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India should commit to emission cuts at COP26, says Montek Singh Ahluwalia in new paper

Montek Singh Ahluwalia says India doesn’t need to reach net zero by 2050, but it ‘cannot keep emitting without a reduction'.

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New Delhi: India should commit to reducing emissions at the COP26 negotiations, because technology has now made it “possible to grow while also reducing emissions over time”, economist and former civil servant Montek Singh Ahluwalia said Friday.

Ahluwalia was speaking at a webinar hosted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), where a paper co-authored by him, ‘Getting to Net Zero: An Approach for India at COP26’, was presented. Utkarsh Patel of the Centre for Social and Economic Progress is the other co-author.

The event was also attended by Manjeev Singh Puri, former ambassador and Distinguished Fellow at TERI, and Ajay Shah, professor of economics and law at Jindal Global University.

Net-zero goals — or the vow to ensure all greenhouse emissions are neutralised through measures such as carbon sinks — are among the major talking points in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow.

The world’s largest climate conference is due to begin Sunday and go on till November 12. At the summit, where India will be represented by PM Modi, countries are expected to make even more ambitious climate change targets, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), than the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Signed at COP24, the Paris Agreement has since been the road map for the world’s battle to keep global temperatures well below 2°C — preferably below 1.5°C — above pre-industrial levels in a bid to thwart some of the most intense impacts of climate change. 

While 143 countries have submitted revised NDCs, with many (including the US, China and the EU) pledging net-zero emissions by mid-century, India has refrained from doing either, arguing that it is on track to meet its climate goals for 2030. India believes that developed countries — not developing ones — should make deep cuts in emissions. 

The paper argues that while India needn’t commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, it should consider gradually reducing emissions by increasing energy efficiency, electrifying all sectors as far as possible, and neutralising whatever emissions are left with carbon sinks, to achieve carbon neutrality in the long-term.

“We don’t need to reach net zero by 2050, but we cannot keep emitting without a reduction. Balance can be restored by developed countries reaching net zero before 2050,” said Ahluwalia.

Also Read: What is COP26, why it is important & India’s role at the climate change conference

The path to reducing emissions

According to Ahluwalia, the best way to reduce emissions is by transitioning to renewable energy and becoming more energy-efficient, by encouraging people to move to public transport, pricing energy economically, and creating performance incentives for industry. 

The best short-term solution is to phase out coal and stop subsidising fossil fuels, he added. “To finance climate actions, we need a decentralised model where resource flows go to state and local governments, rather than to just the central government,” said Shah, adding that these investments need to come primarily from the private sector.

Added Puri, “India will be taking some of the world’s largest climate actions in the years to come.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: COP26 opportunity to move from words to actions, can’t rely on govt action alone, experts say


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