New Delhi: India on Friday pledged to cut its emission levels by 33-35 percent over the next 15 years in what Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar termed an ambitious, fair and balanced commitment to protect the environment, married to the country's own agenda for sustainable development.
Ahead of the crucial 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change due in Paris from November 30 to December 11, India made a 38-page submission under what is called the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
The submissions, called from the 196 parties (or countries) under the framework, are to serve as the basis for negotiating an agreement laying the path for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. So far, 120 countries, collectively accounting for 85.3 percent of global emissions, have made submissions.
"Through this submission, India intends to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level. This commitment is further echoed in India's actions in climate change adaptation with the setting up of its own 'National Adaptation Fund'," said New Delhi's document.
India's INDCs are "fair and ambitious", considering the fact that it is balancing goals of a "low carbon emission pathway" and "all developmental challenges the country faces today", it said, adding the country's current policy framework also includes a favourable environment for a rapid increase in renewable energy, move towards low carbon sustainable development and adapting to impact of climate change.
"Accordingly, India's development plans will continue to lay a balanced emphasis on economic development and environment," it said, recounting the framework's mandate based on principles of equity, as also common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of member-nations.
India's paper, the release of which coincides with Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary, is based on the 1992 Kyoto convention and says that both in terms of cumulative global emissions and per capita emission, it has caused much less damage to the environment but its actions to mitigate climate change were fair and ambitious.
"Much before the climate change debate began, Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of our nation, had said that we should act as 'trustees' and use natural resources wisely as it is our moral responsibility to ensure that we bequeath to the future generations a healthy planet," it said.
The issue of climate change, ahead of the Paris conference, has been high on the Indian government's agenda and had figured in discussions Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with leaders of several countries, notably the US, Britain, France, Japan and Germany, during his visit to the US last month.
At a press conference here, Javadekar said: "India's contributions represent the utmost ambitious action in the current state of development. The world as a whole, including the developed world, needs to act more ambitiously. I am positive we will become a part of the solution. We will produce results."
He said India's expectation from Paris was a balanced pact with all components - mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance and capacity building - consistent with the principles and provisions of the convention. India also wants predictable financing and technology to flow from the developed to the developing world.
India also outlined in its document climate change's impact on its economy and nation as a whole, noting it will need $206 billion between 2015 and 2030 to implement actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems to achieve the targets, not counting additional investments needed to strengthen resilience and disaster management.
Quoting an Asian Development Bank study, it said the approximate adaptation cost in the energy sector alone would roughly be about $7.7 billion in 2030s.
The paper said the efforts thus far on combating climate change has been self-financed.
"However, our efforts to avoid emissions during our development process are also tied to the availability and level of international financing and technology transfer, since India still faces complex developmental challenges," it said.
The plan evoked wide appreciation, with some terming it "superior" to the ones proposed by the developed nations.
"India's INDC is fair and is quite ambitious, specifically on renewable energy and forestry," said Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain.
The CSE said India's INDC was as good as China's and better than of the US given both these countries have higher emissions and were economically more capable of reducing them to mitigate climate change.
Narain said that INDCs submitted by all major countries indicate that the world is not on a path to the 2 degree Celsius target and this "would be disastrous for poor people across the world".
solar energy major SunSource Energy co-founder and CEO Adarsh Das said India's INDCs showed real responsibility and farsightedness, and the "goals, while somewhat aggressive, will provide the right boost to economy-wide efforts towards reducing carbon and resource intensity".
Paharpur Business Centre chief executive officer Kamal Meattle termed it "a very welcome announcement" and ActionAid India executive director Sandeep Chachra called the plan far "superior" to ones proposed by the US and the European Union.