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Carbon net zero by 2070? How India is gearing up to meet this challenge

India’s road to net zero carbon emissions looks long and challenging, and will necessitate inter-sectoral contributions of states, industry, and businesses. 

 

After years of rejecting calls, India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, in 2021 set a target for net zero carbon emissions: 2070. 

Speaking at the COP26 summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would cut its emissions to net zero by 2070. He made the pledge as one of five commitments, including installing non-fossil fuel electricity generation capacity of 500 GW, sourcing 50% of India’s energy requirement from renewables, reducing 1 billion tonnes of projected emissions (from current emissions), achieving carbon intensity reduction of 40% over 2005 levels, all by 2030, and – the most important of them all – achieving net zero by 2070.

The pledge has been a long time coming. 

India scored the lowest among 180 countries in the 2022 Environment Performance Index (EPI), an analysis by researchers of Yale and Columbia University, released in June 2022. 

The EPI ranks 180 countries on 40 performance indicators such as climate change, environmental public health, biodiversity, and others.

India came in at the bottom with a total score of 18.9, while Denmark, the top scorer, was anointed the world’s most sustainable country.

Net zero sum game

Net zero, or becoming carbon neutral, zero is the state in which a country’s greenhouse emissions are removed from the atmosphere by carbon absorption or sequestration. 

Burning oil, gas and coal for homes, factories, and transport leads to the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through farming and landfill. The rapid deforestation across the world means fewer trees and plants are available to absorb CO2. Ultimately, these gases trap the sun’s energy and lead to global warming. 

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