Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Net-zero emission targets do little to retard carbon grab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Climate change and climate politics


Earlier this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported on climate science, warning against the folly of a business-as-usual development model.

What does science say about future pathways

  • Globally, average surface temperatures have already risen by 1.09°C between 1850-1900 and 2010-2019.
  • What happens next depends on our development and technological choices.
  • High fossil fuel use path: As per the the IPCC document, if we followed high fossil fuel development (doubling emissions by 2050), temperatures would rise by 4.4°C (range of 3.3-5.7°C) by 2100.
  • Sustainable pathways: If a more sustainable pathway were pursued average global temperature rise would be 1.4°C (range of 1.0-1.8°C).
  • Regardless, it is likely that the average rise in temperatures will breach the 1.5°C barrier within the next two decades.
  • If emissions are not mitigated rapidly, we are staring at rising climate risks and catastrophic impacts.
  • Human influence is very likely the main reason behind glacial retreat since the 1990s.
  • Since observations began, glaciers have lost the maximum mass during 2010-19.
  • Sea level rise: Even with warming restricted to 1.5°C, we are still on course for more than 2 metres of sea-level rise beyond this century.

India’s vulnerability to climate change

  • If warming exceeds 4°C, India could see about 40% increase in precipitation annually, leading to extreme rainfall events.
  • Three-quarters of India’s districts are now hotspots of extreme weather events.
  • Since 1990, more than 300 such events have resulted in damages exceeding INR 5.6 lakh crore.

Changes needed to stabilise temperature rise

  • The IPCC says that in order to stabilise rise in temperatures, two things have to happen:
  • 1) Anthropogenic emissions must become net-zero.
  • 2) In the interim cumulative emissions cannot exceed a global carbon budget.
  • Carbon Budget: To stay within the 1.5°C limit, starting in 2020 the remaining global carbon budget is 300-500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) (with a likelihood of 50%-83%).

Unjust climate politics and net-zero emission targets

  • Of late, several large emitters have promised net-zero emission targets. 
  • CEEW analysts calculate that despite their self-laudatory targets, China would consume 87% of the global carbon space (if it reached net-zero in 2060) and the US would eat up 26% (if it reached net-zero in 2050).
  • Mere announcements of net-zero targets do little to retard the “carbon grab” of the largest emitters.
  •  Rich countries, as a whole, emitted ~25 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) more than their estimated emission allowance during 2008-20, thanks to non-participation in pre-2020 climate agreements and misuse of accounting loopholes. 
  • Climate justice demands that developed countries now take steps to free up carbon space for others.

Way forward for India

  • India must adopt a more climate-friendly development pathway for its own sake.
  • Its per capita incomes, energy consumption and carbon footprint are well below the global average but it must deliver high rates of economic growth within a shrinking carbon budget.
  • Shift discourse to economy: The discourse must shift from energy to the economy.
  • There are very few sunrise sectors that are not low-carbon.
  • India must tap new technology frontiers (green hydrogen), new business models (distributed and digitalised services, for distributed energy, EV charging, cold chains), new construction materials (low-carbon cement, recycled plastic), new opportunities in the circular economy of minerals, municipal waste and agricultural residue, and new practices for sustainable agriculture and food systems.
  • Policy and regulatory support: Many of above technologies and business models are proven but need policy and regulatory support.


The climate crisis is a strategic threat to our development prospects. It deserves sober, continuing analysis, deliberation and action. The headlines look bad; reality will get worse.

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