India may have room to raise emissions

India may have room to raise emissions

New Delhi: India may have room to increase emissions until 2050 to about 240% the level in 1990 because of its low per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product, while developed nations will need to cut them to protect the planet from the adverse effects of climate change.

The figures were among those released by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) at an ongoing United Nations climate talks in Bangkok. The global carbon budget calls for stringent emission reduction targets from industrialized nations.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said earlier this week that India’s stand in the negotiations will be in line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s per capita emission demand, based on equal carbon dioxide (CO2) rights for every country.

The report analyses what emission cuts countries will need to take if the increase in average global temperature is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, which means that the total carbon emissions the world can afford are limited (1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent). In July, the G-8+5 countries pledged that they will strive to avoid breaching the 2 degrees Celsius goal, Mint reported in July. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to runaway global warming.

“The carbon budget is meant to cover all allowable carbon emissions between 1990 and 2050, fairly and equitably. We have already used about 40% of the available carbon budget in 19 years from 1990 to 2009. The calculations are meant to improve the current approach and give it scientific credibility for the planning activities of nations," Stephan Singer, director of global energy policy, WWF, said in Bangkok.

The 2 degrees Celsius target is not a light burden. It means the world will have to reduce its emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The key question now is who cuts by how much, how and by when. The figures on burden sharing and the process of deciding those cuts are the most contested elements of the global negotiations on climate change because they involve not only deep emission cuts from industrialized nations, most of which have been resisting them, but also finance and technology transfer from the rich to the poor. These global climate talks will come to a head in Copenhagen in December, the deadline for the world to seal a deal on climate.

The estimates for emission cuts are based on three allocation models, all of which involve per capita emissions as a parameter. The models project that the average per capita emission in 2020 needs to be around 4.6 tonnes and between 0.58 and 0.74 tonnes by 2050. India’s per capita emission is now 1.2 tonnes. It’s 15 tonnes in the UK and 20 tonnes in the US.

“One approach—the greenhouse gas development rights, or GDR—requires more emission reductions (160%) from Annex 1 (industrialized) countries with more allocation rights for non-Annex 1 countries (which include India and China). Developing nations, in this approach, can increase emissions by 40% till 2050 but there are huge differences in that grouping due to disparities in per capita emission and income," Singer said.

Shirish Sinha, head of climate change and energy programme at WWF, said, “Developing countries can grow (emissions) in the mid-term but in the long term, they will need low-carbon action plans in their development strategy."

India’s modelling on greenhouse gas emissions has estimated that per capita emissions in 2031 will be well below the global average in 2005, Mint reported in September.