India’s state-run think tank on Monday rejected the idea of joining the global goal of capping global emissions, saying a transition to a future post-carbon economy will be difficult and costly.
The National Institute of Transition Affairs, or NITA, a department under the Ministry of Earth Sciences in New Delhi, issued a detailed paper that summarized its views on the current path of global emissions, and how a transition to the “low-carbon global economy” would be difficult and costly.
“In a best-case scenario, with optimum technology transition, (we) can reduce global emissions to their lowest level over a shorter timeframe as compared to using a ‘business as usual’ approach,” the paper said.
NITA is affiliated with the Planning Commission of India, the country’s main policy-making body.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, struggling to get the notoriously slow-moving bureaucracy to take new climate commitments, has signaled it is open to joining the Paris Agreement on limiting climate change. But the goals of net zero emissions by 2050 and to cut emissions by two-thirds are neither legally binding nor visible to the public.
Without large financial assistance, Indian scientists estimate it will cost 2.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030 to mitigate global warming to an agreed level.
Without raising taxes on industries or energy consumption, India has proposed various mechanisms to eventually lower emissions. But many of the mechanisms, such as developing national feed-in tariffs or an auction of emission credits, are no more than fanciful, scientists say.
Modi’s government had promised last year to eliminate 3.2 gigawatts of coal-fired power generation capacity by 2020, hoping to shift to gas and renewables. But the government did not provide details of the policy shift or establish targets. That disappointed some environmentalists, who said the plan was not going to bring down India’s reliance on fossil fuels.
India is the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, trailing only the United States and China. The country also leads the world in large-scale construction of coal power plants.
“NITA may not have a clear view, but scientists haven’t been able to come up with policy solutions,” said Sulabh Kumar, executive director of Environmental Justice Foundation, a social-justice advocacy group.
“We can’t do these things by ourselves. We need multilateral support,” Kumar said.
The United States signed the 2015 Paris Agreement and promised to lead a global effort to cut emissions. But President Donald Trump, a Republican who has called climate change a “hoax,” withdrew the U.S. last year.
China, the world’s top polluter, also announced its intent to exit the Paris Agreement, but China has not released a formal withdrawal notice.
India’s dithering prompted a new global effort, the Global 100 Smart Cities Coalition, to drive climate change efforts by cities around the world. The alliance includes 86 cities and represents more than 65 million people and $7.6 trillion in annual economic output.
Michael Casey in London contributed to this report.
This article was written by Manish Basu, a reporter for The Associated Press.