India rejects target date for net zero emissions ahead of COP26 climate conference

NEW DELHI – India on Wednesday turned down calls to announce a net zero carbon emissions target, saying it was more important for the world to find a way to reduce those emissions and avert dangerous increases in global temperatures.

India, the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US, is under pressure to announce plans to become carbon neutral by around the middle of the century at the climate conference in Scotland next week.

But Environment Minister RP Gupta told reporters that the net zero announcement was not the solution to the climate crisis.

“More important is how much carbon you put into the atmosphere before you hit net zero.”

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The United States, Great Britain and the European Union have set a target date of 2050 to achieve net zero. At this point, they will only be emitting an amount of greenhouse gas that can be absorbed by forests, crops, soils, and still more embryonic “carbon sequestration” technology.

China and Saudi Arabia have both set themselves goals for 2060, but those are now largely meaningless without concrete action, critics say.

By the middle of the century, the United States will have released 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere and the EU 62 gigatons, Gupta said, citing calculations by the Indian government. China would have added a staggering 450 gigatons by its net-zero target date, he added.

Representatives from nearly 200 countries will meet in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12 for climate talks to step up action to tackle global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the conference to show how seriously the country takes climate change, officials say. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not left China since the coronavirus pandemic, is not expected.

As countries work towards net zero, they are expected to announce new and tightened intermediate targets for reducing emissions.

Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said India is on track to meet the targets set at the 2015 Paris Conference and left the door open for their revision. “All options are on the table,” he said.

India has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 percent to 35 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 and to achieve a reduction of 24 percent by 2016.

Some environmental experts say India could consider cutting its emissions intensity by up to 40 percent, depending on funding and access to newer technologies.

Yadav said he will measure the success of the Glasgow conference by how much it has contributed to climate finance to help developing countries cut their emissions while ensuring economic growth.

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