Net Zero Emissions Target for India – Explained, Pointwise

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Globally, the idea of net-zero emissions by 2050 gaining momentum. It is advised by many countries as a solution to tackle Climate Change. So far 58 countries have announced net zero emissions targets.  Together these countries account for more than half the world’s current GHG emissions.

In the next 30 years, they all aim to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs.  There are requests from the global forums that India also needs to adopt a net-zero emissions target. But there are other sections of environmentalists not in favour of adopting Net-zero emissions targets. They say that it is unjust for developing countries.

What is the Net-zero emissions target?

Net-zero emission is the method of balancing the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gas absorption from the atmosphere.

In zero-carbon emission, the country will focus on limiting carbon emission. But in Net-zero carbon the country will focus on bringing the net carbon emission to zero.

In the initial phase, the country will focus on reducing human-caused emissions like burning fossil fuels, balancing factory emissions, etc. But, gradually the Net-zero emissions can be extended to the remaining areas as well.

Net zero is not part of the Paris Agreement.

It emerged as a concept in IPCC’s 2018 special report ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C” (SR1.5)’, which said global emissions need to be 45% lower than the 2010 levels in 2030 to keep the temperature rise to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level.

As per the report, the world must also become a net zero carbon emitter by 2050. To stay under 2°C, it has to be net zero between 2070 and 2085.

Status of Net-zero Emissions Targets at the global level

A number of countries have already set targets, or committed to do so, for reaching net-zero emissions. The developed countries mention this as a step towards the fulfilment of the Paris Climate deal.

  1. All G-7 states (except the US) and 11 G20 members have mid-century (2050 or 2060) net-zero emissions targets (carbon dioxide or other GHGs). These include Argentina, Mexico, the UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, the Republic of Korea, Italy, China, and the EU.
  2. Of the 192 countries who have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 65 have announced national net zero targets.
  3. Bhutan and Suriname are already carbon-negative – meaning, they sequester more carbon in their forests than they emit.
  4. Few countries even enacted statutory provisions towards its fulfillment. For example, The UK, France, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The other countries like  Spain, Chile, and Fiji are looking for ways to incorporate the Net-zero emissions targets under their national law.
  5. 21% of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies have also announced net zero targets as of March 2021. Most countries do not yet have clear plans on how to achieve net zero by 2050, or in the case of China, by 2060. Most projections rely on removing CO2 from the atmosphere by enhancing the planet’s natural carbon sinks or through carbon removal technologies.

Advantages of adopting Net-zero emissions targets

Many developed countries adopted the Net-Zero targets. They all mention the following reasons as an advantage of such adoption. This includes,

  1. Fulfilment of Paris Climate deal: Achieving Net-Zero targets can take countries closer to limiting the global temperature to 1.5 degrees. The developed countries also mention that the adoption of the Net-zero target fulfils the provision “rich nations should lead on climate change” enshrined in Paris deal.
  2. Earlier and greater improvements in human and natural environments, such as biodiversity improvements.
  3. Health and wellbeing benefits: The achievement of the Net-zero target can bring a host of benefits to people. Such as reduced air pollution, reduction in climate change and associated disease, etc.
  4. Greater economic benefits: Early investment in carbon-neutral ventures can attract large-scale economic opportunities in future. For example, the Net-zero emissions target can generate 24 million jobs in 15 years across multiple sectors.
  5. Adoption of clean sources of energy: This will reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, lower energy bills, etc. Further, the Net-zero emissions targets can spur the growth of renewable energy and associated developments.
  6. Other benefits: This includes benefits such as promotion of energy efficiency in buildings, reduced water demand by thermal power plants, etc.
Few major Criticisms and challenges in adoption of Net-Zero emissions target

