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India’s Green Growth Imperative

India must decarbonize more, and fast, but it also needs to generate sufficient economic growth to lift one-third of its 1.3 billion people out of poverty. Achieving that without drastically increasing carbon dioxide emissions will require policymakers to pursue a radically different green growth strategy.

NEW DELHI – India’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, include three quantifiable objectives. By 2030, the country aims to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35%, ensure that renewable energy sources account for about 40% of its installed power capacity, and, through afforestation, create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

International observers like Climate Action Tracker and Climate Transparency regard India as one of the few G20 countries to be “2°C compatible” and on track to fulfill its so-called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris accord. But even if India achieves its NDC targets and adopts measures to help keep global warming to 1.5°C, on current trends its CO2 emissions in 2030 could be about 90% higher than in 2015.

India must therefore decarbonize more, and fast. But India also needs to invest in manufacturing and infrastructure to improve its competitiveness, create enough jobs to lift one-third of its 1.3 billion people out of poverty, and increase its chances of meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving these objectives without drastically increasing CO2 emissions will require India to pursue a radically different green growth strategy.