India may unveil carbon targets today

India may unveil carbon targets today

New Delhi: India is close to finalizing its carbon reduction targets for 2020 and 2030, and these could be announced in Parliament on Thursday.

Three government officials Mint spoke to declined comment on the magnitude of the reductions, but confirmed that discussions were on to arrive at these.

Last week, China announced its target, a 40-45% reduction in carbon intensity from 2005 levels by 2020.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that provisional government figures indicate a 24% cut in carbon intensity by 2020 below 2005 levels and 37% by 2030.

Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of gross domestic product (GDP).

All three officials, none of whom wanted to be identified, said these numbers were not correct. “There are discussions going on, but the government has not announced this as their offer," said one of them.

The discussions in India involve the Prime Minister’s office, the Planning Commission, the ministry of environment and forests and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Also See India’s Carbon Footprint in the past and Future (Graphics)

India has maintained that China’s announcement of a voluntary cut does not put pressure on the country to do the same, especially because India’s carbon and energy intensity are much lower than China’s.

“China’s figure is more like a BAU (business-as-usual figure), than an actual deviation from that. We should not be pressurized. We should decide on the basis of our needs and economic prospects. Negotiators should not be hustled into anything. It shouldn’t be like catching up with the Joneses," said Shyam Saran, India’s special envoy for climate change.

Reuters reported, citing a senior government official who did not want to be identified, that India’s final targets, likely to be presented at next week’s summit at Copenhagen, could reflect a broad range rather than a specific figure and that minister for environment Jairam Ramesh will make a statement in Parliament on Thursday in which he could announce the targets. A discussion on climate change and India’s policy is slated for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

None of these numbers would become a legally binding target, Saran said. “The bigger question is whether these will be announced formally at Copenhagen. Informally, we have these targets in our plans and missions."

Energy intensity is the amount of energy used for each unit of GDP. India’s energy intensity has been on a declining trajectory, as befits a services-driven economy. From 0.12 kgoe (kg of oil equivalent) per dollar of GDP at purchasing power parity in 2003, its energy intensity has fallen to 0.09 kgoe.

Meanwhile, government officials and experts remain divided on whether India should focus on carbon intensity or energy intensity. Its current stance emphasizes the latter.

“Most people below the poverty line use biomass and wood as fuel, which is very energy inefficient, but its carbon dioxide emissions are very close to zero, as it (the fuel) is grown, cut and then grown again. But as they move to say kerosene, the energy efficiency will improve, but carbon intensity will worsen. Over long time frames, the two parameters are different," said Ajay Mathur, director general, BEE. Energy efficiency, or the efficiency with which energy is generated, can affect a country’s energy intensity.

An environmental activist said India needs to realize that sudden moves on targets may jeopardize its position domestically and globally.

“There needs to be a proper deliberative process, if India needs a carbon or energy intensity number. That has still not been done. India already has a commitment on energy intensity for the 11th Five-Year Plan. It must not make a laughing stock of itself by announcing new numbers everyday; it should stick to its own 20% by 2020 domestic commitment," said Sunita Narain, member of the Prime Minister’s council on climate change and director, Centre for Science and Environment.

She alleged that India’s changing position reflects interests of the US and not its own. “If India goes ahead and announces this (target) on carbon intensity, it is clearly at behest of (the) US president. It will derail the multilateral negotiations."

Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint

Reuters contributed to this story.