COP26: India mocked for 'laughable' pledge to reach net zero in 50 years - 10 years after China

India has been mocked for committing to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2070 - a whole two decades after the target being set by G20 nations at the COP26 climate change summit and 10 years later than the world's biggest emitter China.

Scientists have warned that the world needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5C, beyond which increasingly dangerous climate impacts from weather extremes to rising seas will be felt.

India and China have pushed back against calls for all nations to hit the 2050 net-zero mark, which requires cutting pollution as much as possible and offsetting any that remains with action to absorb carbon such as restoring forests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his pledge against criticism that it's unambitious, telling world leaders in Glasgow that his country represents 17% of the world's population but is responsible for "only 5% of global emissions".

He claimed India is the "only big economy in the world that has delivered in both letter and spirit on its Paris commitments", as he pointed to the decarbonisation on India's railway system and an increase in the use of non-fossil fuel energy.

He said India would go further in reducing reliance on harmful energy sources, aiming to get half of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.

He also pledged that India will reduce its projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes between now and 2030, and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.

But, with India the third biggest polluter in the world, it's likely that leaders such as Boris Johnson will have been hoping for more ambitious targets.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said that the difference between the G20 target for net zero and India's 20 years later could be the "difference between possible salvation and inevitable catastrophe", according to many climate scientists.

He added that the pledge does not represent a good start for the COP26 summit.

Social media users mocked India's net zero pledge as "laughable", with one person saying "society will have broken down by then", and another suggesting "India may not be in existence in 2070", given how quickly the sea level is projected to rise if rising temperatures are not stopped.

On the other hand, however, ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana said climate experts are "more positive" about India's new target than one might expect.

"2070 net zero sounds far off," she said, "but the focus has been on short term plans and they have improved that".

Even if India had been more ambitious, the chances of COP26 achieving real change for Earth appear rather slim, with two huge players not present at the summit.

Neither President Xi Jinping of China nor President Vladimir Putin of Russia are at the summit, meaning it is unlikely other countries around the world will be able to mitigate their impact and solve the climate crisis.

Mr Modi demanded developed countries make $1 trillion available as climate finance "as soon as possible today".

Giving a speech on India's national climate action, he told world leaders: "I am sure that the decisions taken in Glasgow will safeguard the future of generations to come and give them a safe and prosperous life."

Reacting to Mr Modi's new net zero target, Ulka Kelkar, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) India, said the pledges were significantly more ambitious than its current national climate plans under the Paris Agreement, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

"These will take the country on a low-carbon development pathway and give strong signals to every sector of industry and society.

"Meeting these targets will not be a simple matter and will require additional investments and supporting policies," she said.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

Back to top

What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

Back to top