In ‘A Lot of Hot Air’ I suggested that there are a number of problems with the Paris Agreement, but I had space only to look at the most obvious one. That involved looking at “the Dragon in the Room” and an analysis of China’s NDC. I indicated that there are elephants in the room too, and it should be noted that they are of both varieties – African and Indian. In this article I propose studying the Indian elephant, normally smaller than its African cousin, but in this case it presents large and very real problems.
The rhetoric and the reality
India’s NDC was submitted on 1st October 2015. It starts with a paragraph which makes all the right noises, but says nothing of any value in terms of reducing India’s greenhouse gas emissions. It thereby sets the scene for the hot air that is to follow. First there is the spiritual message:
“Yajur Veda 36.17: ‘Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and the Earth be Peace, Peace be Unto the Water, Unto the Herbs and Trees be Peace’.“
Followed by sickly sentiment and bombast:
“India has a long history and tradition of harmonious co-existence between man and nature. Human beings here have regarded fauna and flora as part of their family. This is part of our heritage and manifest in our lifestyle and traditional practices. We represent a culture that calls our planet Mother Earth. As our ancient text says; “Keep pure! For the Earth is our mother! And we are her children!” The ancient Indian practice of Yoga, for example, is a system that is aimed at balancing contentment and worldly desires, that helps pursue a path of moderation and a sustainable lifestyle. Environmental sustainability, which involves both intra-generational and inter-generational equity, has been the approach of Indians for very long. 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.”
The very next paragraph, however, makes clear where India is coming from and what its plans are:
“The desire to improve one’s lot has been the primary driving force behind human progress. While a few fortunate fellow beings have moved far ahead in this journey of progress, there are many in the world who have been left behind. Nations that are now striving to fulfill this ‘right to grow’ of their teeming millions cannot be made to feel guilty of their development agenda as they attempt to fulfill this legitimate aspiration. Just because economic development of many countries in the past has come at the cost of environment, it should not be presumed that a reconciliation of the two is not possible.“
The size of India and its population, and its anticipated growth, combined with the understandable desire to at least ameliorate, if not eradicate, poverty, make this a difficult, if not impossible, circle to square:
“India accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area, but supports around 17.5% of the world population. It houses the largest proportion of global poor (30%), around 24% of the global population without access to electricity (304 million), about 30% of the global population relying on solid biomass for cooking and 92 million without access to safe drinking water. The average annual energy consumption in India in 2011 was only 0.6 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per capita as compared to global average of 1.88 toe per capita. It may also be noted that no country in the world has been able to achieve a Human Development Index of 0.9 or more without an annual energy availability of at least 4 toe per capita. With a HDI of 0.586 and global rank of 135, India has a lot to do to provide a dignified life to its population and meet their rightful aspirations.“
“Given the development agenda in a democratic polity, the infrastructure deficit represented by different indicators, the pressures of urbanization and industrialization and the imperative of sustainable growth, India faces a formidable and complex challenge in working for economic progress towards a secure future for its citizens.”
There then follows a table of “key macro indicators”, which are truly problematic. Population projected to grow from 1.2Bn to 1.5Bn (that’s an increase of 300 million people, in case the use of billions lulls one into a false sense of small numbers) in just 16 years between 2014 and 2030. Over almost the same period (2011-2030), the numbers living in urban areas are expected to jump from 377 million to 609 million. Crucially, electricity demand (Twh) is expected to more than treble from 776 in 2012 to 2499 in 2030.
It is hardly surprising then that the NDC makes no reference to GHG emissions in absolute terms, or even against a Business as Usual scenario, since on either basis, emissions are bound to increase exponentially. Instead they choose to talk about “reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP“. This is of course progress of a sort, but far from reducing emissions, it will see them increase hugely, just not by as much as might otherwise have been the case. The extent to which emissions will skyrocket becomes clear by a quick look at some simple numbers. Their key macro indicators include “Per capita GDP in USD (nominal)”, 1408 in 2014, happily increasing to 4205 in 2030. That looks like a trebling, which it is, broadly, on a per capita basis, but bearing in mind that the population is set to increase by 25% over broadly the same period it represents an increase of GDP of c. 370%.
Set against that is this INDC target:
“To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.”
Maths was never my strong point, but even if that optimistic level of emissions intensity reduction was achieved, it still looks to me like close to a doubling of emissions by 2030. Not very impressive in terms of “saving the planet”, albeit it might be a major achievement, given India’s issues. But what will it cost? This is the really scary bit:
“Preliminary estimates indicate that India would need around USD 206 billion (at 2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. Apart from this there will be additional investments needed for strengthening resilience and disaster management…. While this would evolve over time, a preliminary estimate suggests that at least USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030.”
Given that the USA seems to be expected to put up most of the funding, no wonder Trump decided to get out of the Paris Accords. Will Biden stump up?
The problem with sex
To my mind, India’s NDC neatly illustrates at least two of the failures of the Paris Agreement. The first is the question of population growth.
The Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers (aka IPCC AR5) is the bible of climate alarmists, so let’s see what it has to say about population growth as a driver of AGW. Population growth is another elephant in the room for those wanting to reduce GHG emissions, and one which the Paris Agreement (and the NDCs submitted under it) completely ignore.
Here are just a few quotes from AR5:
“SPM 1.2 Causes of climate change – Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth…“.
Page 5 – “Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades…“.
SPM 2.1 Key drivers of future climate – “…Anthropogenic GHG emissions are mainly driven by population size, economic activity, lifestyle, energy use, land use patterns, technology and climate policy.”
Page 20 – “Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, global emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.”
