Long considered climate policy’s problem case, India is exceeding targets and breaking records thanks to fast-advancing technology.
No country will contribute more to the rise in global carbon emissions than India. Energy consumption among its 1.4 billion people is rising fast, with 65 percent of the country’s electrical power currently generated from coal. The world’s filthiest fossil fuel—of which India consumes more than the United States and Japan combined—will “remain ingrained under the fingernails of the nation” because of “politics, economics, and the complications of generating electricity.” So said the Economist in a 2018 briefing.
The British magazine’s briefing perfectly encapsulates the widespread view of India as climate policy’s problem child. But the conventional wisdom couldn’t be more wrong. Little noticed in the West, India is undergoing a green-energy revolution—exceeding targets, breaking records, and quickly making the age of cheap clean energy a reality.
Because of the dominance of India’s coal industry, few experts ever expected India to be on track to significantly exceed two key commitments to the Paris Agreement. One is India’s pledge to increase the share of power-generation capacity that doesn’t use fossil fuels to 40 percent by 2030; today, generation capacity from renewable, hydroelectric, and nuclear sources already reaches 38 percent, putting India on track to comfortably exceed its target. The other commitment is to reduce carbon emissions by 33 to 35 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. Today, India looks likely to reduce emissions by as much as 45 percent by 2030, far surpassing its Paris target.