Indian INDC – An Opportunity to Nudge the World towards an Ambitious and Equitable Deal

By Sudhir Sharma 

India, along with other Parties at Warsaw agreed to work towards submitting their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in the first quarter of the 2015. India has initiated the process of developing its INDCs by asking a few institutes to undertake analysis on what would be feasible and also equitable given India’s national circumstances and its low historic responsibility to climate change.

The IPCC report is out and it is very clear that effort needed for keeping the world below 2 degrees Celsius requires very rapid decarbonisation of all economies. A recent ADB report[1] has put the estimate of climate impacts in South Asia and highlighted that the impacts of climate change are likely to result in huge economic, social, and environmental damage to South Asian countries, compromising their potential for growth and poverty reduction efforts. It estimates South Asia will lose up to 1.8% of GDP (USD 40 billion) annually by 2050 which will increase to 8.8% of GDP (USD 73 billion) by 2100 in the high emission scenario. As opposed to a loss of 1.2% of GDP (USD 31 billion) in 2050 and 2.2% of GDP (USD 41 billion) by 2100 if the temperature increase is kept below 2 degrees. However, impacts on food security generally, and on the poor in particular, could be much more severe. Thus this adds to India’s challenge of addressing the development deficit to achieve an HDI of 0.9 as recently mentioned by the Minister of Environment.

India, along with developed and other major developing countries, has a key role to play in crafting a cooperative agreement at Paris that enables us all to stay below 2 degrees.  The Indian INDC is crucial in nudging the reluctant developed countries to do their equitable share of efforts. It also provides an opportunity for India to outline its vision of equity and CBDR. In this India will find CAN’s equity framework[2] and its indicators very useful viz.: adequacy, responsibility, capability, sustainable development need, and adaptation need. These indicators specifically recognise the needs f for sustainable development and adaptation in developing countries.

What is India’s equitable share: A number of studies have been put out, mostly by developed country research organisations using various approaches to equity. But these approaches don’t simply consider the core Indian principle of “equality of all humans”, i.e., the per capita approach. The Green Development Right approach[3] is based on this core principle but also takes into account the development deficit. The GDRs analysis estimates that, to have a “likely” chance (greater than 66%) of holding total global warming below 2C degrees, global emissions in 2030 should be 29% of global 1990 emissions, i.e., 71% reduction below 1990 levels.

To achieve this, as per the GDRs Climate Equity Reference Calculator, India’s equitable share is to reduce emissions by 8% below BAU or cap its growth in emissions at 400% above its 1990 level emissions (i.e. India’s emission should not exceed 5500 MtCO2-eq in 2030). The estimate is based on medium-strength “equity settings” (50% responsibility and 50% capability, a 1990 historical responsibility start year, and a development threshold of $7,500 PPP).  The development threshold is key here, for Capability is based on national GDP, and all income below this threshold is excluded from the Capability calculation.  If the development threshold were lowed to USD $2,500 (PPP), India’s equitable share increases to 22% reduction below BAU emissions in 2030 or growth in emissions should be limited to 326% above its 1990 emission. This implies that India’s GHG emissions in 2030 should not exceed 4,621 MtCO2e. The equitable share of Annex I countries corresponding to this is 135% reductions below 1990.

India should in its INDC indicate a contribution for the period 2020-2025 that is in line with at the least 25% GHG reductions below BAU in 2030. 

Is it do-able? YES!! A number of studies by Indian organisations have shown that efforts taken by India in the context of addressing energy access and energy security (energy conservation (http://indiaenergy.gov.in/)  and renewable energy) make it possible for India to start bending its GHG emissions while meeting its goal of inclusive growth. A recently released  Planning Commission study clearly shows that the current efforts of energy efficiency and renewable energy would limit its GHG emissions (assuming 8% growth) to 5,271 million tonnes by 2030 (India’s non-CO2 emissions are 15% of CO2 emissions, putting India’s total GHG emissions at 6000 MtCO2e). It also indicates that with intensified Energy Efficiency efforts (which though increase investments are profitable as they reduce long run costs of energy and competitiveness of Indian economy) and Renewable Energy (RE) efforts (address energy security) could help reduce CO2 emissions to 3,830 MtCO2 (i.e., 4419 MtCO2e). Yes it will cost, but the cost is a mere 0.15% reduction in GDP, and mind you the report doesn’t account for the environmental benefits, energy security gains, and benefits of a decentralised growth some of these efforts will generate. Further, a large potential exists for India to leapfrog refrigerant technology by moving to low GHG options, to which Prime Minister Modi has agreed with President Obama of the USA.

