Economy

India’s Report to UN Sets Solar Target at 20,000 MW

In a draft report prepared for the UN, the government has hedged its bets on achieving the 100 gigawatt (Gw) solar power target by 2022. It has not committed to achieve the new target that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced but is instead stuck with the previous target of achieving 20,000 Mw grid-connected solar power under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. It has said the government is ‘considering’ enhancing the target of 100 Gw of solar power. The draft has also left the door open for other countries at the UN climate talk to review and question how well the Parliament monitors and verifies the country’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, the draft report also details and quantifies the actions it has taken to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector. This is in contrast to India’s non-negotiable line internationally refusing to take mitigation actions that impact farmers and instead focusing on adaptation in the farming sector.

The report to be submitted under India’s obligations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and in climate change parlance, is referred to as the Biennial Update Report (BUR). It provides a status of the actions developing countries have taken domestically, to fight climate change, an inventory of the country’s emissions and how it verifies and monitors the targets. The report once submitted is open to international scrutiny at the UN climate talks and India would be required to answer questions probing the report in detail. This is referred to as International Consultation and Analysis (ICA).

Business Standard reviewed the draft report which has already gone through several rounds of consultations and is near finalisation. It was prepared by several non-government and government institutions with the help of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) but eventually, it is a report submitted by the ministry of environment and forests on behalf of the government. It is likely to be presented to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change for review, just as India’s climate change targets for Paris would be, before the report is sent for Cabinet approval. The PMO, meanwhile, has closely monitored the progress on both fronts.

Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar, speaking on the controversial elements in the draft report, said, “We are aware of some of these issues. The report has gone through consultations with concerned ministries and as the procedure requires, we shall present everyone’s views at the Cabinet meeting along with the Cabinet note. I am sure all such problems will be resolved in the final approved BUR. We shall not let anything go through, that is not in the country’s interest.”

The BUR was required to lay out what actions India undertook since 2007 to specifically reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2007 – referred to as the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). But in the report, unlike some other emerging countries such as Brazil, India has elaborated in detail actions that were taken well before the UN climate convention decided to have NAMAs in place as well as given very detailed sector-specific achievements and targets. The report has said that the measurement, reporting and verification of India’s actions on climate change are done through various methods that include parliamentary scrutiny. The scrutiny of the report by other countries at the UN talks under the ICA process is to include how a country measures, reports and verifies its climate actions. India’s submission on how well Parliament reviews the climate actions could also be open to such an international review if the draft report is accepted in its current shape by the Cabinet.

The decisions at the UN climate talks requiring such BURs from developing countries and their international scrutiny (ICA) came about with heated debates in India and internationally during the UPA’s tenure. Since then, this is the first BUR that India would be tabling before the international community. “This is the first BUR we are submitting, so there are concerns about how much and what of India’s actions should come under the ICA process,” said one senior official in a ministry, which was asked to comment on the report. “The report is long and prepared by more than a dozen institutions. It needs to be consistent and focused as this is not an internal government review. This is what other countries shall have the opportunity to grill us on,” he added. His and other ministries have sent their comments on changes they expect in the report.

Another official in a second ministry Business Standard spoke to point out the continuing concerns like reference to representing the taxes on fossil fuels as carbon tax and including emission reduction actions in the agriculture sector. “Do we want a plant-wise detail of how our thermal power plants are operating or coal sector performing or how we are reducing subsidies when these do not form part of the climate negotiations for Paris? These are questions one must be clear about before we finalise the BUR,” he added.

These officials have also been involved in the preparation of India’s targets for the post-2020 targets. Both pointed out how similar concerns remained about the target being too sector-specific. “If we submit a disaggregated target we shall also be locking these sectors down to some extent in to specific growth trajectories for the next 10 years. China has not done so. We hopefully are looking at a metric for the submission that permits flexibility within the economy,” one of them said.

India, not obliged so far by the climate convention to bind itself to climate action, has for long internationally argued that its actions are targeted towards energy security and sustainability with co-benefits of greenhouse emission reduction. It has also taken a consistent position that it is against any kind of targets on emission reduction from the farm sector as it impacts the poorest. This nuanced approach has been integral to India’s negotiating stance for the international agreement on climate change. But the draft BUR has dropped reference to the co-benefit approach of the government as well.

This article originally appeared in Business Standard.