India’s economy will become carbon neutral by the year 2070, the country’s prime minster has announced at the COP26 climate crisis summit in Glasgow.
The target date is two decades beyond what scientists say is needed to avert catastrophic climate impacts.
India is the last of the world’s major carbon polluters to announce a net-zero target, with China saying it would reach that goal in 2060, and the United States and the European Union aiming for 2050.
“By 2070, India will achieve the target of net-zero emissions,” Narendra Modi told more than 120 leaders at the critical talks on Monday.
Modi also said India would increase its 2030 target for installed capacity of “non-fossil energy” – mostly solar – from 450 to 500 gigawatts.
In addition, 50 percent of the country’s energy requirements will come from renewable sources by the same date.
Modi also announced that the carbon intensity of India’s economy – the amount of goods produced per unit of energy – would be reduced by 45 percent by 2030. The previous goal was 35 percent.
Scientists have said the world needs to halve global emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
A COP official welcomed the 2030 pledge but expressed surprise at the 2070 goal, which is beyond China’s net zero target of 2060. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was hope India might bring 2070 forward.
Modi made it clear however that emissions cutting pledges from India and other developing nations would require finance from rich, historic emitters.
“Instead of mindless and destructive consumption we need mindful and deliberate utilisation,” he said, citing consumer choices in areas from packaging to diet.
“These choices, made by billions of people, can take the fight against climate change one step further,” he said.
Only last week, India, currently the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US, rejected calls to announce a net-zero carbon emissions target.
It said it was more important for the world to lay out credible pathways to reduce emissions.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries that submitted carbon cutting plans under the 2015 treaty were to provide updates five years later, by the end of 2020.
India is the only major economy not to have not done so, but Modi’s announcement is likely to be formalised in a revised plan, experts suggested.
India has the lowest per capita emissions of the world’s major economies – emitting 5 percent of the total, despite accounting for 17 percent of the world’s population.