India: (1) Strengthen country’s Paris Agreement pledge and bring it in line with India’s progressive emission reduction policies and programs, (2) Develop an integrated approach to emissions reduction by linking policies in different sectors, e.g. look at the impact of deforestation on the continued existence and spread of coal fired power plants.
Experts and organizations tracking India’s NDC commitments and its path to meet them believe that India has every likelihood of meeting its emissions reduction pledge years ahead of the committed timeframe. An assessment of India’s policies found significant change since 2016 as the country scaled back its coal power plants building plans. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) forecasts no new plants will be needed between 2022 and 2027. In a Draft National Electricity Plan (NEP), that was prepared in 2016, the govt. of India has proposed two five-year periods beginning in 2017 and 2022. The first period is expected to see completion of the plants already being built, and then the benefits of these plants will accrue in the second phase. After that, there will be no new plants, suggests the NEP.
The NEP mentions, “As coal based capacity of 50,025MW [50GW] is already under construction which is likely to yield benefits during 2017-22, this coal based capacity would fulfil the capacity requirement for the years 2022-27.” And during this same time, the NEP aims at adding 100GW of solar and wind power doubling India’s clean energy capacity. According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), if the Draft Electricity Plan is implemented, India will achieve its NDC’s 2030 40% non-fossil capacity target before 2022, and will reach 57% by 2027.
India ‘s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets aim to lower the emissions intensity of GDP by 33%–35% by 2030 below 2005 levels, to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030 (equivalent to 26–30% of generation in 2030), and to create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5–3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. Based on the NEP, the CAT calculates that India will significantly reduce its emissions and, by 2030, its emissions intensity will be 51–53% below 2005 levels, exceeding its NDC target.
With this as background, the strengthening of this can be done through making these plans integrated into India’s INDC, which they are currently not. In other words, the above developments are not yet reflected in the INDC. As the CAT puts it, “India’s Paris Agreement NDC commitment is therefore weaker than the actions resulting from current policies and is ripe for improvement. Neither the NDC nor current policies are ambitious enough to limit warming to below 2°C, let alone the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort”. India needs to build a robust linkage between all its emission reduction plans with the INDC in a transparent approach.
India needs to bring in a strong integrated approach of GHG emissions by linking all sectors. While the focus on reducing emissions from fossil fuels is essential and must be the major focus, the destruction of the environment due to the existing coal fired power plants and other industries have to be looked into in sync with this. Our national forest cover stands at 22% compared to the prescribed 33% by the National Forest Policy. The existing coal fired power plants and other industries are destroying huge chunks of natural forests and are polluting land and water resources. The country immediately needs to change and all existing plans for forest conservation and afforestation need to be strengthened making them more people and biodiversity oriented.
The government has an ambitious target of not building any new coal fired power plants between 2017-2022. However, their existing plans need more than 375,000 acres of land to build coal power plants and the associated infrastructure in addition to the land required for transmission lines. Water resources will be stressed and serious equity issues will arise. The government should therefore devise a proper plan to implement environmental legislation, land and forest reclamation programs, and implement the same with participation of local communities and other stakeholders. Rights of the resources to the indigenous communities can be one of the best ways to reduce GHGs from such development actions. These communities can bring back the lands and forests to their organic and natural condition using their traditional skills aided by proper green technologies.
Letter titled, “The Myths on the Relevance of Coal Energy and the Critical Need for Renewable Energy” written on 23rd August 2017 by Mr. Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst to Dr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India, New Delhi (accessed through personal correspondence)