Boris Johnson urges India to commit to net zero emissions in call with PM Narendra Modi

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Boris Johnson held a call with India’s Modi ahead of the Glasgow COP26 summit  (AP)
Boris Johnson held a call with India’s Modi ahead of the Glasgow COP26 summit (AP)

The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson has encouraged his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to announce a more ambitious set of climate goals for the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The two leaders discussed a range of issues on a phone call on Monday, including climate action targets, Covid protocols and the situation in Afghanistan, Mr Modi and Downing Street said in separate statements.

“The prime minister underlined the importance of making concrete progress on climate change ahead of and at the upcoming COP26 Summit,” Downing Street said in a statement. “He noted that India already lead the world in renewable technology and expressed his hope that they will commit to a more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and to achieving Net Zero emissions.”

Mr Modi tweeted about the talks, though he did not mention any discussion of India’s NDC or other targets.

“Was a pleasure to speak to prime minister @BorisJohnson,” Mr Modi wrote in a tweet on Monday. “We reviewed progress on the India-UK Agenda 2030, exchanged views on climate action in the context of the forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow, and shared our assessments on regional issues including Afghanistan,” he said.

The NDCs are the key mechanism of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a system whereby countries set out the ways in which they will voluntarily control their own emissions. The agreement also stipulated that these contributions would need to be ramped up over time, if global warming were to be kept to a target of 1.5C.

India’s NDC represented a set of fairly comfortable goals that, even in 2015, the country was on course to overachieve on with its current policies. And unlike other major economies including China, India has not yet committed itself to a year by which it will achieve net-zero emissions.

India’s current NDC includes actions on three fronts to reduce India’s greenhouse gas emissions — an economy-wide emissions intensity target of 33-35 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels, to generate 40 per cent electricity from non-fossil-based energy resources by 2030 and creating a carbon sink of 2.5–3 billion tonnes through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

According to India’s environment ministry, the country’s non-fossil fuel installed power capacity is already at 39.64 per cent — making it the world’s 3rd largest renewable energy producer and inching closer to its target. India has also managed a drop of 24 per cent of the emissions intensity of its GDP compared to 2005 levels.

Mr Modi has made climate action one of the pillars of his foreign policy, leading to demands for India to set bolder domestic targets. Government sources quoted in local media have suggested that the country could announce a revised NDC in time for the Glasgow summit, but that India is still unlikely to commit to a net-zero target.

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