This is a chart of the total GHGs in the world, by country, as of 2011. This, including greenhouse gases from land-use change, amounts to about 46 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. (The brilliant folks at the World Resources Institute have made this very valuable “climate data explorer,” CAIT 2.0 available to everyone.) As you no doubt know – and can see clearly from the chart – China and the US account for 36% of the world’s annual output of GHGs. India, although much less of a contributor, is still responsible for more than 5% of the problem.
It was thus very, very significant that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi announced that they “…plan to cooperate closely this year to achieve a successful and ambitious agreement in Paris.” Paris, of course, is where many people continue to hope that the world will conclude a substantial agreement on lowering greenhouse gas emissions this coming December. Those hopes were appreciably boosted in November with the breakthrough announcement of a new, more committed approach from China. That put pressure on some of the other major economies that had been lagging, India not the least among them.
The news from India is good in several ways and on several fronts. For one thing, it appears that the bad news for the coal industry continues to grow. As the good folks at Renew Economy put it: India and US agree: Coal is not the answer. As reported in November by the same folks, the US-China agreement would, according to Citigroup in Australia, translate into a $1.6 trillion hit against Big Coal. This new accord is not going to advance the financial prospects for coal either. Bad news for coal is good news for the climate system.
Another outcome from India this week was the full embrace by Modi and his government of the need to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) quickly. These are a powerful greenhouse gas. The UN and most of the world scientific community acknowledge the need to fast track the phasing out of HFCs.
This fact sheet from the White House details the key components of climate and clean energy cooperation between the US and India. There is now, clearly, better understanding between the two countries on climate. As Scientific American reports here, Obama felt good about things. “The prime minister and I made a personal commitment to work together to pursue a strong global climate agreement in Paris. As I indicated to him, I think India’s voice is very important on this issue. Perhaps no country could potentially be more affected by the impacts of climate change, and no country is going to be more important in moving forward a strong agreement than India.” And Bloomberg quotes Modi here: “When we think about the future generations and what kind of a world we are going to give them, then there is pressure. Global warming is a huge pressure.”
The key, of course, for India, the US and China, is making the transition, and quickly, to renewable energy. India has been ramping up its commitment to renewables – and significantly. They have recently said they’re going to have 100 gigawatts of installed capacity in wind by 2022, adding to the 100 GW of solar they’re targeting for the same time. That wind and solar together is 80% of the total installed capacity of all power generation they have today. The boost from the new agreements with the US should help provide money and momentum for that quantum leap.
And the political momentum from the meetings and announcements in India should further propel the transition from our fuel-based energy economies to those based on technology – not to mention environmental sanity.