TERI's projections on India's future emissions scares the World

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), today ‘visibly alarmed” delegates attending the 14th Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) by announcing that India’s emissions will increase by more than seven times under business as usual scenario (if nothing is done to curb the emissions) from the existing levels by 2031/32. This was announced by TERI at the side event it had organised to present the findings of a modelling exercise it had undertaken to project the different energy and emissions scenario for India till 2031/32.

TERI’s projections were questioned by many including the panel members invited at the side event. Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), a panel member at the TERI’s event, contradicted TERI’s projections by stating that it was almost double than what has been projected by the IEA. The event was chaired byR. K. Pachauri, director general of TERI and the chairman of Intergovernmental panel on climate change.

TERI in its study has considered four alternative energy development scenarios. The Reference scenario is business as usual scenario; in Evolution scenario it has assumed that energy security concerns are paramount and there is a determined effort to improve energy efficiency and accelerated push for renewable and nuclear energy; the Resolution scenario is constructed around the statement of the prime minister of India in which he committed that India’s per capita carbon emissions would not exceed those of the developed world; and the Ambitious scenario is one in which India sets aside its stand on common but differentiated responsibility and equitable per capita rights and takes on stringent emission reduction targets.

According to TERI’s projections India’s commercial energy demand in Reference scenario would increase by almost seven times by 2031/32, with coal accounting for close to 60 per cent of the total energy. Under this scenario India’s per capita CO2 emission reaches 5 tonnes per year. This is far higher than all estimates done so far by various national and international organisations on projected CO2 emissions from India in business as usual scenario.

Under the Ambitious scenario, India’s CO2 emission doubles to around 2 billon tonnes in 2031/32 and per capita emission reaches 1.2 tonnes per annum. Under this scenario, India takes stringent emission reduction commitments. To meet these commitments, according to TERI’s projections, India will need to install 700,000 MW of solar energy (India does not even have 100 MW currently), more than 50,000 MW of nuclear energy (current capacity is less than 5000 MW) and 150,000 MW of hydropower (five times the current capacity and communities are opposing all large hydro projects across the country). Under this scenario, India will need close to $10 trillion (10 times its current annual GDP) to setup its energy generation infrastructure till 2036/37.

TERI, however, recommends the Resolution scenario, under which India’s CO2 emission triples to around 3 billon tonnes in 2031/32; per capita emission reaches 1.9 tonnes per annum and commercial energy requirement is almost half the business as usual scenario. Under this scenario, about 75 per cent of India’s commercial energy is met from fossil fuels and the rest from renewables (mainly solar), nuclear and hydro power. India will need in excess $6 trillion to implement this scenario. How this money will come and from where, TERI has not provided much details. It has only recommended programmatic CDM financing and technology transfer in its proposal.

Many Indian delegates present at the event privately disagreed with TERI’s findings and questioned its motive to present the questionable findings at the COP. Some even believed that these results will be used by the developed countries to push India to take binding emission reduction targets and thereby jeopardise Indian governments negotiating position.