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UK “Surprised” At India Choosing 2070 Net Zero Date But Predict A U-Turn On Target

The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi revealed his country will only commit to hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2017 (Alamy)

2 min read

The UK’s COP26 team has expressed “surprise” India announced at the climate summit today that it will only commit to hitting net zero emissions by 2070.

The date is 20 years later than the target the UK as host nation of the global summit is asking all countries to set, and 10 years after the 2060 target date set by China.

India’s Prime Minster Narendra Modi made the announcement in his much-anticipated speech in Glasgow this afternoon, one of five pledges he listed at the two-week UN event.

Ahead of this week’s conference scientists have repeatedly warned that the world must reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5C and prevent catastrophic environmental damage to the planet.

At the time of the COP summit in Paris in 2015, where the leaders of nations across the globe agreed to the 1.5C target, no countries had pledges to hit net zero by the middle of the century. 

Now 85% of the world’s nations say they will reach that point in either 2050 or 2060, but Modi said his country needed more time. The UK has enshrined its own 2050 target in law. 

A UK official involved in overseeing COP26 said India's 2070 target was “an interesting political choice”, and that they found it “quite curious” India had opted for a date that put them 10 years behind China, explaining that they would ordinarily want to be seen as “less competitive” than their economic rival.

But the official also said they expected that India will move the date forward once they begin their transition to more renewable energy.

Modi also confirmed India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030, and it will get half of its energy from renewable resources by the same date, which the UK official said was “encouraging”.

He also pledged India will reduce its projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes between now and the end of this decade, and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.

Lord Stern, who wrote a key economic review of climate change, and is chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said today’s announcements were a significant moment for COP26.

"Together this might mean that India's annual emissions of greenhouse gases could peak by 2030,” he said.

"This demonstrates real leadership, based on a track record of action and ambitious targets, that can deliver on both economic development and climate change, from a country whose emissions per capita are about one-third of the global average.”

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