BENGALURU, India (AP) — Nine months after India announced its goal of “net zero” emissions by 2070 at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, the country’s federal cabinet has finally approved a new climate plan on Wednesday.
The new targets will be submitted to the UN climate agency as part of an international agreement where nations publish how they intend to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as nationally determined contributions. The US hopes to achieve “net zero” by 2050 and China by 2060.
The approval comes as India prepares to celebrate 75 years of independence on August 15 and the next climate conference is just three months away.
When India’s plans were first announced in November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said India would increase its current capacity for electricity from non-fossil fuels, with energy from clean sources capable of meeting half the country’s needs. India’s greener electricity generation has already crossed 41%.
The emissions targets eventually approved by India’s federal cabinet are largely consistent with Modi’s announcement.
India is now committed to reducing emissions caused by economic development activities by 45% by the year 2030 from 2005 levels, under the new targets. The nation will also aim to achieve about 50% of its energy needs from non-fossil fuel-based energy sources by the year 2030 and promote a federal government program that encourages people to make green lifestyle changes.
Vaibhav Chaturvedi, an economist at the New Delhi-based Energy, Environment and Water Council, called the approval a “significant step” towards India’s climate goals.
The UN climate agency had set a deadline of July 31, 2021, for nations to update their targets that were initially announced after the Paris climate conference in 2015. India was not the only laggard, as China and dozens of others failed to meet the target date.
Indian officials say the delay was a reflection of the peculiar challenges the country faces: On the one hand, what it does has a huge impact on the world’s climate goals as a nation with rapidly growing energy needs, on the other it believes it is often unfairly demanded to prioritize its climate goals over its development needs.
“India’s updated climate action plan comes in a context where Europe and most developed countries want more oil and gas drilling,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International.
“The delay in updating the targets could have been avoided, however. If they had announced these targets a few months earlier, it could have inspired other countries to act faster and more decisively on climate change,” he added.
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