India did not cause the climate crisis but it cannot be solved without that nation’s help, experts told indica News as United States Climate Envoy John Kerry traveled to India on Monday.
Asked about the objective of the visit to India, a State Department spokesperson told indica News: “We see India as an important partner on future clean energy research, development, and deployment, not least because of their successful domestic agenda in this area. A key focus for our administration is supporting and encouraging India’s decarbonization efforts through clean, zero, and low-carbon investment, and supporting India in mitigating its fossil energy use.”
As one of the world’s largest economies and a global leader in science and innovation, India is a critical part of the solution to the climate crisis, the spokesperson said.
On March 26, President Joe Biden announced that he had invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders Summit on Climate. During the summit, to be held virtually on April 22 and 23, the United States will announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.
In recent years, scientists have underscored the need to limit planetary warming to 1.5° Celsius in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
What is India’s role in this, indica News asked Stanford University Earth System Science Professor Rob Jackson, who is also senior fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. India, he said, contributes 7 percent of global fossil carbon emissions, about two and a half billion tons per year. In contrast, the United States is responsible for about 15 percent of global fossil carbon dioxide emissions, about five billion tons a year.
“Our per capita fossil carbon emissions are eight times higher than India’s. India’s emissions are still rising, including those from coal power. That’s one of many likely reasons John Kerry is visiting,” Professor Jackson told indica News.
What can India do better? Jackson said: “The main approach for reducing nitrous oxide emissions is to use nitrogen fertilizers more efficiently in agriculture.”
Sameer Kwatra, acting director for India at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC, pointed out that India is already the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the US.
“Although India’s per capita emissions are still low, they are growing year on year, unlike in major western economies, including the United States, where emissions are declining,” Kwatra told indica News.
“It is true that India did not cause the climate crisis, however, the world cannot solve this issue without India’s leadership.”
He said that India has the unique opportunity to show a new paradigm of growth and prosperity to the world.
“Imagine, just as a thought experiment, if tomorrow every Indian had the exact same carbon-intensive lifestyle that people in western nations have today. The impact of that on the planet would be equivalent to India having a population of 10 billion people! Clearly, this is neither desirable nor sustainable,” Kwatra said.
“The country’s vision should be to achieve a healthy and happy life that everyone in India deserves while avoiding the climate-harming carbon-intensive growth trajectory of the west. The Indian government recognizes this and a plan to achieve net-zero emissions would go a long way to signal India’s commitment to decarbonization,” he said.
Kwatra said that India has done well on its climate commitments and is one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets.
Most experts agreed that India’s goal achieving net-zero emissions was laudable but tough for a country hungering for economic growth and dependent on coal for energy.