India’s Long Term Low Emissions and Development Strategy (LT LEDS), released recently at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, lays out a long-term plan on how the country will achieve its emission reduction goals. It is remarkable for the gamut of sectors that it covers, and perhaps spells out India’s position on the climate question more cogently than any recent policy document.

India’s positioning, both in the report and in statements made by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, is clear: first, its energy security as a developing country cannot be sacrificed; second, it has walked the talk on green energy transition and will continue to do so; and finally, ‘climate justice’ must play out, not just in terms of the developed world (which accounts for most of the stock of carbon in the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial era) clearly spelling out emission goals, but also paying up for the rest of the world. By having set up renewables, including hydro, to the extent of 40 per cent of its installed capacity, India has shown that it takes its responsibilities seriously, despite not being a historical polluter. It has earned the right to push the envelope on climate finance.

The report explains how India’s greening plan goes beyond renewables to cover a gamut of areas. These are: green hydrogen fuel and ethanol blending to decarbonise transport, besides increasing electric vehicle use; green building codes to reform urban spaces; creating a ‘circular economy’ in steel, cement and aluminium, and enhancing the carbon credit system; transiting to smart grids; enhancing forest cover; and cleaning up the coal sector through ‘carbon capture, use and storage’ (CCUS) and ‘coal gasification’. The last is notable because it underscores India’s need for coal (it is expected to account for 50 per cent of power generated in 2030, against 75 per cent today), and therefore the effort to use it in the best way possible. However, the report is not optimistic about CCUS prospects globally, which implies that coal gasification will be important.

But the catch is that India would require “tens of trillions of dollars by 2050” to transform systems. These are funds for mitigation (long term low carbon strategy) alone, whereas India and the rest of the developing world need funds for adaptation (dealing with the immediate effects of climate change). According to the UNEP, estimates of adaptation finance for developing countries could reach $300 billion by 2030 and $500 billion by 2050. Whichever way one looks at it, there’s no money being put up on the table. Even as global systems remain unresponsive, India should consider channelising CSR funds more creatively into adaptation projects. Above all, it should ramp up its ambitions with respect to protecting forest cover as a carbon sink, as well as its renewables targets. The report’s claims on the former are not convincing. As for renewables, India is on course to meeting current targets. Besides, renewables have an important a role to play in energy security.

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