India will cut its climate emissions to “net zero” by 2070, the country’s prime minister Narendra Modi has told the Cop26 summit.
This was one of five pledges he listed at the world leaders’ summit at the UN conference in Glasgow.
The others included that India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 and it will get half of its energy from renewable resources by the same date.
He also pledged that India will reduce its projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes between now and 2030, and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.
Mr Modi demanded developed countries makes one trillion US dollars available as climate finance “as soon as possible today”.
Giving a speech on India’s national climate action, he told world leaders: “I am sure that the decisions taken in Glasgow will safeguard the future of generations to come and give them a safe and prosperous life.”
Scientists have warned that the world needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5C, beyond which increasingly dangerous climate impacts from weather extremes to rising seas will be felt.
But developing countries including India and China have pushed back against calls for all nations to hit the 2050 net-zero mark, which requires cutting pollution as much as possible and offsetting any that remains with action to absorb carbon such as restoring forests.
They are calling for richer industrialised nations, who caused much of the historic emissions driving global warming, to take more stringent action and cut their emissions to net zero earlier.
Reacting to the news, Ulka Kelkar, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) India, said the pledges were significantly more ambitious than its current national climate plans under the Paris Agreement, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
“These will take the country on a low-carbon development pathway and give strong signals to every sector of industry and society.
“Meeting these targets will not be a simple matter and will require additional investments and supporting policies,” she said.
India’s net zero target is at least a decade behind the world’s largest polluter China, which has previously announced it plans to hit carbon neutrality before 2060, and to peak its emissions before 2030.
While Cop26 officials expressed surprise at the 2070 target for India, they said the 2030 targets were significant and could mean it hits the net-zero goal before its planned date.
And Lord Stern, who wrote a key economic review of climate change, and is chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE), said it was a significant moment for the summit, with the five new targets from India.
“Together this might mean that India’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases could peak by 2030.
“This demonstrates real leadership, based on a track record of action and ambitious targets, that can deliver on both economic development and climate change, from a country whose emissions per capita are about one-third of the global average.
“The rich world must respond to prime minister Modi’s challenge to deliver a strong increase in international climate finance,” he urged.