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What is Indiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Last update: March 2022

Ambition gap

Indiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−50%0%50%100%150%19902010203020502070
Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
2069
Reference year
2005
1.5°C emissions level
−8%
NDC (500GW non-fossil capacity)
+113%
NDC (intensity of GDP)
+147%
Ambition gap
−122%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions

*Net zero emissions excl LULUCF is achieved through deployment of BECCS; other novel CDR is not included in these pathways

Summary

In November 2021 during COP26, India published an updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) with a raised unconditional target of reducing the emissions intensity of the country’s GDP by 45% from 2005 levels by 2030. The previous target was 33-35%. Additionally, India announced a conditional target to increase non-fossil capacity in its power sector to 500 GW by 2030, subject to international support.

1 Climate Action Tracker. India – Assessment – 15/09/2021 | Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

2 IRENA. Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020. (2021).

3 Climate Transparency. Climate Transparency Report. (2020).

4 Climate Action Tracker. Data & Trends. (2017).

5 IEA. India – Countries & Regions – IEA. (2020).

6 Observatory of Economic Complexity. OEC India country page. Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). (2019).

7 Central Electricity Authority. All India Installed Capacity. (2021).

8 Central Electricity Authority. National Electricity Plan. (2018).

9 Climate Action Tracker. India. CAT September 2020 Update. (2020).

10 Kuramochi, T. et al. Ten key short-term sectoral benchmarks to limit warming to 1.5°C. Clim. Policy (2017).

11 NITI Aayog. ETHANOL BLENDING IN INDIA 2020-25 ROADMAP FOR Report of the Expert Committee. (2021).

12 Kukreti, I. Union Budget 2021-22: India to launch Hydrogen Energy Mission. (2021).

13 IEA. World Energy Balances 2019. https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-balances-overview (2021).

14 IEA. CO2 Emissions Statistics. (2019).

15 CEA. REPORT ON OPTIMAL GENERATION CAPACITY MIX FOR 2029-30. (2020).

16 Central Electricity Authority. Annual Generation Report. (2020).

17 Bureau of Energy Efficiency. ECBC Residential. (2020).

18 PIK. The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series. (2021).

19 Dasgupta, S., Van Der Salm, F. & Roy, J. Designing PAT as a Climate Policy in India: Issues Learnt from EU-ETS. Nature, Econ. Soc. Underst. Linkages 315–328 (2016) doi:10.1007/978-81-322-2404-4_16.

20 BEE. PAT scheme (Perform, Achieve and Trade scheme). (2018).

21 MoEFCC. India Third Biennial Update Report to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2021).

22 TERI. Green steel through hydrogen direct reduction. (2021).

23 Bhaskar, A., Assadi, M. & Somehsaraei, H. N. Decarbonization of the iron and steel industry with direct reduction of iron ore with green hydrogen. Energies 13, 1–23 (2020).

24 Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Notification G.S.R. 749(E). (2018).

25 Clean Energy Ministerial. EV30@30 campaign | Clean Energy Ministerial |EV30@30 campaign | Advancing Clean Energy Together. (2019).

26 Carpenter, S. India’s Plan To Turn 200 Million Vehicles Electric In Six Years. Forbes. (2019).

27 Economic Times. Bubble alert: India’s electric two wheeler industry maybe headed towards a glut by 2026, Auto News, ET Auto.

28 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

29 The generation share was translated to approximate capacity shares based on an assumption of a similar split across technologies as the 175 GW target.

30 Analysed pathways assume the development of negative emissions technologies – BECCS – thus the year of zero emissions provided might be reached earlier than when 100% of the power mix is based from renewables and represent a ‘net zero emissions’ year.

31 Analysed pathways assume the development of negative emissions technologies – BECCS – thus the year of zero emissions provided might be reached earlier than when 100% of the power mix is based from renewables and represent a ‘net zero emissions’ year.

