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COP26 Notebook: India’s 2070 Net-Zero Target Stands out in Climate Commitments

India's intent to pursue decarbonisation in letter and spirit is obvious from its bold climate pledges at COP26

Arjun Dutt
02 November 2021

"The world is looking to you." With these words, Sir David Attenborough threw down the gauntlet to world leaders gathered at COP26, the UN climate conference currently underway in Glasgow. The speakers who followed him made the right noises, but it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of a quantum leap in India’s climate ambition that seemed the worthiest response to the renowned naturalist’s call for action. His 2070 net-zero pledge grabbed all the headlines, but what is truly extraordinary is the stringent near-term accountability factored into India’s new decarbonisation plans. By committing an economy currently reliant on coal-fired power to an ambitious 50 per cent share of renewables for electricity requirements and a one billion tonne reduction in projected carbon emissions by 2030, Prime Minister Modi has signalled India’s intent to pursue decarbonisation in letter and spirit instead of merely hiding behind a nebulous, faraway target.

Climate finance pledges fail to impress

In stark contrast to India’s decarbonisation plans, the climate finance plans announced by developed countries to support developing countries lack both ambition and accountability. They contain nothing concrete by way of scaling up long-term finance support, and merely aim to enhance annual flows to USD 100 billion by 2023 – a full three years behind schedule. Ideally, developed countries should have pledged support on a scale comparable with Prime Minister Modi’s demand for the prompt mobilisation of USD one trillion in climate finance. Their leaders have also missed an opportunity to address concerns about the delivery of promised flows. This is especially disappointing given that question marks on the quantum of finance delivered versus promised, on whether these flows are new and additional, and the inflated reporting of promised flows have all undermined the credibility of climate finance promises made so far.

Of specificity and success

Sir David Attenborough’s stirring address cut through the noise and focused delegates’ attention on a single number: 414 parts per million, the current atmospheric concentration of CO2. He made an emphatic call for accountability by tying the success of the Glasgow climate conference to reductions in this figure. World leaders should take note. To ensure that their actions speak louder than words, they must ensure that their decarbonisation and climate finance goals are just as specific.

Image Source: PTI Photo

Arjun Dutt is Programme Lead, Centre for Energy Finance, at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent, not-for-profit policy research institution; send your comments to arjun.dutt@ceew.in

Readers keen to explore the implications of India’s net-zero target may check out this cool interactive feature developed by CEEW.

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