India doesn’t report its carbon emissions clearly, so we did

India’s carbon inventories lack clarity and up-to-date information, but a new research effort shows where its biggest challenges lie

agricultural emissions in india
Agricultural emissions in India are going down (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

— India has ambitious climate change targets. However, existing inventories of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions don’t cover recent years and lack clarity about methodologies and data sources, hampering the design of effective climate policies.

To fill this gap, WRI India worked with other civil society institutions to facilitate the GHG Platform India, which documents GHG emissions at a more granular level. The data is also more recent than other available offerings. We use the years 2005 to 2013 for this analysis. 2005 is the base year for India’s Paris pledges; 2013 is the most recent year for which reliable data for key economic sectors exist. The analysis will be updated as new data becomes reliable, which usually takes three to four years.

This platform provides the best existing picture of India’s emissions – and, therefore, helps prioritize pathways to reduce pollution and meet climate goals. Here’s what we can learn about India’s GHG emissions.

India’s emissions grew faster than their population (but are still low per capita compared to countries like US and China)

From 2005 to 2013, India emitted 20.54 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), with emissions growing annually by 5.57%. Emissions per capita grew, too, by 4.07% annually. In the year 2013, India emitted 2.8 gigatons CO2e – less than the U.S. (6.2 gigatons CO2e) or China (11 gigatons CO2e). Per capita emissions also track well behind these nations.

Two-thirds of Indian emissions came from the energy sector

68% of India’s emissions between 2005-2013 came in from the energy sector, more than three times the second-largest (the industry sector). Energy-related emissions continue to dominate, with its percentage share within overall national emissions remaining more or less constant (62% in 2005 to 63% in 2013) over the years.

Within the energy-sector, about 77% comes from electricity generation, mainly due to the current fuel-mix within domestic installed capacities. Emissions are expected to decline due to various considerations outlined by the National Electricity Plan, including adoption of cleaner technologies, a moratorium on adding new coal-based capacity, the ambitious goal of updating the fuel-mix to 40% non-fossil modes by 2020 and overall packages on resource and energy efficiency.

Industrial emissions grew 8.89% annually from 2005-2013

Four-fifths of industrial GHG emissions came from coal consumption. But India has committed to reduce the emission intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33 to 35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. Simultaneously, India also has ambitions to increase its overall manufacturing base. Efficiency gains and changes in the fuel mix can significantly reduce the GHG emission intensity while increasing the overall manufacturing output.

Relative changes in fuel prices were also found to be significant driver towards the cleaner fuel shifts observed within the industry sector. The majority of the uptake of natural gas is in states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, owing to the available infrastructure (pipelines). Having said that, the Indian industrial sector uses gas as feedstock and heating fuel, traditionally due to limited domestic gas availability. Hence, transitions to cleaner fuel were not strong enough to make a significant cut in the share of coal use by industries.

Further, schemes like Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT)—a regulatory instrument designed to reduce energy consumption in energy-intensive industries—shall play a key role in reducing the GHG emissions from energy-intensive industries.

India’s land-use emissions, which mostly come from agriculture, are declining

Emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land-use (AFOLU) declined slightly, by 1.95% annually. This marginal decline can be attributed primarily to stagnation in the growth of population of cattle (livestock) and an increase in removals from the forestry sector. Emissions from agriculture are dominated by two sources, livestock and rice cultivation, which together accounted for about 80% of the total AFOLU emissions for 2005 to 2013.

Aggregated numbers show that India has maintained forest and tree cover, resulting in a growing land carbon sink. The nation aims to create a total carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 gigatons of CO2e through afforestation. (These numbers include plantations of coconut, rubber and other commodities against countervailing loss of natural forests.)

Waste sector emissions growth should abate soon

Solid waste and wastewater management remains poorly addressed across India. Accordingly, waste sector emissions grew 4% annually from 2005-2013. However, solid waste and waste water management are key components of the government of India’s big-ticket development programs such as the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), the Urban Infrastructure Governance (UIG) and the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT).

Additionally, revised Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules in 2016 and an increased focus on “waste to wealth” should result in reduction of GHG emissions in this sector.

Where we are shows where we can go

GHG Platform India’s recent analysis on independent assessment of GHG emissions for key economic sectors provides a basis for focusing on immediate hot spots, such as electricity generation and fossil fuel consumption in manufacturing industries, and reducing GHG emissions.

Moreover, the analysis by GHG Platform India could complement the efforts of the government of India in meeting with the Paris Agreement’s requirement for all parties to regularly provide a national inventory of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Further, such analysis will help devising scalable, best-practice policies for climate change mitigation, leading to implementation of Paris Agreement.

Now that the first global stocktaking exercise of the Paris Agreement has officially begun with the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue, the role of non-state actors and civil societies is becoming more and more clear. This independent assessment by GHG Platform India provides the most recent information on GHG emissions for India and helps to answer one of the three key questions the dialogue intends to cover: “Where are we?”


by Subrata Chakrabarty | Climate Home News