This represents one more example of the failure and pointlessness of the Paris Agreement – by the IPCC’s own reckoning, population growth is one of the biggest issues relating to GHG emissions, yet the Paris Agreement mentions it not once. It lacks so much as a mild encouragement to the Parties to control their growing populations. If populations continue to grow exponentially, then the Paris Agreement might as well be torn up, as significant population growth renders it utterly pointless. But the UN won’t go near that inconvenient truth. India’s NDC makes the point neatly. The critical takeaway from my analysis of India’s NDC is this one, and it bears repeating:
Its population is projected to grow from 1.2Bn to 1,5Bn, i.e. an increase of 300 million people, in just 16 years between 2014 and 2030. To put it another way, that’s an increase in 16 years equivalent to somewhere between four and five times the entire UK population. Over almost the same period (2011-2030), the numbers living in urban areas are expected to jump from 377 million to 609 million. Again, to put it into context, that’s an increased urban population in 20 years equivalent to between three and four times the entire UK population. Net zero in the UK anyone? What’s the point?
Money, money, money
The next issue raised by India’s NDC is that of finance. The key takeaway here was this one:
“…a preliminary estimate suggests that at least USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030.”
That’s an awful lot of money to be found by an increasingly cash-strapped post-covid international community.
In this context, the Green Climate Fund is worth looking at. From its website:
“Responding to the climate challenge requires collective action from all countries, cities, businesses, and private citizens. Among these concerted efforts, advanced economies have formally agreed to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020, from a variety of sources, to address the pressing mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries.
Governments also agreed that a major share of new multilateral, multi-billion dollar funding should be channelled through the Green Climate Fund. At the G7 Summit in June 2015, leaders emphasized GCF’s role as a key institution for global climate finance. Many developing countries, too, have explicitly expressed their expectations from the Fund in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).“
So, how’s that going?
“As of July 2017, the Green Climate Fund has raised USD 10.3 billion equivalent in pledges from 43 state governments. The objective is for all pledges to be converted into contribution agreements within one year from the time at which they are made.”
By 31st July 2020 this figure remained unchanged.
“As of July 2017, the Green Climate Fund has raised USD 24.3 million [this figure had increased to 35.4m by 31st July 2020] equivalent in pledges from 3 regional governments. The objective is for all pledges to be converted into contribution agreements within one year from the time at which they are made.”
“As of July 2017, the Green Climate Fund has raised USD 1.3 million equivalent in pledges from 1 municipal government. The objective is for all pledges to be converted into contribution agreements within one year from the time at which they are made.” [this figure remained unchanged as at 31st July 2020]
Thus, in the 3 years between July 2017 and July 2020 the Green Climate Fund obtained pledges of an extra $11.2M, on top of the $35.9m of pledges that had been made by July 2017. So it’s not going terribly well, especially against the requests for financial assistance in the NDCs, which make the hoped-for $100Bn per annum figure look like chicken feed. As things stand, it’s about $450Bn short.
By the way, the Green Climate Fund is based in South Korea which, by coincidence (or not) is the home country of Ban Ki-moon, who just happened to be Secretary-General of the UN when the Green Climate Fund was created…
Did someone mention coal?
This article is about some of the problems with the Paris Agreement, and an analysis of India’s NDC was the peg on which to hang that analysis. However, coal is so central to India’s NDC, that I could not finish without looking at this issue. The next time someone tries to tell you that India is cutting down on its use of coal, this should enable you to put them straight. Their actual policy is this:
“Clean Coal policies: Coal based power as of now accounts for about 60.8% (167.2 GW) of India’s installed capacity. In order to secure reliable, adequate and affordable supply of electricity, coal will continue to dominate power generation in future. Government of India has already taken several initiatives to improve the efficiency of coal based power plants and to reduce its carbon footprint. All new, large coal-based generating stations have been mandated to use the highly efficient supercritical technology. Renovation and Modernisation (R&M) and Life Extension (LE) of existing old power stations is being undertaken in a phased manner. About 144 old thermal stations have been assigned mandatory targets for improving energy efficiency.”
On 17th February 2021, Energy Voice produced an article headed “Coal use set to surge in India despite renewables boom“, and informed us that:
“Coal-fired power generation is projected to surge in India as the expanding wave of renewable energy capacity cannot keep up with electrification growth in the South Asian country, home to the world’s second biggest population.
India’s coal-fired power generation fell to a five-year low of 1,064 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2020 due to the Covid-19-induced slowdown. However, this was only a dip, as coal still makes up a gigantic 70% of the country’s total electricity production. Significantly, coal-fired power is set to come back with a vengeance, expanding by 43% to 1,523 TWh in 2037, when Rystad Energy expects coal power to finally peak.
Still, the surge in coal consumption is not unexpected. India’s power generation is set to grow exponentially to 3,565 TWh by 2037, more than double the level in 2020. Electricity production will already exceed 2,000 TWh from 2025 and is set to break the 3,000 TWh ceiling from 2034, as a result of an electrification boost and rapid economic expansion, the latest research from Rystad shows.
In fact, Rystad Energy expects India’s electricity generation to increase with an average yearly growth rate of 4.2%, effectively tripling its current level over the next 30 years.”
The problems just keep coming
There is no doubt that issues such as commitment to coal, having too much sex and not having enough money are massive issues for India’s NDC, making its aspirations almost certainly unachievable. But India is not alone in this respect. The costs of all the other NDCs, as well as the projected population growth of many countries, certainly justifies further investigation. However, transcending all of the above, there is one other fundamental problem that needs to be looked at: the question of lack of transparency implicit within the Paris Agreement process. Watch this space.