India's GHG estimate goes against Climate Plan

Feature story - September 2, 2009

New Delhi: In a strategic move, the Indian Government put three high profile faces to release a report on September 2, 2009, saying the country was doing fine with its Greenhouse Gases, at least until 2031.

Without actually owning up to the report, 'India's GHG Emissions Profile: Results of Five Climate Modelling Studies', the Union Government put its weight behind it at the release of the report in Hotel Ashok.

Present were Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chair of the Planning Commission; Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment and Forests; and Nandan Nilekani, Chair of the Unique Identity Authority of India.

The three are trusted emissaries of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who virtually handpicked them.

The implication, therefore, was that India was making a pitch before the December UN summit on climate at Copenhagen, considered across the world as a critical moment in the battle to slow climate change.

Ahluwalia released the report, Ramesh presided over the event, and Nilekani was quaintly described by a government release as 'also present'.

The report is based on five studies, done by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), a New Delhi-based think tank; the Kolkata-based Jadavpur University; the New Delhi-based The Energy Research Institute (TERI); McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm; and the New Delhi-based think tank Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe).

The report says broadly the following.

  • India's per capita emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) will continue to be low until 2030-31.
  • So low that it would be less than the 2005 per capita global emission of GHG.
  • India's per capita GHG emissions in 2030-31 would be between 2.77 tonnes and 5 tonnes of CO2e (Carbon Dioxide equivalent).
  • In 2031, India's per capita GHG emissions would stay under 4 tonnes of CO2e. (Four of the five studies say this.)
  • This is lower than the global per capita emissions of 4.22 tonnes of CO2e in 2005.
  • This would mean that even 20 years from now, India's per capita GHG emissions would be below the global average of 25 years earlier.
  • In absolute terms, estimates of India's GHG emissions in 2031 vary from 4bn tones to 7.3bn tones of CO2e.
  • Even two decades from now, India's GHG emissions will remain under 6 billion tones. (Four of the five studies say this.) 

However, Greenpeace India, had following to say in its reaction to the Report.

Vinuta Gopal, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace India, said: "India's projected GHG trajectory, as has been presented, is in complete contradiction with the various statements made by the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister of putting India on a sustainable, low carbon development pathway.

This study indicates that India is willing to take the risk of climate change endangering millions of its own people, especially its poor. If we took this study to indicate the government's climate policy, we would have to think that the government is not serious in implementing the plans envisaged under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, and in working out a detailed emission reduction trajectory for the country.

In the crucial last days before the climate summit in Copenhagen in December this year, India would have shown climate leadership if it had articulated a desire to adopt a low carbon emission trajectory as it did with the ambitious solar mission.

India is in a position to morally demand that the developed world provide finance and technology support to help us do this. We need from Manmohan Singh, a visionary plan that will ensure that we still have the Ganges, have saved our farmers from frequent floods and droughts, and not created millions of climate refugees, but a decarbonised, sustainable and growth path that is inclusive and ensures climate justice for its people."