinning its declaration – recognition of national circumstances, eradication of poverty, provision of basic needs, equity, support and global commitment. The negotiations in the coming years are therefore critical.”
As the fastest growing economy in the world, India needs to be at the forefront in framing the climate action agenda and driving change that will be crucial for its own industrial push. India has much at stake in the success of any global agreement to combat climate change. India's high vulnerability and exposure to climate change will, according to IPCC and other projections, slow its economic growth, impact health and development, make poverty reduction more difficult and erode food security. Not only does India have a mammoth agricultural base and hence a large population at risk, but a rapidly changing environment will also imperil industrial assets.
Crucially, as a Party to the Agreement, India can now help shape and develop the rules that will frame post-Paris negotiations.
Powering a world-leading renewable energy market
India has committed that about 40% of its installed power generation capacity will be non-fossil fuel based by 2030. It also plans to have 175 GW of renewable energy capacity installed by 2022. As of March 2016, about 42 GW of power generation capacity is from grid-connected renewables which represents 14% share from renewables (excluding large hydro) and 29% (with large hydro). With this, India has already become a leading global market for renewables. Ratification of Paris Agreement is expected to attract global attention towards India’s ability to achieve its renewable energy targets.
In addition, domestic action plans like Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) will spur stringent compliance requirements. Global initiatives like the RE100 campaign, which asks the world’s most influential companies to switch to 100% renewable power, are accelerating the growth of renewable energy worldwide. In India, Infosys Limited and Tata Motors Limited have already committed to 100% renewable electricity.
Setting the stage for COP22
Indian ministers have repeatedly stressed that even though India was not part of the problem, it will be part of the solution. The government has stepped up efforts while calling upon industry to meet its obligations, for example by tightening vehicular emission standards.
Thus, as a rapidly growing emerging economy, India will increasingly play a larger global role among its peers in global carbon emission reduction. As per IEA’s study (India Energy Outlook 2015), India is set to contribute more than any other country to the projected rise in global energy demand, around one-quarter of the total. The opportunity to work with industry to lower emissions is huge, but also challenging as major producers are from the public sector and are weighed down by high carbon assets. On the positive side, it has put the agenda on increasing renewable energy generation and bringing enhanced energy efficiency to its manufacturing sector to lower energy-related emissions.
As India prepares to underscore its climate credentials at COP22, it will do well to demonstrate a more proactive approach that will help attract financial resources to fund a massive low-carbon infrastructure push.