The adoption of the Net-zero target does have few serious concerns. Such as,

  1. Dilution of Paris climate agreement: The adoption of Net-zero emissions target aid the dilution of the Paris deal in the following ways.
    • Violate the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) : As the net-zero targets generally aim to achieve around the mid of this century, the poor countries and developing countries have to take many initiatives to achieve the net-zero targets. In other words, the developed countries can evade their historical responsibility and transfer burdens to developing countries.
    • The Climate Action Tracker report mentions that Even after five years of the Paris deal, the climate action of major developed countries is incompatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Apart from that, the report also mentions that only a few developing countries including India, are taking enough step towards climate justice. So the adoption of these targets is to dilute the country’s immediate responsibility and to emit as much as GHGs at present.
  2. Credibility and accountability of Net-Zero emissions: The Paris climate deal itself lacks accountability. Perhaps, this is the major reason for the non-monetisation of Climate finance(100 billion $ annually from 2020(now it is shifted to 2025)). If that is the case, then the individually determined Net-zero targets will remain as targets alone.
  3. Other associated Challenges: This includes the challenges like,
    1. Non-availability of Negative emissions technologies
    2. Impact on employment. For instance: As many as 744,984 people in India are directly employed by the coal industry, with hundreds of thousands more connected through the informal sector. Clamps on fossil fuel-dependent industries would leave millions of workers jobless.
    3. The higher annual cost to the Government as the target demand high financial incentives.
    4. Challenges in developing the necessary carbon-neutral supply chains
    5. Initial high cost of materials and installations, etc
Why India Need to adopt net-zero emissions?

Despite many criticisms, the Net-zero emissions targets have few advantages for India. For example,

  1. IEA (International Energy Agency) findings indicate that the majority of India’s future emissions are supposed to come from things that are yet to be made. This includes transport infrastructure, buildings, industry, etc.
  2. Adopting net-zero emissions will give the country an opportunity to build a cleaner economy. Thereby, India can reduce its oil import bill, generate additional jobs.
  3. Recently, TERI(The Energy and Resources Institute) and Shell jointly released a report “India: Transforming to a Net-Zero Emissions Energy System”. In that, they mention few advantages of net-zero emissions. Such as,
      • Increase in share of renewables:  The report mentions that to achieve the target India has to increase the renewable energy share from the present 11% to 90%.
      • Access to technologies: The report mention by adopting the target India can fast pace access to technologies such as biofuels, etc.
      • Creation of Jobs: Promoting e-vehicles, clean energy, and hydrogen electrolysis can create jobs in the auto manufacturing, electricity, and construction sectors.
Suggestions in adoption Net-zero emissions targets
  1. The focus should be on greater electrification. Further, The government has to encourage using hydrogen as a fuel in industries like cement, iron and steel, and chemicals. Further, India has to pre-retiree the coal plants to improve energy efficiency.
  2. India can impose a carbon tax to offset the tax revenue loss. The government has to start initially with the amount equivalent to the present Coal Cess.  The amount can increase gradually to Rs. 2500 for per ton emission by 2050.
    • The government can use this cess to supporting poor households. Especially for those who are badly hit by the emission reduction strategies.
  3. The government has to encourage all states and UTs to make their respective carbon-neutral plan.
    • The UT of Ladakh and Sikkim state are already planning such a carbon-neutral plan.
    • Further, at the local level cities like  Bengaluru and Chennai, the Panchayat of Meenangadi in Wayanad, Kerala also planning such a carbon-neutral plan.
  4. India: Transforming to a Net-Zero Emissions Energy System report also suggested few important observations. Such as,
    • India has to focus on Energy Efficiency, biofuels, etc.
    • Further, India also has to rely on both natural and man-made Carbon Sequestration practices. 
    • The government has to work on deploying lower carbon energy(wind, solar, hydro and Nuclear) for satisfying the power demand.

The adoption of the net-zero emissions target itself is not criticised so far. It is only the inaction of the country towards the climate deal after enacting such a target that is criticised globally. India is a responsible nation and one of the very few countries performing towards the fulfilment of the Paris climate deal and Nationally Determined Contribution. So, the adoption of Net-zero targets will only fast pace India’s mission towards Climate Justice.

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