The conditional target, if enacted, would increase the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 116% above 2005 levels to 3.9 GtCO₂e/yr, excluding LULUCF. This means lower total emissions than the unconditional intensity target. However, the conditional target is not ambitious enough as it is in line with India’s current policy scenario.

For India’s domestic emissions to be in line with 1.5°C, they would need to peak soon and reduce as early as possible, aiming for a 2030 emissions level of 1.6 GtCO₂e/yr, equivalent to 16% below 2005 levels (range of 23-1%) below 2005 levels.

It needs to be emphasised that closing the gap between India’s current fair share as assessed by the Climate Action Tracker and it’s 1.5°C compatible domestic emission pathway will require substantial financial and other support from developed countries.

1.5°C compatible pathways see India reaching GHG emissions levels of 0.5-0.7 GtCO₂e/yr (excl. LULUCF) by 2050, and CO₂ emissions of 0-0.4 GtCO₂/yr by 2050, excluding LULUCF. This equals emissions reductions of 60-70% and 66-93%, respectively below 2005 levels.28

On the road to net zero, India will need to develop its land-based sinks to compensate for its remaining emissions. In addition, international support will need to be provided for technological carbon dioxide removal approaches such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) or direct air capture and storage (DAC).

Our analysis shows that power sector may need to contribute up to 0.2 GtCO₂/yr negative emissions by mid-century to be on a 1.5°C pathway. However, this is dependent on the speed with which zero carbon technologies can be adopted before 2050. Pathways with renewable electricity shares near 80% in 2030 achieve the required emissions reductions to avoid negative emissions technologies.

India does not have a net zero target, nor has it yet submitted a long-term low emissions strategy.1

Power

Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require the share of non-fossil power generation to reach 70-79% by 2030, much higher than the 50% specified in India’s conditional target. For electricity this translates to around 80-90% share of non-fossil electricity capacity.29

Coal and gas would need to be phased out before 2040, with renewables reaching 93–98% to reach a decarbonised power sector by 2040. This stands in contrast with the country’s current plans to expand its coal capacity which puts the country at risk of locking itself into a carbon intensive pathway at a time when solar tariff are 20% cheaper than the NTPC generated coal-fired power tariff. Solar tariffs declined around 20% between 2016 and 2019.1,2

Buildings

Key buildings sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biofuels in final energy demand in the buildings sector.

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The building sector in India consumed 25% of the total primary energy and 24% of electricity in 2019. 1.5°C compatible pathways show rapid electrification of the sector, with share of electricity consumption reaching 44-80% in 2030 and 77-90% by 2050.

Solid biomass is an important energy source particularly for cooking, its share ranging from 52-53% in 2020. All scenarios see a rapid decline in biomass demand going down to 2% by 2050, and a phase-out of coal and natural gas by 2050 in direct consumption.

To enhance energy efficiency of buildings, the Indian government has extended the national building code (ECBC) to apply to residential buildings instead of only commercial buildings.

Transport

Key transport sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biofuels in final energy demand in the transport sector.

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India’s transport sector is completely dependent on fossil fuels, particularly oil. The share of electricity in energy use is insignificant.

1.5°C compatible pathway shows a rapid electrification of the transport sector, with increased electricity share in the sector’s energy mix of 10-60% by 2030 and 44-89% by 2050.

Indian government has put forward a policy framework to increase the penetration of electric vehicles on the market and the blending of biofuel in petrol.

Industry

Key industry sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biomass in final energy demand in the industry sector. Year of reaching net zero emissions Including the use of BECCS.

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Industry is the most energy consuming sector in India, responsible for 38% of primary energy consumption and 42% of electricity consumption in 2019.

Primary energy demand in the sector is heavily dominated by fossil fuels, with a 58% share in 2020. 1.5°C compatible pathways show an increasing share of electricity in the industry energy mix in the range of 30-31% by 2030 and 46-71% by 2050.

All scenarios see a rapid decline in direct CO₂ emissions of the industrial sector between 59-60% by 2030 and 88-96% by 2050.

All 1.5°C compatible pathways show a declining trend of process emissions from 2025.

Footnotes