India will prioritise a phased transition to cleaner fuels and slashing household consumption to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, according to a national report released Monday at the United Nations COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
The report for the first time sketches out how the world's second-biggest consumer of coal will meet its decarbonization pledge made in 2021 as part of international efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures.
"This is an important milestone," said India's environment minister Bhupender Yadav at a COP27 event marking the report's launch. "Once again India has demonstrated that it walks the talk on climate change."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not attend this year's climate talks in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Under the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015, all countries are required to submit a strategy document to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change showing how they'll help combat global warming. These plans are known as a Long-Term Low Emissions and Development Strategies(LT-LEDS).
Despite a 2020 deadline for the plans, just 56 countries have so far submitted one. India is the last of the world's five largest economies to do so.
India's LT-LEDS zeroes in on six key areas to reduce net emissions, including electricity, urbanization, transport, forests, finance, and industry.
The country, for example, proposes increasing the use of biofuels - particularly ethanol blending in petrol - boosting the number of electric vehicles on the road, alongside expanded public transport networks, and using more green hydrogen fuel.
India has already pledged to phase down coal use along with other nations, and has become a big market for renewable energy projects like solar.
What's novel in India's strategy, said Taryn Fransen, an international climate change policy expert at the non-profit World Resources Institute in the United States, is the focus on reducing consumption at the individual or household level, as well as its inclusion of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS).
This includes technology that can capture carbon from polluting industries so it never reaches the atmosphere. Environmentalists have cautioned against using it in a way that extends the lives of coal plants.
"There's a lot of uncertainty around it, but at the same time the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change research indicates we will need large CO2 removal," Fransen told Reuters.
India said it will work on advancing the technologies used in CCUS.
Unlike Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are also mandated under the Paris Agreement, LT-LEDS focus on a longer time horizon and don't require countries to report progress.
India updated its NDC in August, committing the country to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45 percent from its 2005 level in the next 7 years - a 10 percentage point increase over its previous 2016 pledge.
While India's LT-LEDS laid out an ambitious green transition strategy, Yadav said the country could not "have a situation where the energy security of developing countries is ignored in the name of urgent mitigation".
India and other developing countries have long resisted calls for a rapid move away from fossil fuels that could undermine their economic growth and impose big costs.
"India is having to pay for a crisis that it didn't cause with money that it doesn't have," said Dipa Singh Bagai, country head for Natural Resources Defense Council in India.
India wants countries to agree to phase down all fossil fuels at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, rather than a narrower deal to phase down coal as was agreed last year, two sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters on Saturday.