Journal Articles

India’s energy and emissions future: An interpretive analysis of model scenarios

Navroz K Dubash, Radhika Khosla, Ankit Bhardwaj

Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 7, IOP Publishing Ltd.

July 4, 2018

As a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, but also as a developing country starting from a low emissions base, India is an important actor in global climate change mitigation. However, perceptions of India vary widely, from an energy-hungry climate deal-breaker to a forerunner of a low carbon future. Developing clarity on India’s energy and emissions future is challenged by the uncertainties of India’s development transitions, including its pathway through a demographic and urban transition within a rapidly changing policy context. Model-based scenario analyses provide widely varying projections, in part because they make differing assumptions, often implicit, about these transitions. To address the uncertainty in India’s energy and emissions future, this letter applies a novel interpretive approach to existing scenario studies. First, we make explicit the implied development, technology and policy assumptions underlying model-based analysis in order to cluster and interpret results. In a second step, we analyse India’s current policy landscape and use that as a benchmark against which to judge scenario assumptions and results. Using this interpretive approach, we conclude that, based on current policies, a doubling of India’s CO2 energy-related emissions from 2012 levels is a likely upper bound for its 2030 emissions and that this trajectory is consistent with meeting India’s Paris emissions intensity pledge. Because of its low emissions starting point, even after a doubling, India’s 2030 per capita emissions will be below today’s global average and absolute emissions will be less than half of China’s 2015 emissions from the same sources. The analysis of recent policy trends further suggests a lower than expected electricity demand and a faster than expected transition from coal to renewable electricity. The letter concludes by making an argument for interpretive approaches as a necessary complement to scenario analysis, particularly in rapidly changing development contexts.

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