Short introduction on India’s emissions
Although CO2 is the driving force behind the temperature changes, other gases such as methane (CH4) also contribute their share to global warming, for example through the exploitation of gas fields, and emissions by livestock. While methane is emitted much less than CO2 on a global scale, it is a much stronger greenhouse gas (GHG). Scientists estimated the relative strength of the important Kyoto greenhouse gases so that we can convert all emissions to an equivalent of CO2 emissions. For example, the emission of one ton of methane has approximately the warming effect of 25 tons of CO2. The factor of 25 reflects the climate forcing on a 100-year time horizon, following the Global Warming Potential presented in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).
With greenhouse gas emissions of approximately the equivalent of 3.0 giga tonnes of CO2 (Gt CO2eq), India contributed 6.26% to the global greenhouse gas emissions of 2017 (rank 4 - incl. EU27 on rank 3). All emissions estimates exclude emissions and absorption from land, which result from activities such as cutting down or planting of forests (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry: LULUCF). Emissions from bunker fuels (international aviation and shipping) were also excluded, as they are not accounted for in national totals.
For 2030, India’s global contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is projected to increase to approximately 7.093% (4.0 giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent / rank 3 - incl. EU27 on rank 4). The emissions projections for India were derived by downscaling the Shared Socio-Economic Pathways’ (SSPs) “Middle-of-the-Road” baseline marker scenario SSP2. These pathways describe certain narratives of socio-economic developments and were, i.a., used to derive greenhouse gas emissions scenarios that correspond to these developments. SSP2 is a narrative with little shifts in socio-economic patterns compared to historical ones, and is connected to medium socio-economic challenges for both climate mitigation and adaptation. While different models were used for each storyline, per SSP (SSPs1-5) one model was chosen as representative “marker scenario”. As the emissions projections are not readily available on country-level, but national estimates are important, the pathways were downscaled in the aftermath. In 2017, India represented 17.73% of the global population. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 were 7.29% of the global GDP.
Looking at the highest contributing emissions sectors and gases separately, we find that in 2017 the highest contributing emissions sectors were Energy and Agriculture (73.8% and 16.2%). Amongst the greenhouse gases that are considered in the Kyoto Protocol, the strongest contributor with 77.2% was CO2. This was followed by CH4 emissions, with a significantly lower share of 17.0%. When not considering the sectors and gases independently, but the sector-gas combinations instead, Energy CO2 and Agriculture CH4 (71.1% and 12.5%) represented the largest emissions in 2017.
Greenhouse gas mitigation and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)
In 2015, the majority of countries agreed to the Paris Agreement (PA), with the goal of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (Article 2.1.a). Countries stated their pledges and targets towards achieving the PA’s goals in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With Article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement, Parties decided that “Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”
India’s NDC starts with the following statements “India hereby communicates its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in response to COP decisions 1/CP.19 and 1/CP.20 for the period 2021 to 2030: 1. To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation. 2. To adopt a climate friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development. 3. To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level. 4. To achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF). 5. To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. 6. To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management. 7. To mobilize domestic and new & additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap. 8. To build capacities, create domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.” (NDC, p. 29). Further, it specifies that “It is clarified that India’s INDC do not bind it to any sector specific mitigation obligation or action, including in agriculture sector. India’s goal is to reduce overall emission intensity and improve energy efficiency of its economy over time and at the same time protecting the vulnerable sectors of economy and segments of our society. The successful implementation of INDC is contingent upon an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties, technology transfer and capacity building following Article 3.1 and 4.7 of the Convention.” (NDC, p. 30). Even though this last information suggests that at least parts of the contribution are conditional, in our assessment we assume India’s target to reduce its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 33-35% by 2030, compared to 2005 base year levels as unconditional. This uncertainty in terms of the pledge’s conditionality results from missing clarity on which part of the contributions are contingent on international support.
In India’s NDC, the quantitative information necessary to estimate its 2030 mitigation target has not been found, why quantifications rely on “external” data (non-NDC data). The availability of national estimates of emissions mitigation estimates and pathways in line with countries’ NDCs is of great importance when, e.g., aggregating to global emissions to then derive, i.a., the resulting end-of-century warming levels. The targeted sectors and gases are furthermore not clearly stated within the NDC. Based on our assessment of the given sectoral measures (NDC, p. 29-30), from the main IPCC sectors we assume the covered sectors to be Energy, IPPU, LULUCF and Waste, while emissions from Agriculture seem not to be covered. Nothing is stated on the covered Kyoto GHGs, and we assume CO2, CH4, and N2O to be covered.
The NDC-assessment is based on India’s NDC submitted to the UNFCCC in October 2016. Relying on “external” non-NDC data (SSP2) and the assessed national share of targeted emissions, for India we quantify the higher end of the 2030 unconditional target as 5.1 Gt CO2eq AR4 (relative emissions intensity reduction: -33%, inclLU), and estimate the lower limit of the 2030 unconditional target as 5.0 Gt CO2eq AR4 (-35%, inclLU).
The Figure below provides additional information, regarding both the baseline emissions used in our assessment and the quantified mitigated pathways for India.
Baseline emissions and mitigated emissions pathways based on the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution. In terms of national emissions, we look at the SSP2 baseline marker scenario, and the emissions of all IPCC sectors. Contributions from LULUCF are excluded (exclLU), and the emissions are based on GWPs from AR4. The left panel (a) shows the baseline emissions, indicating the contributions of the Kyoto Greenhouse Gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and the basket of F-gases to the national emissions. If we could extract baseline data exclLU from the NDC, you can see their values as black squares (converted from GWP SAR to AR4 if needed). In the right panel (b), the quantified mitigated emissions pathways are shown, based on information from the country’s NDC and also on non-NDC emissions baselines, per target conditionality and range (marked un-/conditional best/worst). Even though not all countries have targets with different conditionalities or ranges, we need assumptions for all four cases to build one global pathway per conditionality plus range combination and to derive corresponding temperature estimates. Therefore, we indicate these four pathways here. Per combination, we performed several quantifications with differing assumptions and show the median and the minimal and maximal pathways here. Additionally, if we could quantify the targets based on data extracted purely from the NDC - or if the targets were directly given in absolute emissions, these targets are shown as squares (in the GWP originally given in the NDC).
Data sources and further information
- Historical emissions: PRIMAP-hist v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2016, 2019).
- Historical socio-economic data: PRIMAP-hist Socio-Eco v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2019).
- Projected emissions and socio-economic data: downscaled SSPs (Guetschow et al., 2020, 2020).
- NDC quantifications: NDCmitiQ (Guenther et al., 2020, 2021).
- GDP is given in purchasing power parity (PPP).
- Main emissions sectors (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC): Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture and LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry), also named AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use), and Waste.
- Kyoto GHG: basket of several GHGs, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and since the second Kyoto Protocol period (2013-20) additionally nitrogen fluoride (NF3).
- Global Warming Potentials (GWPs): GHGs have very different warming potentials. To make them comparable and for aggregation purposes, GWPs are used (how much energy will 1 ton of a certain gas absorb over a defined period of time, relative to the same mass of CO2?).
1 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), 14473 Potsdam, Germany