India’s low-carbon transition

By Divya Sharma, India Executive Director at the Climate Group, Damandeep Singh, Director, India at CDP and Joe Phelan, Director at WBCSD India | August 26, 2020

India is at a critical moment in history where it has the power to create a thriving, innovative net-zero carbon economy. Governments, businesses and sector experts are coming forward with commitments and solutions for clean policy, investment and technology. Now, as we enter a new phase of recovery, and in the first year of the Climate Decade – what more can India do to drive low-carbon development?

India, like many other nations, is working hard to minimize the impact of the coronavirus. In the first months of the virus breaking, we have seen significant investments towards health and recovery across regions in the country. As we move toward medium- and long-term recovery, it is crucial we adopt a lens of low-carbon development to drive climate action, fast.

Aligning a green lens to economic recovery in India, post-COVID, will help us address the challenges of still being vulnerable to a changing climate, while addressing challenges of food and water security, rebuilding health and education systems as well as creating jobs and innovative technology that increases efficiency while drastically reducing carbon emissions.

Clean and efficient energy and mobility

Clean and efficient energy and mobility offers us opportunities to drastically reduce carbon emissions while significantly contributing to GDP growth. Renewable power demand in India is set to grow seven times faster than other energy sources by the middle of the century, while smart mobility is seen as a significant lever to enhance livelihoods in cities. Investing in renewables and e-mobility now will help us future-proof these systems, and with much lower emissions, ensuring greater health and prosperity for the people in India.

So far, India is committed to have a national grid with 40% installed electric capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030, under the Paris Agreement. As of March 2020, the country already stood at 24% (87GW) of renewable energy installed capacity (not including large hydro projects).

India has also kick-started the e-mobility transition with the Government of India entering the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles scheme – FAME II. The scheme works to promote the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles by providing capital subsidies and drive action on State-led EV policies.

While the government has taken initial steps to positively endorse renewable power and e-mobility, businesses too are playing a major role in accelerating demand signals and shifting perspectives in the market. Companies have demonstrated their capability and willingness to step up at this critical moment, acting responsibly and pulling together resources to protect people and communities.

Twenty business leaders from India have signed a ‘call to action’ statement coordinated by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) that outlines priorities for repurposing business activity to stimulate green growth and create a more resilient India in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It calls for a collective effort and active participation from corporate India, working alongside government and civil society, in order to achieve inclusive growth and emissions reductions in line with the Paris Agreement. 

Businesses are vital partners, to both governments and the local communities they serve, in the global effort to combat the coronavirus and the impacts of climate change.

We Mean Business coalition in India

As the We Mean Business Coalition in India, we find ourselves in a unique position in bringing together these power houses for India to accelerate signals of change for renewable energy and e-mobility. The coalition, using its various strengths, have united in engaging Indian business, policy makers and other stakeholders to help develop low-carbon markets.

In the last year, we have seen more Indian companies get on board in their commitment towards renewable power and electric mobility. We have more than 40 RE100 companies with operations in India moving their operations to renewable energy with Infosys, Dalmia Cement, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts and Tata Motors – as Indian-headquartered companies. Now more than ever, and despite the setbacks of the ongoing pandemic, these companies are not stepping back in their commitment to accelerate the transition to clean energy systems and meeting their sustainability goals.

EV100 and REMobility initiatives are working closely together to help companies commit to transitioning their vehicle fleet to fully electric, while creating practical roadmaps to reach this goal.

EV100 now has six Indian companies committing to electric mobility – shifting the likes of 27,000 vehicles to electric. We are also working closely with Indian state governments in understanding their requirements for the electric mobility transition and facilitating knowledge and awareness to help them make the transition happen.

Indian companies have propelled India to the leadership group in planning urgent climate action. So much so, that at present, India is the fifth country and the first developing economy with the maximum number of companies committing to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). By July 2020, 47 Indian companies committed to this bold initiative out of which 14 companies have got their targets approved by the initiative. Companies especially the Automobiles and Components sector are showing increased awareness and a few in the Real Estate sector are aligning with 1.5ºC ambition.

What next?

The next 10 years are crucial to India stepping up action and commitment to address climate change. We know the opportunities for renewable power and electric mobility in a rapidly growing Indian market (not completely phased by the pandemic). We now have to set ourselves to collectively – businesses, governments and sector experts – identify the gaps in driving clean energy and mobility and find innovative solutions to address these. Decisions taken today will set the strategic direction and preparedness of the economy against future crises for years to come.