World Bank Says India Right In Resisting Mandatory Emission Reductions

  • Published on May 9th, 2009

The World Bank has found through a study that it would be impossible for India to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions without adversely affecting its fight to eliminate poverty.


The World Bank recently conducted a study according to which it came to the conclusion that since the Indian government is likely to aggressively push for rural electrification it would be difficult to control the resulting increase in carbon emissions. The organization noted that there would be a 3.5 times increase in India’s carbon emissions by 2031-32 from current levels, however, this increase can be abated to 2.7 times if low-carbon policies are implemented by the government.

The study is going to add teeth to Indian government’s stand at the international level as it continues to oppose calls to agree to some kind of emission reduction targets. While the developed countries argue that an international climate change agreement would be meaningless without developing countries like India and China being a party to it, India has maintained that owing to their historical responsibility the developed national need to set more ambitious reduction targets before asking developing countries to do the same.

The backbone of India’s argument in opposition to emission reductions is its low per capita emissions – India’s per capita emissions are almost twenty times less than of those of the United States. India and China have often targeted the luxurious lifestyles common in the Western countries and have argued that governments of developed countries must take step to reduce their domestic carbon output.

Obviously it would be wrong to make India reduce its carbon emissions at the expense of economic development, especially at this time of economic recession when the developing countries have become the new centers of growth. Electricity is a major problem in India with thousands of villages still reeling under hours of black outs, the situation is only marginally better in the second-tier cities. India with its large reserves of coal would naturally prefer using it over other costly and less abundant fuels like oil and gas.

However, India is the third largest GHG producer and that is because of the comparatively less clean technologies used by its industries. Thus India must work on improving the technology used by its industrial sector. A way of reducing carbon emissions could be through voluntary sectoral emission reductions.

India already enjoys significant amount of investment through United Nations Clean Development Mechanism and the EU recently proposed a plan through which India could reduce its carbon emissions with monetary and technical help form the developed countries without worrying about penalties in case of failure to meet emission targets.

Under the proposed plan, developing countries would set voluntary emission targets for carbon-intensive industries like cement and steel and would try to keep emissions below that limit. If they succeed in doing so they can sell emission rights to other countries and generate revenue. There will not be any penalties, however, if the industries exceed the emission limits. Private as well as public sectors companies, with revenue from selling carbon credits, can very well support a part of this emission reduction plan.

Since India is still considered primarily an agricultural country, supply of electricity to rural areas is essential and any increase in the utility bills would be highly unwelcome. However, the government must study the option of reducing carbon emissions from other industries. Companies already selling credits can set small emission targets for themselves and can also apply for acquiring cleaner equipment. The developed countries are bound by international treaty to reduce emissions but India, too, should recognize its responsibility and contribute whatever little it can while the developed countries are offering to help.

Image: Jayesh Bheda (Creative Commons)

About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.