Fight against pollution: India set to achieve Paris targets Editorial 24th Dec’20 FinancialExpress

India and Paris Agreement:

  • The Paris agreement that India signed in 2015, was India’s inflexion point (moment of dramatic change) in its fight against pollution.
  • Specifically, under the Paris agreement, India committed to meet three targets by 2030:
    • Cut greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% (vs 2005 levels)
    • Increase non-fossil fuel-based power capacity to 40%
    • Create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5-3 billion tonnes CO2 (higher than its emissions currently), by an increase in forest/tree cover

India is taking big leaps and not taking small incremental steps:

  • The important thing to note in India’s fight against pollution today is that we now plan to take a leap instead of eyeing incremental improvements.
  • This is already visible in many ways:
    • LPG penetration is at 97.5% vs 56% in 2015 to replace highly polluting alternative cooking fuels
    • City gas penetration is set to reach 70% of the population from less than 10% currently
    • Auto norms upgrade straight from BSIV to BSVI, skipping BSV
    • Aim to achieve 100% electrified rail network within three years to cut diesel use
    • Plans to step-up rail freight capacity by five times to curtail freight movement by roads
    • Plans to implement world’s largest renewable capacity addition programme
      • India’s renewable capacity doubled in past five years; with solar capacity shooting up nine times (albeit from a low solar capacity earlier)
    • Norms to curtail emissions from existing coal power plants
    • Raising taxes for diesel cars and cess on coal over time

India is on target to achieve Paris targets:

  • Based on current progress, India is expected to achieve its Paris targets much before 2030.
  • Already, emissions are down 21% vs 2005 levels (target of 33-35%), non-fossil capacity at 33% (target 40%).

India will perform beyond its targets:

  • There is easily scope for India to increase targets over time, aligning itself with other large global economies’ plans to go carbon neutral by 2050/2060.

India is outperforming most of the world on some indices:

  • In fact, in certain cases, India’s pace of execution or the stringency of pollution norms is now better than the world.
  • For instance, India leapt from BSIV to BSVI auto emission norms, within just three years compared to 5-10 years taken by Europe, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • Similarly, India is already at par with global norms for emissions from power gensets and energy efficiency for ACs.
  • Going ahead, India is planning to implement the most stringent norms globally.

India’s efforts are also leading to savings in many ways:

  • Energy and emissions: 
    • Towards its green journey, with appropriate capital expenditure (capex), India could save over 106GW of energy and cut 1.1 billion tonnes of annual CO2 emissions by 2030 or over 45% of current its emissions.
  • Economic savings:
    • Most capex towards pollution curtailment also makes economic sense.
      • For instance, waste heat recovery based power projects being implemented by cement companies could achieve payback in less than three years, because they generate power at one-tenth the cost of captive coal-based projects.
    • Similarly, as logitics shift from road to rail as Railways’ rail freight capacity increases, logistics costs can reduce by 37% through freight cargo.
  • Also, it is leading to cost efficiencies in greener technologies, with
    • Cost of renewable power now cheaper than fossil fuel-based power
    • Operating cost for electrified rail cheaper than diesel
      Power cost for solar-powered agriculture pumps cheaper than diesel-powered pumps, etc.

Way ahead:

  • Over the next decade, India would continue to cut its diesel consumption, step-up natural gas and renewable power in the energy mix, upgrade emission and energy efficiency norms across sectors, and clean its water bodies.
  • Importantly, private sector participation is also growing, with 19 large corporates already announcing plans to go carbon neutral by 2030-50.


  • The strong government resolve, rising global focus on climate change issues, investors’ importance to corporates’ environment scores etc. – all of these imply that fighting pollution would be a multi-decade theme.
  • India is well aligned, with the rest of the globe on this important issue and is also making great progress.


GS Paper III: Environment Editorial Analysis