Science

Renewable Energy: Debate in Center over 500GW Renewable Energy target in new NDCs

A debate has arisen in the government over explicitly committing to the 500GW renewable energy target and plans for reduction of one billion tonnes of cumulative emissions by 2030 in the soon to be updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) or climate targets.

The Ministries of Power and New and Renewable Energy among others are learned to have cautioned against mentioning both commitments in the updated NDCs, ET has learned.

The reason: India could lose flexibility on its climate goals if it binds itself in absolute global commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) even as electricity demand remains dynamic and carbon capture technologies are yet to be realized fully on a large scale scale base.

ET has learned that the issue has formally come up in recent inter-ministerial discussions on updating of India’s NDCs.

The government will soon be taking a proposal to the Union Cabinet on updating India’s NDCs, an exercise expected to be completed well in time for the December COP-27 meet in Egypt.

Every country is expected to submit its post 2020 climate targets or NDCs towards achievement of the Paris Agreement. While India is set to overachieve on its 2015 NDCs, it is yet to submit its new and updated NDCs for 2030.

However, a template was set at the COP-26 Glasgow talks in October 2021 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Apart from announcing India’s commitment to a 2070 net zero target, the PM said that by 2030 India would ensure that 50% of its electric power installed will be through non fossil fuel sources besides achieving 500GW of non fossil fuel electric power.

The Ministry of Power and MNRE have now argued that while the PM’s announcement must be respected and adhered to as a domestic target for the country, there was no need or compulsion to include it as NDC targets.

They are learned to reason that an NDC assuring 500GW commitment, while it will automatically cover the 50% target, will also bind India to the absolute target even if overall demand for electricity in the country does not grow commensurately by 2030.

That apart, a 500GW NDC target will also prevent any new renewable energy project to be counted towards international carbon markets as Article 6 of the Paris Agreement only counts projects outside of NDCs. However, to achieve the 500GW RE target, practically every RE project will need to be included.

The second proposal being cautioned about is regarding the announcement of achieving a one-billion-tonne reduction in India’s cumulative emissions from 2021 to 2030.

India’s carbon dioxide emissions stand at about 2.8 giga tonnes (GT) currently and are projected to touch 4.48 GT by 2030 as per projections made by the environmental think tank Center for Science & Environment. To shave off one billion tonnes will require massive decarbonization drives and mandates for clean fuel switch even as technologies for such large scale switches are untested so far.

Stakeholder ministries have red flagged that such an absolute commitment in NDCs will invite intense global scrutiny of these targets even as the country is at a crucial stage of development which will involve some increase in Green House Gas emissions.

India’s announcement to reduce emission intensity of the country’s GDP by 45% by 2030 as compared to 2005 level, however, will be able to accommodate any such ambition if achieved and hence the nation’s commitment to the cause will be clear as well, it is argued .

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