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Ambition gap

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

1.5°C compatible pathways

India has set two targets for emissions in its NDC – both excluding LULUCF: a) a reduction of the emissions intensity of its GDP to 33-35% below 2005 levels and b) increasing the share of non-fossil power generation (including renewables and nuclear power) to 40% by 2030 to be achieved with international support.

The share of non-fossil power target translates in lower emissions projections than the intensity target, equivalent to 146-152% above 2005 levels, excluding LULUCF] This intensity target would allow India to increase its GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) by ~290-300% above 2005 levels.1

While India is already on track to overachieve both targets of its NDC, to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit, the country would need to peak soon and reduce emissions as early as possible, aiming for a 2030 emissions level of 1.6 (range of 1.5–1.9) GtCO₂e, equivalent to 16% below 2005 levels (range of 1-23% below 2005 levels).

India’s current policies projections lies above its fair share as assessed by the Climate Action Tracker, so it will need to do more to get to its fair share of emissions reduction, but then it will also need international financial support to close the gap between its fair share level and its 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathway.1

Long term pathway

As of October 2021, India has not adopted a net zero target or any other explicit long-term strategy.

Paris Agreement compatible pathways indicate that India needs to reduce its GHG emissions by 2050 to 60-70% below 2005 levels (or reach 0.5-0.6 GtCO₂e), excluding LULUCF. Most reductions before 2050 would need to be achieved in the energy sector (84-92% below 2015 levels), with slightly more moderate emissions reductions in agriculture (44-54% below 2015 levels).

While most of the analysed scenarios assumes deployment of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies starting in the 2020s, for example, through biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), these high up-front investments can be avoided if renewable energy shares reach 25-42% by 2030 in total primary energy.

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.

Methodology

Indiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
NDC (500GW non-fossil capacity)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2005
1 801MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

In 2017, three quarters of India’s primary energy supply came from fossil fuels, with coal dominating at over 40%, followed by oil (25%) and a small share of gas. The remaining energy comes mostly from traditional biomass use in residential sector (~15%) and renewables (~10%).3

In a Paris Agreement compatible pathway, India would need to increase its share of renewable energy from a quarter of primary energy in 2017, to ~50% by 2030 and up to 80% by 2050. Other scenarios that do not consider non-energy use, show that India could increase its renewables share to 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Across all scenarios, this would mean a step up in renewables deployment across all sectors from ~9 EJ/yr in 2019, up to 20 EJ/yr in 2030, and up to around 61 EJ/yr in 2050. This growth in renewables would enable a gradual reduction of fossil fuel-based primary energy from 76% in 2017 (~28 EJ/yr), to 46-63% (10–21 EJ/yr) by 2030, and 5-19% (6-10 EJ/yr) by 2050.

Our analysis show emissions from energy use could reach zero by 2050.

Pathways with faster reductions of unabated fossil fuel use and faster uptake of renewables within the ranges above are able to achieve 1.5°C compatibility without the use of negative emissions technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.

Pathways with a slower transition from fossils to renewables typically see carbon removal technologies deployed as early as the 2020s and scale up to significant levels in the following decades. Given the lead times and infrastructure investments required to bring this technology to fruition, it is unlikely that such fast rollouts can be achieved, meaning that even higher shares of carbon removal technologies would be needed later, or 1.5°C compatibility would no longer be achievable.

Methodology

Indiaʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
201920302040205040 00060 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
201920302040205040 00060 000
Low Energy Demand
201920302040205040 00060 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
201920302040205040 00060 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Indiaʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−1 000−50005001 0001 5002 0002 50019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for India. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
2005
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
1 801
3 153
1 650
1 466 to 2 022
983
766 to 1 036
642
540 to 723
2069
2062
Relative to reference year in %
−8%
−19 to 12%
−45%
−57 to −42%
−64%
−70 to −60%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
1 190
2 451
1 231
1 070 to 1 476
664
234 to 799
164
78 to 403
2062
2053
Relative to reference year in %
3%
−10 to 24%
−44%
−80 to −33%
−86%
−93 to −66%

Footnotes