India and 73 other countries submitted their carbon emission reduction targets for 2025 and 2030—or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—ahead of the deadline last week, with just two months remaining until talks to confront climate change are due to begin in Paris. 

The United Nations (UN) has so far received 120 separate pledges covering 147 countries that produce about 85% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Countries that submit their INDC after the deadline will not be included in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change synthesis report to be released Nov. 1. The Paris summit, which will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, could finalize the world’s first legally binding climate change agreement among participating nations.

According to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a coalition of four research organizations that monitor the INDCs, the government climate action plans could bring projected global warming down to 2.7C.

“This is the first time since 2009, when the CAT began calculating temperature estimates from climate action pledges, that projected warming has dipped below [3C],” it said.

The biggest contributing factors to the change in temperature estimates since talks concluded last December in Lima—when it was 3.1C—are China and India’s pledges, CAT added.

Banking on China and India

China’s INDC, submitted on June 29, pledged that the world’s most populated country would cut its carbon emissions relative to its gross domestic product (GDP) by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level by 2030. China had in 2009 pledged to cut emissions by 40% to 45% from the 2005 level by 2020, a level it is close to achieving—current emissions are 33.8% below the 2005 level.

India’s pledge, submitted on Oct. 1, aims to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level, and to increase its share of electricity produced by non-fossil fuels to 40% by 2030. About 60% of country’s current total power capacity is coal-fired and about 30% is from renewables, including hydro.

It also agreed to enhance its forest cover to absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.

However, as it submitted its pledge, the country underscored that meeting these goals will be costly, estimating at least $2.5 trillion will be needed between now and 2030. India also reiterated that it would need international finance and technology support to meet its climate goals.

Another Effort to Trim India’s Coal-Fired Plant Carbon Emissions

India has already announced a renewables target of 175 GW by 2022, and if it achieves that, experts say the country will surpass its announced climate goal, achieving a 41.5% reduction in emissions intensity of GDP by 2030.

The country has, meanwhile, rolled out a number of measures to pare its dependence on coal-fired power generation. Those include an April 2015 decree from the Ministry of Power that every new coal-fired power plant would have to be built with a renewable plant of at least 10% of the generating capacity. In May, the government proposed new environmental regulations targeting coal plants, tightening particulate emissions, and—for the first time ever—requiring coal plants to curb emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. It has also implemented a coal tax and encouraged states to shut down more than 36 GW of inefficient coal power plants and replace them with supercritical units.

Forecasts suggest that India’s electricity market will get exponentially larger to meet the soaring demands of its growing population, which could surpass China’s by 2028.

According to New Delhi–based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India’s targets seem ambitious, but they are “fair,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general in a statement on Oct. 1. “From all angles, India’s INDC is as good as China’s and better than the U.S.’s considering that both these countries have higher emissions than India and are economically more capable of reducing their emissions and mitigating climate change,” he said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)