US President Joe Biden’s special envoy on climate John Kerry’s visit to India, just ahead of the virtual summit of global climate leaders called by Biden, is clearly aimed at convincing India to commit to the concept of ‘net zero carbon emissions’ by 2050. Advanced economies like the US, EU, UK, Japan and Germany are expected to aim for achieving the target of net zero carbon emissions by 20250. China has said it is willing to aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
India’s carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to grow from the current 3.6 gigatonnes to over 7.3 gigatonnes by 2050, as it pushes ahead with its development efforts and tries to bring up its infrastructure to global standards. Although India will pass China and US to become the largest emitter by 2050, on a per capita and development level, it will continue to remain well behind developed countries and even China, which is at least 25 years ahead on infrastructure. This is why India has so far refused to commit to a particular target date.
Given the challenge of lifting millions of people out of poverty and the task of meeting the aspirations of a huge population, it will be impossible to achieve net neutral carbon emissions given current levels of carbon capture and storage technology, as well as the increasingly limited space available for creating additional ‘carbon sinks’ like forests.
While India would do well to avoid being pressurised by developed nations on this, it must continue to accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It has already made impressive strides in creating solar energy capacity and is now set to give a thrust to electric mobility. This must be accompanied by attempts to decarbonise production and consumption cycles. After all, climate change is a reality which will affect all of us.