Green House Gas Emissions in India

By: Staff Reporter
Until recently, most emission studies carried out in developed countries have applied techniques that do not necessarily reflect ground realities in developing countries. To develop a fact-based perspective on climate change in India, Ministry of Environment and Forests recently supported a set of independent studies.
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The international debate on climate change is influenced to a significant extent by studies that estimate the green house gas (GHG) emission trajectories of the major economies of the world. These studies are based on detailed energy-economy models that project global, regional or country-wise GHG emissions. Until recently, most of these studies have been carried out in developed countries that have often applied assumptions and techniques that do not necessarily reflect the ground realities in developing countries. With a view to develop a fact-based perspective on climate change in India, the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) supported a set of independent studies by leading economic institutions.

Anthropogenic climate change poses perhaps the most complex policy issue faced by the global community, fraught with existential consequences for humankind and major implications for the future division of global economic labour. Policy analysis in this field involves multidisciplinary inputs – from climate science, technology, economics, and ethics, besides international law and politics.

Mitigation of GHG emissions, beyond a modest level, will involve appreciable economic costs to a society. On the other hand, the adverse impacts of climate change would be felt in diverse sectors which are at the core of livelihood concerns, especially of the poor – agriculture, water resources, coastal resources, vector borne disease, ‘natural’ calamities, etc. Assessment of the costs of GHG mitigation on an economy-wise basis, identifying the technologies that would need to be deployed, and assessment of the losses from climate change impacts, or alternatively, the costs of adaptation activities, are critical inputs to climate policy making. Much of the global debate on climate change has been driven by the results of several types of complex analytical models. In the absence of a critical mass of model based studies from India and other developing countries, the terms of the debate have tended to be driven by researchers from the developed countries.

With a view to making a contribution to the global debate, as well as providing such assessments for national policy making on a formal basis, using rigorous, defensible methodologies, and nationally sourced data and estimated parameters, the MoEF launched and supported a Climate Change Modelling Forum in 2006. In its present phase, the Forum comprises of three national economic-energy-technology models that are partly linked, to study different types of policy questions on GHG mitigation. The models work under common and consistent sets of assumptions, and are designed to examine alternative policy scenarios in terms of their implications for the levels of energy requirements, the changes in socio-economic outcomes, environmental impacts resulting from different energy utilisation patterns, investment requirements, etc. This initiative is aimed to better reflect the policy and regulatory structure in India, and its specific climate change vulnerabilities. The studies, which use distinct methodologies, are based on the development of energy-economic and impact models that enable an integrated assessment of India’s GHG emissions profile, mitigation options and costs, as well as the economic and food security implications.

The report titled, India’s GHG Emissions Profile, Results of Five Climate Modelling Studies, summarises the initial results of five studies. NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) estimates its results on the basis of a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model study. The CGE model may be employed to run various simulations of policy interest. TERI (The Energy Research Institute)-MoEF has built a market allocation (MARKAL) model, while an activity analysis (AA) model study has been undertaken by the Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe). Another MARKAL model based study was developed by TERI and presented at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP) on Climate Change at Poznan. The fifth study is by McKinsey and Company which entails a detailed sector by sector analysis of GHG emissions.

The studies have differences in model structure, specific model assumptions and parameters, as well as some differences in the definitions. The results relate to India’s emissions profile over the next two decades.

Article 4 Graph 1 & 2

Key Results

Estimates of India’s per capita GHG emissions in 2030-31 vary from 2.77 tons to 5 tons of CO2e (1 ton of carbon is equivalent to 3.67 tons of CO2e), with four of the five studies, estimating that India’s GHG emission per capita will stay under 4 tons per capita. The McKinsey study estimates include CH4 emissions from agriculture, not taken into account in the other models. The TERI-Pozan study projects the 2031 emissions at 5 tons per-capita, i.e. a little above the 2005 global average (Graph 1). This may be compared to the 2005 global average per capita GHG emissions of 4.22 tons of CO2e per capita. In other words, four out of the five studies project that even two decades from now, India’s per capita GHG emissions would be well below the present per capita global average.

In absolute terms, estimates of India’s GHG emissions in 2031 vary from 4.0 billion tons to 7.3 billion tons of CO2e, with four of the five studies estimating that even two decades from now, India’s total GHG emissions will remain under 6 billion tons of CO2e (Graph 2). All studies show evidence of a substantial and continuous decline in India’s energy and CO2 intensity in GDP. The key drivers of the range of these estimates are the assumptions on GDP growth rates, penetration of clean energy, assumed energy efficiency improvements etc. There are also justifiable differences in model assumptions, model structure and data, and scenario definitions. It is therefore neither feasible nor advisable to define a single ‘baseline’ for India’s GHG emissions.


End Note

The results of 4 of the 5 studies, which vary in terms of model structure/methodology, assumptions, and data, with a common feature is that no new GHG mitigation policies are put in place, show that there would be no sizeable leap in CO2e emissions in the country. The results should set at rest any apprehensions that India’s GHG emissions are poised for runaway increase over the next two decades. On the other hand, the
structure of the economy, policy and regulatory regime, and energy endowments, together ensure that India’s growth over the next two decades, while rapid, would remain inherently sustainable. The fact that significant differences still arise between the results of the different studies show that it is not feasible to unambiguously define any ‘business-as-usual’ GHGs trajectory for the country. India’s energy use patterns and GHG emissions profile will continue to be among the most sustainable in the world for the next generation. The next step will involve modelling of mitigation options and costs, as well as the economic and food security implications of climate change on India. These are under investigation by the Climate Modelling Forum and will be published in subsequent reports.


 Source: India’s GHG Emissions Profile, Results of Five Climate Modelling Studies, Climate Modelling Forum, India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, September 2009 (MoEF/2009-10/3)


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