Officials close to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are huddling with senior bureaucrats and foreign advisers to draw up a possible 2050 deadline for transitioning to net zero emissions, unnamed people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg News.
A 2047 target is also being considered, those officials said, according to Bloomberg, a date that marks the centenary of India’s independence from British rule.
Coal-heavy India and China, as well as the U.S., hold the top three spots for largest global emitters of greenhouse gases.
China, which still draws some 60% of its power from coal, is the top polluter, followed by the U.S., then India. In India, renewable energy use is on the rise, but coal still provides around 70% of the populous nation’s electricity. Its state-owned Coal India is the largest such mining company in the world. U.S. coal generates about 19% of its overall electricity and more coal production is expected to shutter. Historically cheap natural gas
is the U.S.’s popular source, but renewables are now competitive.
China last year said it would aim for carbon neutrality by 2060, and a peak in emissions by 2030. A Joe Biden-led U.S. has recently pledged to hit net zero by 2050.
The timing and scope of India’s announcement could depend on pledges other nations make on April 22, when Biden is set to gather world leaders for an Earth Day summit and wants to secure fresh commitments from attendees, including India and China. The International Energy Agency’s modeling shows a potential path for India to approach net-zero emissions in the mid-2060s.
And some, mostly Republican, officials and industry representatives think the U.S. is ceding the climate-change narrative to foreign competition.
The Paris Climate Agreement is “bad for America,” because it “does nothing to hold real polluters, like Communist China and India, accountable,” Rick Scott, the Republican senator from Florida, has said. The Paris pact is voluntary for all participants but does require regular reporting on efforts toward its goal of holding global warming to 2 degrees Celsius at the top end of a range. Former President Trump had pulled the U.S. from the Paris agreement but Biden reupped its participation.
Earlier this month Chinese officials announced what environmental policy experts considered mostly unchanged energy and climate targets from last year’s major announcement: the country will reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18% over the next five years, it said. China uses carbon emissions per unit of economic output, or carbon intensity, instead of absolute emission reduction targets.
“We were very keen to see what the 14th five-year plan [part of the ruling party’s routine updates] would say about how to actually get there, or maybe even more ambitious targets,” Dimitri de Boer, chief representative of ClientEarth, an environmental law charity, told the Associated Press. “What we’ve seen of the actual plan is that there is a target on reducing carbon intensity by 2025 but we can’t tell what exactly that means in total emissions.”
In its policy tweak earlier this month, China’s government planners offered a few more specifics in a summary of the new five-year plan. It sets a target for non-fossil energy to account for 20% of total energy consumption by 2025, which will require further investment in solar and wind energy.
“This is very gradual progress at best” for China, said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki. “It’s much more of continuing business as usual.”
—The Associated Press contributed.