India vows to cut carbon emissions ahead of conference

India ranks as the world's third-largest polluter. Picture: Getty
India ranks as the world's third-largest polluter. Picture: Getty
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AS THE last major economy to submit a target for a global climate pact, India is pledging to reduce its carbon emissions and boost the share of electricity produced from sources other than fossil fuels to 40 per cent by 2030.

The world’s third-largest carbon polluter filed its climate action plan to the Germany-based UN climate secretariat on Thursday night, the deadline for pledges before a December conference in Paris where governments are supposed to adopt a landmark deal to fight climate change.

In a 38-page submission citing the country’s forefather Mohandas K Gandhi, an ardent environmentalist, the Indian government said it would slash the rate of emissions relative to gross domestic product by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Already, the country has reduced its carbon “intensity” by 12 per cent since 2005, it said.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said India held its submission back so it could coordinate its filing with the Indian holiday celebrating Gandhi’s birthday today.

“Our every action will be cleaner than what it was earlier,” Javadekar said, insisting that Indian traditions and culture are already “at one with nature.”

The carbon intensity goal will allow India’s emissions to grow as its economy expands, but at a lower rate than now.

“It is estimated that more than half of India of 2030 is yet to be built,” the government said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made manufacturing and job creation a key promise of his administration, and has implored foreign companies and governments, with the slogan “Make in India,” to help.

Environmental groups following the UN climate talks welcomed India’s pledge.

“India now has positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy, and is poised to play an active and influential role in the international climate negotiations this December,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council, a group based in New York.

Climate analyst Samir Saran at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank, also described India’s targets as ambitious and “rooted in Indian reality,” given the fact that at least 300 million citizens - a fourth of the population - still have no access to electricity at all, while hundreds of millions more make do with just a few hours a day.

India also promised aggressive reforestation efforts, with enough new trees to absorb up to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, and laid out plans for adapting to changing weather and temperatures.

“This is a positive and novel Indian approach,” Saran said.