Feature

Can India keep its promises?

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Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1024-1027
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6264.1024

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Summary

India, a nation with Earth's third largest coal reserves, has been on course to eventually vie with China as the world's top greenhouse gas emitter. And it has long resisted calls to cap its future emissions, arguing that it has not historically contributed much to climate change, and will need "carbon space" in the future to grow its economy and lift hundreds of millions of people from poverty. At the Paris talks, however, India has pledged to take steps that would keep its per capita emissions well below China's for the foreseeable future. Those steps include deriving 40% of electric power capacity from fossil fuel–free sources by 2030, reducing its emissions intensity by 33% to 35% by 2030, and expanding forests to create a carbon sink capable of absorbing 2.5 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere. But analysts say some of these goals will be a stretch to achieve, and they also have helped spark a domestic debate over how these goals will improve life for India's citizens. Indeed, some critics argue that some of India's climate commitments could actually threaten equity, inclusiveness, and quality of life.

  • * Priyanka Pulla is a freelance writer in Bangalore, India.