India Ducks China Energy Pledge, Plans Renewables Splurge

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India, the world’s third-largest polluter, will spend at least $100 billion on climate-related projects but isn’t ready to follow China and the U.S., the top two emitters, in promising to limit its fossil-fuel emissions.

India has been under the spotlight at the United Nations climate meeting in Lima after China became the first large developing country to agree to limit emissions in a pact announced with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to that country last month. Obama will go to India in January.

Delegates in Lima are watching for signs India will follow China’s pledge with one of its own, potentially leading to action by other developing countries. India’s environment minister didn’t address emissions limits in his first public comments in Lima yesterday. Instead, Prakash Javadekar presented a plan to spend aggressively on cleaner forms of energy such as wind or solar, without saying when the $100 billion would flow or how it would be funded.

“It’s India’s turn to make a similar announcement for the sake of future generations,” said Abhishek Pratap, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace, referring to the China-U.S. pledge to either slow or cap their emissions at some future point.

The goal of the Lima conference is to set ground rules for an agreement to be signed by countries next year in Paris that would limit pollution worldwide to try to curb global warming. India’s emissions are predicted to double by 2020, making its actions crucial to the UN plan, proponents say.

‘Play Its Part’

“India is committed and ready to play its part in the international fight against climate change,” Javadekar said, adding that the country has “$3 million in the kitty” for works that will trim emissions and there’s political backing from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spend more.

The remarks, along with a 22-page policy document, suggest an effort by India to turn away from coal, which now helps produce about 60 percent of its electricity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data. The policy paper signaled that India may be preparing to make a pledge on emissions limits for next year’s UN conference in Paris.

“Steps have been taken to finalize India’s” commitment on pollution cuts, according to the paper. “The contribution will factor in India’s domestic obligations of addressing the basic development needs in terms of achieving minimum standards of living for its entire population.”

No Deal

India has “the potential” for “being a constructive player,” Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy to the climate talks, told reporters in Lima today. Still, the U.S. and India don’t have a pact in the works similar to the one announced with China last month, he said.

The China-U.S. announcement followed more than eight months of high-level talks and “we don’t have that kind of process going on with India” ahead of Obama’s visit, Stern said.

With about 30 percent of its residents living in poverty, scraping by on 75 cents a day or less, India has been reluctant to sign up for the sort of binding greenhouse-gas cuts that Europe has already enacted under previous climate deals. Last week, Javadekar said India’s pollution levels will have to keep growing.

“We have a need to grow, so our emissions will grow,” Javadekar said in New Delhi on Dec. 5. The onus on reducing emissions should be on richer industrial nations most responsible for global warming to allow poorer countries “space for more development.”

The policy document released in Lima outlined at least $62 billion in national projects related to climate change.

Solar Energy

That includes $1.4 billion for solar energy, $5.75 billion for water supply and $17 billion for sustainable agriculture. It also noted budget requirements for state climate-related programs costing 11.3 trillion rupees, which it converted to $188.7 billion. It didn’t give details on what those projects would cover.

“Solar and wind energy, along with energy efficiency investments, are vital to diversifying India’s energy mix and are a viable means to meet demands for clean, affordable energy that creates jobs,” said Anjali Jaiswal, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As part of the UN talks, industrial nations have pledged to boost climate-related aid to developing countries including India to $100 billion a year by 2020, a sum the poorer nations say needs further detailing.

“Having the largest democracy in the world, the second-fastest growing major economy, and the second-most populous country engage in these discussions demonstrates a willingness to work toward a global deal,” Jaiswal said. “You can’t reach a deal without India.”

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