The journey to achieving net zero in India by 2070

By Prasenjit Dhar

Earlier this month, the intense two-week-long discussions at the COP26 in Glasgow came to a close. It brought together world leaders, tens of thousands of delegates from 196 countries plus the EU, along with youth and indigenous leaders, civil society groups and businesses. It is the biggest international summit the UK has ever hosted.

The success of COP26 should not be counted in terms of the sheer number of participants – although an admirable feat in a global pandemic – but more so in the various announcements, agreements and commitments that have been achieved at the summit.

One of the most significant achievements of COP26 is that almost 90% of the global economy have agreed net zero targets for themselves as opposed to only 30% two years ago. India, which had been reticent at previous COPs, announced an ambitious target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. Prime Minister Modi, in his speech at COP 26, also announced major changes by 2030. By the end of this decade, he said, India’s target is to meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy; installed capacity of non-fossil-fuel energy in India will increase to 500 GW; emissions intensity of the country’s GDP will drop by around 45% from 2005 levels; and that its total carbon emissions will be lowered by one billion tons. Mr Modi’s announcement was received very warmly by the global community.

The UK and India also announced three major joint programmes of cooperation across renewable energy grids, finance, and disaster relief. With these commitments alongside FTA negotiations set to begin in the near future, there is great scope for further UK-India cooperation in this area, something UK companies are deeply enthusiastic about. Read more on those in my colleague Kealan Finnegan’s earlier blog.

Currently, India’s biggest emitter are its thermal power plants, followed by energy-intensive industries like steel. Then comes transportation followed by the farm sector, urban waste, and so forth. One of the ways India can decarbonise and meet its emission targets by 2030, is by adopting innovative cutting-edge technologies. These could include multiple areas like use of alternate fuels, energy storage, distributed renewable generation and grids, e-mobility, waste-to-energy and offshore wind.

At the same time, access to finance is of paramount importance. Experts feel that India will urgently need USD 1 trillion (around GBP 720 billion) of green / climate finance to start moving towards its stated targets. According to a very recent study by a leading climate think tank, Council on Energy, Environment and Water – Centre for Energy Finance (CEEW-CEF), if India is to achieve it 2070 net-zero target this investment amount increases to more than ten-fold and is estimated to stand at USD 10.1 trillion. At that level required India will need significant support from international investors and financial institution to meet its requirement including USD 1.4 trillion in concessional finance from developed countries.

The numbers are staggering and India will need a strategic, concerted approach at the national and state levels for India to achieve its targets. At the same time, there needs to be a conducive policy and regulatory framework in place to make it easier for global investments and technologies to flow. Policies and regulations will also need to be adopted within strict timelines and implemented properly to yield the desirable results.

The UK is well placed to support India both in terms of providing access to finance as well as collaborating on cleaner technologies. During their meeting in May 2021, our two prime ministers had already identified Climate and Energy as a one of the five key pillars for collaboration under the India-UK Enhanced Partnership. The UK has significant expertise in many areas, such as those I have listed above, where technology collaboration and partnerships between businesses of our two countries could prove extremely fruitful and mutually beneficial.

The UKIBC has been focusing on this sector in a big way. We have a group of UK organisations comprising our members and clients, who have been meeting regularly to discuss potential opportunities in India and issues they have been facing. If you would like to know more about the activities and engagements of the group, or you have any other query on the Energy Transition and Climate sector, please feel free to contact me on prasenjit.dhar@ukibc.com.


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