India is a low-intensity producer of carbon dioxide

India is a low-intensity producer of carbon dioxide
Published: 02 October 2007

As world leaders meet this week in New York and Washington to discuss
climate change and ways to mitigate its effects, the discussion frequently
turns to the large, fast-growing economies such as China and India who are,
and are likely to be, among the largest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) and
other greenhouse gases.  But despite being the world’s second most populous
country and fourth largest economy, India’s CO2 emissions are still only
one-fifth that of the U.S. or China.  Furthermore, India is one of the
lowest-intensity producers of CO2 among the large countries. India’s
per-capita emissions of CO2 is about one metric ton per person, compared
with 4 as the world average, 9 for the United Kingdom and 20 for the US.  In
a group of 70 of the world’s largest emitters, India ranks in the bottom 10.
In terms of carbon emissions per unit of GDP (measured at Purchasing Power
Parity, or PPP), too, India is virtually the lowest among comparator
countries (see chart).  Finally, unlike in other countries, India’s carbon
intensity did not rise as economic growth accelerated in the last decade.

The reasons for India’s low carbon intensity have much to do with the low
access to electricity.  Four hundred million Indians lack access to
electricity (as opposed to 100 million Africans), 600 million cook with
biomass, and rural electrification rates in the most populous states such as
Bihar (10 percent) and Uttar Pradesh (18 percent) are considerably below the
African average (21 percent).  This means that any effort to slow the growth
of CO2 emissions in India will have to be matched by a strategy of giving
poor people greater access to electricity.  India’s own energy strategy
articulated in the Integrated Energy Policy report (2006) and 11th Plan
seeks to do this by augmenting clean and efficient supply of energy,
increasing end-use energy efficiency, deepening sectoral reforms and
protecting the environment. In short, India has a real chance to set an
inspiring example of rapid “climate-responsible” growth.