The UN Secretary General António Guterres’s call for India to give up coal immediately and reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 is a call to de-industrialise the country and abandon the population to a permanent low-development trap.
Delivered on Indian soil, at a premier climate institution in the country, and in the presence of India’s External Affairs Minister, the speech was an unmistakable ratcheting up of pressure on India in the climate arena. Subsequently, at a press conference at the UN Headquarters on September 9 while releasing the latest climate report of the World Meteorological Organization, he has upped the ante even further by asking China and India too to reduce their emissions by 45% by 2030, on a par with the developed countries. To add insult to injury, the advice was delivered after it was evident that India, with the lowest per capita income among the G-20, is undergoing the worst economic contraction among them currently, whose long-term impact is still very unclear.
Its renewable energy programme is ambitious while its energy efficiency programme is delivering, especially in the domestic consumption sector. India is one of the few countries with at least 2° Celsius warming compliant climate action, and one of a much smaller list of those currently on track to fulfilling their Paris Agreement commitments.
Despite the accelerated economic growth of recent decades India’s annual emissions, at 0.5 tonnes per capita, are well below the global average of 1.3 tonnes, and also those of China, the United States and the European Union (EU), the three leading emitters in absolute terms, whose per capita emissions are higher than this average. In terms of cumulative emissions (which is what really counts in determining the extent of temperature increase), India’s contribution by 2017 was only 4% for a population of 1.3 billion, whereas the European Union, with a population of only 448 million, was responsible for 20%.