Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with the US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry.  |  Photo Credit: PTI
- In the next few decades, India is expected to become one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases as it seeks to lift millions out of poverty
- Setting a net-zero emissions target, in principle, does not place any limits on the amount of carbon dioxide a country can produce as long as it is able to mitigate its effects through carbon removal projects
- New Delhi has previously pointed to the fact that developed nations have defaulted on their pledges, and there is apprehension that they may subsequently do so even with the net-zero emission pledge
Following their meeting today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told the US' climate envoy, John Kerry that India was committed to achieving its climate change pledges set out in the 2015 Paris Accord. In response, Kerry, who is on a 3-day trip to India as part of a larger US outreach mission that will also see him visit the UAE and Bangladesh prior to a virtual summit on climate change held by US President Joe Biden, has pledged US support in the form of facilitating affordable access to green technologies critical to achieving carbon neutrality.
The summit is viewed as President Biden's first meaningful intervention to re-establish the United States as a leader in tackling the climate crisis after four years of a Donald Trump administration. It is expected that the US will pledge to achieve a net-zero emissions target by 2050, thereby joining the company of other elite nations such as the UK and France in doing so.
The European Union is also, reportedly, conceptualising a bloc-wide law to do the same while other nations like Germany, South Korea, Japan and Canada have also expressed inclinations to commit to a net-zero emissions goal by 2050.
However, India is yet to commit to such a target and, in the view of some analysts, with good reason. Setting a long-term, net-zero emissions target will have significant implications for the developmental and environmental trajectory of the nation.
In the next few decades, India is expected to become one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases as it seeks to lift millions out of poverty. With 58 other countries already announcing net zero-emission targets, India has now come under some diplomatic pressure to do the same.
Achieving net-zero emissions is not the same as zeroing out emissions. What this effectively means is that any and all human-induced greenhouse gases produced by a country would be offset by a process known as carbon removal facilitated through various initiatives such as afforestation or direct air capture and storage (DACS) technologies.
As such, setting a net-zero emissions target, in principle, does not place any limits on the amount of carbon dioxide a country can produce as long as it is able to mitigate its effects through carbon removal projects, renewable energy initiatives, and energy efficiency programmes.
But what it also does, according to some analysts, is ignore an important principle of the 2015 Paris Agreement – that of “common but differentiated responsibility.” This implies that richer countries need to bear greater responsibility for the higher levels of emissions caused by them in the past, and is intricately linked to the concept of climate justice.
What's more, studies have indicated that India is the only G-20 nation on course to fulfil the pledges it made in the Paris Agreement. New Delhi has previously pointed to the fact that developed nations have defaulted on their pledges, and there is apprehension that they may subsequently do so even with the net-zero emission pledge.
As per the Paris Agreement, countries are allowed to set their own emission reductions targets while required to demonstrate greater ambition with future targets. However, since the agreement is not binding, there is no penalty levied for countries' failure to achieve their set targets.