Why India's New Solar Energy Commitment Is Controversial

December 9, 2021

Since COP26, the UN Climate Summit, many countries have been fervently working on their respective climate policies. Last week, we talked about Biden’s new investment in climate-related disaster relief. The latest commitment has come from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that India will produce 50 percent of its energy through solar and other renewables by 2030.

Modi is now making plans to set up solar panel fields in arid Rajasthan, which will be the perfect spot as the area is sunny almost all year round. This is a remarkable pledge since India currently produces 70 percent of its energy from coal and only 4 percent is from solar energy. However, the country, which is home to over 1.3 billion people, must first create the infrastructure for a power grid the size of all of Europe’s to be able to even hold the 500 gigawatts of renewable energy.

Close up of burning coal

During the COP26 conference, 46 countries and several sub-regions and organizations signed the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition’ statement, which promises to move away from coal and stop funding new coal-powered projects. However, India was not among them. Modi has not clarified when India’s emissions are expected to peak or when they would begin to decline. There was a commitment made to be net-zero by 2070, which is 20 years later after the U.S. and Europe’s 2050 target and 10 years after China’s 2060 promise.

However, India’s timeline to emission neutrality relies on the promise made by developed countries to aid developing nations in achieving these goals and combating climate change. A promise was made 12 years ago for wealthy countries to provide $100 billion every year by 2020 for climate aid for developing nations. This has still not been delivered, and the majority of the nations that would benefit from the support are those that are or will be, affected the most by climate change. After making this commitment to drastically increase energy production from renewables, Prime Minister Modi implored, “India expects developed countries to make $1 trillion in climate finance available as soon as possible.”

Although Bhutan and Suriname are the only countries that have achieved carbon neutrality, Uruguay is hot on their tails with a net-zero target of 2030. Germany, Austria, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland are also close behind with their goals for 2045 or earlier. However fantastic this may be to hear, we must remember that achieving emission neutrality isn’t an individual nation goal; it is a goal that must be achieved by humanity as a whole. The countries that reach net-zero will still be affected just as much if the larger countries continue to emit the way they are today. The effects of climate change do not pick and choose.

It is crucial for us to work together to reach these goals. Prime Minister Modi is absolutely right to be reminding developed nations (who are often some of the biggest emitters) about their commitment to providing aid to make sure we reach these goals as people on this planet. India has made great strides to show it is committed to reducing emissions as much as possible. Alongside the commitment to rapidly start switching over to renewable energy, the nation has also pledged to switch over to green hydrogen and green energy in various industries and reduce emission intensity by 45 percent by 2030. It is now up to the more developed nations to live up to their world and help push this tremendous change.

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Photo: Andrey Andreyev on Unsplash

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Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website www.igashmiga.com.

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