India likely to play a central role in COP26 climate summit

Rajesh Mehta/Sandesh Dholakia | Updated on October 27, 2021

India must tread carefully while setting ambitious targets as it’s still a developing economy and is facing problems like power shortages

India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to to attend the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow to set the country’s vision for tackling the looming threat of climate change.

The upcoming summit is going to be a defining moment for India as it is set to update its 2030 climate targets under the Paris Agreement. Reportedly, India is considering an ambitious plan of cutting down by almost half the greenhouse gas emission that it does for every dollar of economic activity.

With just few days remaining for the COP-26 summit, inter-ministerial consultations are finalising on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The focal points of the discussions revolve around reducing emissions, working on expansion on renewable energy capacity and thus increasing the share of non-fossil fuel sources in the energy generation.

To achieve such a stride, the key plans are around decarbonisation of Indian Railways, sales of at least 30 per cent of all new vehicles should be electric, mandatory adoption of National Green Hydrogen Mission by industry, and Urban Forest Programmes for greening at least 20 hectares across 200 cities.

Tracking India’s performance till date on major goals, it’s well-positioned to achieve the major targets by 2030. For instance, out of the 450 GW target for renewable energy capacity, India has already reached 100 GW (excluding large hydro power plants ) in August 2021 and it already has another 50 GW work in progress and 27 GW under bids.

The trends have been very encouraging primarily due to rising ESG investments and establishment of a number of start-ups in the space which ultimately leads to novel tech solutions that help in driving down the costs.

However, there have been areas in which India has failed to deliver on. One of such key segments is creation of additional carbon sinks of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, the pace of which fell considerably as the government planned to open coal mines in forests as a plan to ramp up economic activities post the Covid impact.

In this 26th summit, India’s focus is largely going to be around two major sectors — electricity and industry. They contribute to almost 75 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions. The limelight is however also going to be around India’s global grid declaration, which is likely to be adopted this time at Glasgow. The ISA (International Solar Alliance) plans to issue a declaration on India’s global electricity grid plan — One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG).


For developing countries like India, a make-or-break issue will be whether rich countries live up to their promises to make more finance available for mitigation and adaptation. At the Paris Agreement negotiations in 2015, developed countries formalised a pledge to mobilise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020, but this still remains unmet.

Recently, there have been some positive signs like the US announcement at the General Assembly meeting that it would increase its international climate finance to $11.4 billion a year by 2024. At Glasgow, countries like India will be seeking to negotiate a new finance goal to apply beyond 2025, starting “from a floor of $100 billion per year.” This money is necessary to support emissions reduction in developing countries but also, more critically for many, measures to adapt to and safeguard against the most severe impacts of climate change.

During Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s September 2021 visit to India, the US and India also launched the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD), one of the two main tracks of the US-India Agenda 2030 Partnership that President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021.

Given the humongous impact that India has on the global economy, it can unequivocally be concluded that it’s going to play a central role in this year’s Glasgow summit and the global targets that are going to be set in it. However, India should tread it’s path quite carefully while setting ambitious targets as it’s still a developing economy and given the recent experiences of events like power shortages, with such targets in place there’s not much that a nation can do and the economy directly faces the consequences of the same.

Rajesh Mehta is a consultant and columnist, and Sandesh Dholakia is the founder and CEO at Case Ace

Published on October 27, 2021

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