The world’s second-most populous nation, whose economy has been growing at a frenetic pace, creating a huge middle class, and spiralling demand for electricity and factories to feed export growth is creating a huge emission problem. As fuel imports grow and demand for cars surges, analysts say the country is likely to face pressure to join rich nations in their efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Kyoto climate change protocol that comes into force on Feb. 16.
"There is already global pressure on developing countries to accept some kind of commitment so greenhouse gas emissions decelerate in terms of growth," said KP.Nyati, an environment expert at top lobby group Confederation of Indian Industry. "If at all India accepts any targets it will be in per capita terms, not per nation emissions."
India, with a billion people, is one of the world’s bigger polluters and is projected to account for a larger share of global carbon emissions as its economy expands. But it has no obligation to cut emissions under Kyoto’s first phase to 2012. Under the agreement, developed nations will aim to reduce greenhouse gas output by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2008-12, but developing nation such as India and China are exempt from the treaty’s emission targets because they said their economies would take a serious hit if they were to change their energy policies.
Meanwhile, a UN study has warned that a two-mile-thick cloud of pollution shrouding southern Asia is threatening the lives of millions of people. The cloud, a toxic cocktail of ash, acidic compounds, aerosols and other particles, is damaging agriculture and changing rainfall patterns across the region, which stretches from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka. Even so, while India’s cities may be hugely polluted because of the furious pace of industrialisation, the country’s per capita emissions were still relatively low at 0.25 tonnes of carbon in 2001, which is less than a quarter of the world average and 22 times less than the United States.
At the same time, India’s contribution to world carbon emissions is expected to grow at an average 3 percent a year until 2025 compared with 1.5 percent in the United States because of ambitions expansion plans in the power sector. "Pressure on India can come in trade and investment to make India agree to targets," said Kalipada Chatterjee, head of the climate change centre at Development Alternatives, a leading non-governmental organisation. "But developing countries like India won’t be able to agree to any commitments before 2050 because that’s when their economies would have developed."
With the Indian economy expected to steam ahead at about 6.5 percent a year, the country’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters will be the power, cement and transport sectors, among the drivers of growth. Energy-deficient India aims to add 100,000mW of power by 2012, of which at least half will be from fossil-based fuels.