Cop26: Modi pledges India will reach net zero emissions by 2070

Country had held back on commitment, date is 20 years beyond UN global recommendation

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has announed 2070 as a target for India to reach net-zero carbon emissions – a date 20 years beyond the UN’s global recommendation.

Speaking at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, Mr Modi made five key pledges for how India, the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind the United States and China, would decarbonise over the next few decades.

India was one of the last remaining major economies that had held out on a net zero commitment, despite months of pressure from the United States, and Mr Modi’s announcement marked one of the most significant moments of the summit’s opening day.

The G20 failed to commit to the 2050 target to halt net carbon emissions, howerer, undermining one of Cop26’s main aims, at a weekend meeting in Rome.


Instead, they only recognised “the key relevance” of doing so “by or around mid-century”, and set no timetable for phasing out domestic coal power, a major cause of carbon emissions.

India is still largely reliant on fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and its energy demand is expected to rise sharply over the next decade as the economy continues to grow to meet the aspirations of 1.4 billion people for faster development.

Just three fuels meet about 80 per cent of India’s energy demand: coal, oil and solid biomass such as fuelwood, animal waste and charcoal. Changing that mix will require more than simply adding more renewables.

Coal use is expected to rise, even if India stops building new power plants. That is because existing coal power plants are running far below capacity, which the country will look to maximise. Oil and petroleum are used to power not only cars, trucks and railways, but also industrial machinery and even the pumps that deliver water for India’s agricultural sector.

Tens of millions of homes still rely on cheap biomass fuels for cooking, and subsidies to switch them to cleaner liquefied petroleum gas cylinders have been trimmed.

India’s energy use doubled since 2000 as hundreds of millions of citizens added an electrical connection, and the nation’s consumption is forecast to accelerate sharply.

The country will have the fastest growing rate of energy consumption globally through 2050, the US Energy Information Administration forecasts.

All that means India needs to add energy capacity equivalent to the entire European Union over the next two decades, the International Energy Agency said in February. – Agencies