Net zero targets
We evaluate the net zero target as: Poor.
At COP26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a target for the country to achieve net zero by 2070 (Ministry of External Affairs, 2021). The following year at COP27, India submitted its first Long-term Strategy for Low Carbon Development (LTS), providing strategic direction for the economy and individual sectors in support of the previously announced and submitted targets (Government of India, 2022a).
In the LTS, India outlines sector-specific action areas, targeting the power, industry, transport, building, and urban sectors. Yet the LTS does not give sufficiently clear policy guidance on how the government intends to achieve net zero beyond its current policies and programmes.
It neither presents any emissions pathways, nor does it show to what extent their policies and measures will translate into the required emissions reductions by 2070. Moreover, the government’s plan does not provide transparent information on the intended use of CCUS or other carbon dioxide removal technologies to meet its net zero target.
India will continue to develop coal in the long-term. For example, the country is planning to utilise coal gasification techniques to generate power. At the same time, however, India notes that is ready to explore a greater role of low emissions technologies and alternative fuel such as nuclear, green hydrogen, fuel cells, and biofuels, next to coal.
India’s net zero target performs poorly in terms of its scope, target architecture and transparency. There is significant room for improvement in this target. In particular, India could clarify the emissions scope of the target, better quantify its mitigation measures and pathways, and also develop a target review process. The lack of transparency around India’s plans to use carbon dioxide removal technologies is also a critical limitation of the new LTS.
CAT analysis of net zero target
Ten key elements
- Target year – India aims to reach net zero by 2070. India’s Long Term Low Emissions Development Strategy (LTS), submitted to the UNFCCC in November 2022, details India’s vision and plan of action for achieving its target to become a net zero emitter by 2070 (Government of India, 2022a).
- Emissions coverage – The target covers all key sectors of the economy. However, it is unclear if the target covers all GHGs since this is not explicit in the LTS (Government of India, 2022a). At COP26, Prime Minister Modi referred to “achiev[ing] the target of net zero” without specifying whether this covers all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or CO2 emissions only (Ministry of External Affairs, 2021). India’s NDC update also only makes reference to “net-zero by 2070” without specifying gas coverage (Government of India, 2022).
- International aviation and shipping – In its LTS, India makes a brief reference to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) carbon offsetting scheme when discussing its current policies. However, the rest of the document only refers to domestic aviation and shipping. We assume that the net zero target only covers the domestic sectors, but India could be clearer on this point.
- Reductions or removals outside of own borders – India provides no information on its intention to use international offset credits to meet its net zero target.
- Legal status – Prime Minister Modi announced India's net zero target at a speech at COP26 (Ministry of External Affairs, 2021). India submitted its long-term strategy to support its net zero target in November 2022 (Government of India, 2022a). Reference was also made to the target in its August 2022 update of its NDC (Government of India, 2022).
- Separate reduction & removal targets – In its LTS, India commits to the enhancement of its forest area through restoration, conservation, and management of forest cover. However, the target for the forestry sector sink has not been enhanced beyond its current NDC target, which is to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 GtCO2e by 2030 (Government of India, 2022). It is unclear how India envisages the contribution of the forestry sector to achieving net zero target by 2070. Also, no additional policy nor programme for the forestry sector has been discussed past its current policy and programmes.
- Review process – India provides no information on its intention to establish a review cycle for its net zero and intermediate targets.
- Carbon dioxide removal – India intends to explore carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies to facilitate the process of becoming net zero. However, CDR deployment is contingent upon international support, in terms of technology, finance and capacity development. It remains uncertain as to what extent the government intends to rely on these technologies to achieve net zero (Government of India, 2022a).
- Comprehensive planning – In its LTS, India provides a breakdown of initiatives by sector, but these do not go beyond current policies and the general direction for the long-term is extremely limited. Overall, the level of information in the LTS falls short of setting interim targets towards the broader goal of achieving net zero.
Other key omissions in the strategy are: clear emissions and sector development pathways to net zero; the expected dependence on CDR technologies in the pathway to net zero; and the mitigation potential of the measures beyond 2030.
India acknowledges that adoption of CCUS is inevitable in the long-term for certain sectors, but the scale of deployment depends on overcoming technological, economic and political barriers. According to the LTS, CCUS is not a viable technology option for retrofitting existing thermal power plants given it is still not cost-effective for India (Government of India, 2022a).
- Clarity on fairness of target – In the LTS, India argues that its net zero target is fair. India’s low historic contribution to global GHG emissions is one of the key factors the government considers in the design of its LTS. Yet India does not provide any explanation or emissions pathway to demonstrate that this target is a fair contribution to the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
On the basis of global emissions equity and justice, India argues that developed countries should reach net zero emissions earlier than developing nations (before 2050), and that they should provide support—financial and technical—for developing nations to accelerate their progress towards net zero.
The Climate Action Tracker has defined the following good practice for all ten key elements of net zero targets. Countries can refer to this good practice to design or enhance their net zero targets.
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