Net-Zero: India's Target Is 2070 but Where Does the Rest of the World Stand?
More than 100 nations have set 2050 as their target, but just over a dozen are bound to it by their own law.
The Quint DAILY
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Speaking at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the two-week conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set 2070 as the target year to achieve India's net-zero emissions target.
It is not going to be easy, as Sadhika Tiwari of The Quint explains here.
If you're yet to familiarise yourself with the term 'net-zero', you can gain a better understanding of it by watching this video, because you're going to come across it more and more.
Until now, India was the only G20 member nation and the largest emitter of greenhouses gases that was yet to declare a net-zero emissions target.
China and the United States (US), who are the largest and second largest carbon emitters in the world respectively, have already set 2060 and 2050 as their respective targets.
As of today, 138 countries and the European Union (EU) have made some sort of commitment to carbon neutrality, based on the consistent tracking done by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
Other countries, like Poland, Iraq, and Jordan have not set any net-zero targets.
In fact, Poland is the only EU member that does not have any timeline to achieve carbon neutrality, BBC reported.
Which are the countries that have committed to net-zero emissions and how strong are their commitments? How varied are the carbon neutrality targets set by them?
Differing Levels of Commitment
Different countries have different types of obligations with respect to reaching the net-zero targets set by them.
Before moving on to any other country, there are two countries that deserve the first mention.
As of 2021, Bhutan and Suriname are the only two countries from the 138, and by extension, the only two countries in the world that have reached their goal of being carbon net-zero.
How they managed to achieve this feat is beyond the scope of this article.
But briefly put, it was a combination of three reasons – structural factors like small land area that is also densely forested, the dependence of the local population on vegetation for subsistence and survival, and state policies that protected forests and vegetation from being cleared for development, according to Climate Council.
The other 136 nations on the list that have declared a net-zero target have varying levels of commitment, the strongest commitment being of those whose targets are now enshrined in their domestic laws.
As of today, 13 out of the total 138 countries and the EU are bound by their own law to the net-zero targets that they have set for themselves.
For example, in June this year, the Bundestag or the German parliament amended their federal climate action law and changed their net-zero deadline from 2050 to 2045, after a constitutional court ruled that Germany's current law was insufficient to tackle climate change, The Economist reported.
Another example is that of Canada, whose parliament introduced and passed the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, that "legally bind[s] the Government to a process to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050," according to the official website of the Government of Canada.
Some of the other 11 countries that are part of this elite list are the United Kingdom (UK), France, Japan, and Hungary.
The remainder of the 126 nations are divided into two categories – those that have a policy document for their net-zero target, and those that have only made a declaration or a pledge to achieve net-zero by a certain year.
Forty-five countries belong to the first group, that is, their road map to net-zero is laid out on paper.
For example, China has included its net-zero strategy in its 14th Five-Year Plan, where it states that it will focus "on achieving carbon neutrality by 2060."
In the case of the US, the White House published a policy document yesterday, 1st November, titled THE LONG-TERM STRATEGY OF THE UNITED STATES: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050.
The remaining countries on the list don't have any formal document that lays out their path to net-zero, but have made verbal pledges, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi did, on behalf of India, at COP26.
Some other nations in this category are Russia, Australia, and Pakistan, who have announced a target for net-zero, but have not adopted a formal policy to meet this target.
Variations in Targets
From the list of 138, a large number of nations, 126, including the EU (and excluding Bhutan and Suriname) have chosen the year 2050 to achieve their net-zero emissions target.
The year 2050 being such a popular target can be traced back to the previous, COP25 that was held in Madrid, Spain in December 2019, under the presidency of the Chilean government.
During COP25, the Climate Ambition Alliance was announced, which is a coalition of not just countries but also businesses and cities that are striving towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
As of now, the alliance consists of 126 countries spanning across all continents. Some of these are the US, the UK, Sudan, Japan, and Chile.
There are countries however, whose targets are before and after 2050.
Austria and Iceland have set the year 2040 to achieve their net-zero emissions targets, while Germany, Sweden, and Nepal are eyeing 2045 for the same.
On the other hand, there are eight countries whose targets go beyond 2050, out of which seven are looking at 2060 to achieve carbon neutrality.
The seven are Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and Indonesia.
Only one country has chosen to go even beyond 2060, which is India, whose target is the year 2070.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, however, defended it, claiming that the country has abided by the climate promises of the Paris Agreement "in spirit and letter", Reuters reported.
He further pointed out that India consists of 17 percent of the world's population but was responsible for merely 5 percent of the total carbon emissions on earth.
You can watch the full speech here.
Scientists, however, remain sceptical, arguing that India's target is 20 years too many with respect to what is needed to avert a climate disaster.
Whether their predictions turn out to be accurate or not is something that the next generation will find out.
(With inputs from Reuters, BBC, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, Climate Council, The Economist, and the websites of The White House and the Government of Canada.)
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