India’s renewable sector is booming but just not fast enough to become 1.5-degree Celsius compatible, and the country is heading in the opposite direction entirely when it comes to phasing out coal power, a new report by Climate Action Tracker claimed on Tuesday.
The Union environment ministry, however, said the report completely ignores the concept of “fair share and cumulative historical responsibility of developed nations”.
It said the Indian government has been implementing a number of schemes and programmes, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation and the report totally ignores this aspect.
The report by the independent research group that tracks government climate action and measures it against Paris Agreement goals comes on the eve of the United Nations’ Climate Ambition Summit.
It analyses whether the plans of 16 countries to decarbonise their power sector align with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
These 16 countries include Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, EU27, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Turkiye, South Africa, the UAE, the UK, and the US.
“The future of fossil fuels in a 1.5-degree Celsius compatible power sector transition, whether abated or unabated, is the same one of swift decline,” the Climate Action Tracker report says.
“Developed countries need to phase out coal by 2030, and unabated gas by 2035 (to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement). The developing country power sector transition is not far behind, phasing out both coal and fossil gas by 2040, many with financial support. This represents a transition to global clean power within a generation,” it said.
The key to achieving clean power is the acceleration of renewables deployment. All countries need to achieve above 80 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2035, and 90-100 per cent renewable electricity supply by 2050.
“No country we analysed has an explicit fossil gas phase-out plan and the fossil gas pipeline is now larger than the pipeline for coal,” the researchers said.
India and China have 1.5-degree Celsius compatible levels of fossil gas power now, but both need to develop their longer-term phase-out strategies. Germany and Chile are ahead of the pack in terms of renewables deployment.
While the sector is booming elsewhere — China and India — it is still not fast enough for the speed of fossil phase-out needed, the report read.
It said India is a world leader in new renewable energy (excluding hydro) for both total capacity and generation. By mid-2023, the country had installed more than 130 GW of new RE capacity, 30 per cent of its total capacity.
The country plans to add around 300 GW of solar and 80 GW of wind by the end of the decade.
The report, however, noted that India’s recent growth and future plans are not fast enough for 1.5-degree Celsius compatibility.
“To be 1.5 degree compatible, 70-75 per cent of India’s electricity generation should come from renewables in 2030. It will be less than 50 per cent under the government’s current plans,” it said.
“We are cautiously optimistic about its fossil gas, but coal remains a significant challenge. India needs to stop building new coal power capacity and develop a sustainable and inclusive plan for the early retirement of its existing capacity, a plan that includes international support needs,” Climate Action Tracker said.
“This includes the rapid build-out of renewable electricity and storage options, to ensure seasonal peaks in the demand can be met safely and confirming a fossil gas exit by 2040,” it said.
India has 25 GW of gas power capacity, which generated a small fraction of its power in 2022. It has no plans to build any new gas-powered facilities and anticipates having roughly the same capacity in 2030.
The government estimates that it will generate 1.7 per cent of its electricity from gas in FY 2026 and 1.3 per cent in FY 2031.
These generation levels are consistent with a 1.5-degree Celsius compatible world in 2030, it needs a clear and explicit plan to phase out its remaining capacity post-2030 to remain 1.5-degree Celsius compatible, it said.
“India is heading in the opposite direction entirely when it comes to phasing out coal power. It generates over 70 per cent of its power from coal today and expects to still be producing 50 per cent of its power from coal in 2030, well above our 1.5-degree Celsius benchmark of 17-19 per cent and a complete phase-out between 2035-2040,” the report said.
“It is continuing to add to its massive coal fleet over the next decade with 27 GW of new coal power under construction or in advanced planning and an additional 24GW in the pipeline,” it said.
Responding to the report, the environment ministry said: “National circumstances are an important pillar (in the global climate regime), and NDCs are nationally determined and cannot be dictated.”
It said that efforts to address climate change are closely connected and integrated with broader goals related to sustainable development and reducing poverty worldwide.
India has maintained it is doing far more than its fair share to combat climate change, the ministry said.
The country is championing global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and LeadIT, it said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s LiFE Mission aims to minimise per capita carbon footprint by promoting mindful utilisation instead of wasteful consumption.
India has maintained that the historical cumulative emissions of countries should be the measure of their responsibility to raise ambitions and that some developed nations should reach net zero “even before 2025 and vacate carbon space for developing countries”, the ministry said.
Developed countries have consumed more than 80 per cent of the global carbon budget (since 1850) to limit average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, leaving countries like India with very little carbon space for the future.
India is home to 17 per cent of the global population but accounts for only four per cent of global carbon emissions from 1850 until 2019. Developed nations with the same percentage of the population account for nearly 60 per cent of carbon emissions, it said.
The country’s annual emissions are well below the three leading emitters – China, the US and the European Union — and its per capita emissions are much below the world average, the ministry said.