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What Does Decarbonisation Mean?

Decarbonisation is the process under which carbon dioxide emissions (or its equivalents) are reduced to achieve a lower output of greenhouse gasses. As per the Paris Agreement, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide from transport and power generation is essential to meet global temperature standards. This process involves in particular using renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biomass.

Efforts made to decarbonise have been put in place by various countries, with more than 150 governments having submitted plans to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

At COP26 in 2021, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi announced India’s aim to attain 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity and 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewables by 2030.

The reduction of Carbon dioxide emissions or Decarbonisation can be achieved with a focus on three important areas:-

  • Increasing renewable energy capacity,
  • Decarbonising emission-intensive sectors such as transportation, power generation, building/infrastructure sector, cement and construction sector
  • Creating more carbon sinks.

Sectors with potential for Decarbonisation projects:

The following Sectors including energy and land use act as a direct source of global emissions and have potential/opportunities (emission rates as per estimate in report by McKinsey and Company): 


India’s Statistics: 

India is the fourth largest emitter of CO2 after China, the United States and the European Union, and made up around 2 per cent of the total emissions in 2015 compared to 15.5 per cent by the U.S.

India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) also captures a citizen-centric approach to combat climate change, including lifestyle change.


As per India Third Biennial Update Report (BUR-3):- 

  • In 2016 India’s total GHG emissions, excluding Land Use Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) were 2,838.89 million tonnes of CO2e and 2,531.07 million tonnes of CO2e with the inclusion of LULUCF. Carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 2,231 million tonnes (78.59 per cent), methane emissions for 409 million tonnes of CO2e (14.43 per cent) and nitrous oxide emissions for 145 million tonnes of CO2e (5.12 per cent).
  • India has also reduced agricultural sector emissions in 2017-18 and 2018-19 as a result of various initiatives such as the expansion of area under horticulture, the system of rice intensification, neem-coated urea, direct seeded rice cultivation, solar pumps, micro-irrigation, balanced feedstock and bypass protein.

India's Current Carbon Emission Mix


Potential Decarbonisation Sectors in India: Current Statistics and its Plan

As per the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted by India to UNFCCC on October 2, 2015, out of eight goals three have quantitative targets up to 2030 namely:-


1.    Renewable energy sector:

  • India is implementing one of the largest renewable energy expansion programmes with a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and later up to 450 GW.
  • The installed capacity of solar energy in India has increased by more than 14 times from 2.63 GW in March 2014 to 36.91 GW in November 2020. 
  • As of 30 November 2020, the installed wind energy capacity was 38.43 GW.
  • The cumulative renewable power installed capacity (excluding hydro above 25 MW) has increased by 2.6 times from 35 GW in March 2014 to 90.39 GW in November 2020 and constitutes over 24 per cent of the country's installed power capacity. With the inclusion of large hydro, the total installed capacity would be 136 GW and the share of renewable energy in installed capacity would be over 36 per cent.
  • NITI Aayog report estimates that the sector requires $ 4.5 trillion to meet the infrastructure gap and increase the share of renewable energy to 50 per cent by 2030.
  • The latest Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, also specifies obligations for designated consumers (Designated consumers include: (i) industries such as mining, steel, cement, textile, chemicals and petrochemicals; (ii) transport sector including Railways; and (iii) commercial buildings) to use non-fossil sources of energy, which is expected to spur on demand for renewable energy. 

2.    Power sector:

  • By November 2020, the share of non-fossil sources in the installed capacity of electricity generation was 38.18 per cent.
  • Generation from renewable energy sources has doubled between 2014-15 and 2018-19 while the generation from non-renewable sources has increased by 19 per cent during the same period. This has been actively promoted by the “must run” status of renewable energy generation.
  • Coal will however continue to be an integral part of India’s energy requirements, both for electricity generation and non-electricity uses and remains essential for India’s developmental needs and energy security. This is in keeping with India’s claim to a fair share of the global carbon budget and India's significant underutilization of this share thus far.
  • India has a huge transmission network and synchronised grids for power transmission across the country. Thus India opens up for opportunity under OSOWOG (One Sun, One World, One Grid), launched by India at COP26 for renewable energy adoption.

3.    Creating more carbon sinks:

  • Forest and tree cover increased by 1.3 million ha between the 2015 and 2019 Forest Survey of India assessments. This is an increase of 1.65 per cent in forest and tree cover area. In the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019, the total carbon stock in forests was estimated as 7,124.6 million tonnes C or 26,124 MtCO2 showing an increase of 42.6 million tonnes C or 156.2 MtCO2 as compared to the last assessment in 2017. The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes C, which is 78.1 MtCO2.  
  • Forest and tree cover sequestered 331 MtCO2 in 2016 which is around 15 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions occurring in the country. India’s LULUCF sink (CO2 removal) is on the rise by 3.4 per cent between 2014 and 2016 and by approximately 40 per cent between 2000 and 2016. 
  • We need more carbon sinks like forests, oceans and wetlands, this is where we are dependent on the role of local communities 

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