Is that All?  NO!! INDCs are also an opportunity for India to identifying opportunities where it could collaborate with international partners in a faster transition of its sustainable development future to low carbon pathways. Planning Commission analysis of India Energy Security, projects that India’s GHG emissions on BUA path would be in the range of 12,000 MtCO2e.  The study highlights that such a path would make India highly energy dependent. Even a path that follows high EE effort and shift in energy mix to reduce energy dependency will result in GHG emissions in the range of 7,000 MtCO2e. None of this is compatible with the 2 degrees path way. Thus India has to start bending its GHG emissions at a faster pace compared to the existing one to be able to get on to a reducing pathway, which is required. Therefore, it is imperative that India, in context of its sustainable development goals identify areas where it could take further actions (such as increasing the share of RE beyond what is needed for its equitable share) and outline the support it would need to do so.

Information for adequacy and equity assessment: In Bonn Parties will discuss the decision on INDCs to be adopted at Lima, which will guide the submission of INDCs by countries. It is important that INDCs of all countries provide detailed information to enable assessment of the aggregate level of reductions by 2025. This is important to understand whether the world is on course for keeping the temperature below 2 0C.

Unfortunately the countries didn’t engage and therefore it is now not possible to have agreed equity indicators that could guide the development of INDCs. Equity is the cornerstone of an ambitious deal. This is because, only if all feel that the others are putting in an equitable effort, would all feel confident to put in their best effort. As INDC process is bottom up, assessing individual country effort on equity indicators is essential to generate confidence among all as well as encourage countries, who may miss doing so in the first place.. From this perspective it is important that countries should report in INDCs the framework or indicators of equity used to develop its contribution.

Summary: Indian INDC, which India should submit before the first session of ADP in 2015, should include information on:

(i)  Self-financed equitable share of global mitigation effort;

(ii) Mitigation effort India would undertake if support is provided;

(iii) Support, including finance, needed for the supported mitigation effort;

(iv) Clear and transparent information to assess the impact of India’s mitigation effort on its emissions in 2025 as well as tonnes reduced.

(v) Equity indicators used in defining equitable share of global mitigation effort.

India should also include its adaptation contribution as the plans for addressing adaptation needs and the national finance allocated for adaptation as well as international support required for adaptation. Adaptation contribution indexed to the different levels of warming would be most useful, in identifying the adaptation needs of countries.

A robust equitable share and willingness to further mitigate with support from India will push other countries to step up their ambition.


[1] Ahmed M, and S Suphachalasai, 2014. Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia, Published by Asian Development Bank, Manila.

[2] Refer to CAN’s  “The core Convention-based equity indicators” at http://climatenetwork.org/sites/default/files/ can_convention-based_indicators_sept2013.pdf).

[3] Visit http://www.gdrights.org/calculator/ to try out the Climate Equity Reference Calculator.

About The Author:

Sudhir Sharma is a Senior Climate Change Specialist at the UNEP Risø Centre with over 15 years’ experience in Climate and Sustainable Development in developing countries, Sharma comes from an engineering background and a PhD in Development Economics. His work has focused on mitigation issues in developing countries in the context of sustainable development. He has over 10 years’ experience in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) working both in developing projects and developing methodologies. His present work at URC is focused on NAMAs, both, in terms of supporting capacity development in developing countries as well as analytical work on creating a better understanding of NAMAs. He is presently coordinating the country work on assisting seven countries in developing NAMAs.