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India may set bigger climate change targets before Obama’s R-Day visit

In what could pitch the country in to the same league as US and China, India is likely to announce new, bigger and more impactful climate change targets by the time US President Barack Obama visits India as the chief guest for the Republic day in January. The announcement is likely to include an ‘aspirational’ peaking year for India’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

The move comes after confabulations in the government lead by the Prime Minister’s office. The Union cabinet is also expected to clear the final brief on Tuesday for the negotiating delegation to Lima talks led by environment minister Prakash Javadekar. 

India had earlier, in 2010, committed to a 20-25% reduction in the carbon intensity of its economy as compared to 2005 levels by 2020. 

The process to make a fresh and enhanced commitments to the international community was in the works for past some months with the government having commissioned studies to assess and project India’s future greenhouse gas emissions trajectory. The results of these studies are due in December and the joint US-China announcement has only incentivised India to make an announcement early. 

The US and China announcements were not seen as ambitious by the Indian government but they were appreciated for their political significance.  China had announced in the joint statement with the US that it’s GHG emissions were likely to peak around 2030 and then dip downwards. Developing countries, requiring more space for their developmental priorities, are expected by the global community to draw a lower than usual emission trajectory of its increasing emissions over coming years and suggest a year by which their emissions would start to go down in absolute terms. Developed countries, on the other hand are required to announce absolute emission cuts. 

A source in the government said, “The consultations have begun for it. We should be able to narrow down on the nature of targets we should aspire to. It is likely to include an indicative year by which India’s emissions could peak as well as a fresh target for lowering the economy’s carbon intensity.” 

Another official Business Standard spoke to said, the NDA government was naturally looking at announcing a package which would include the ambitious solar power targets it is planning for domestically. This is expected to be beefed up further with indications of how much extra efforts India would make under the energy efficiency mission. The mission is also being revamped currently.

“Confabulations are being held with various experts and ministries and discussions have also been held in the Prime Minister’s office,” the official said. 

India and all other countries are required to formally submit their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ or INDCS to the UN climate convention after March. These INDCs are meant to be the voluntarily and domestically determined actions that countries would take to fight climate change under the new agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015. It is yet unclear how they would be reviewed on the principles of common but differentiated responsibility and equity or for adequacy to keep rising global temperatures within tolerable limits.

Even as more than half a dozen Indian delegates have flown to Lima, the Union minister Prakash Javadekar is slated to travel to the Peruvian capital on the weekend for the second week of talks which are led by ministers. The minister is expected to get his red-lines for the upcoming negotiations cleared on Tuesday from the Union cabinet. “The advantage with this NDA government taking a call on multilateral negotiations such as these is the sense of decisiveness right from the top,” said an official on the Indian delegation. He was referring to the differences that remained entrenched between different key personalities in the previous UPA government on climate change leading to changes in its international stance over years. 

The discussions for the big announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take several more rounds between relevant ministries and experts, sources in the government said, but should be ready to be announced around the time US President Barack Obama visits Delhi.

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