25 July 2008

India Left Behind?

India recently set forth its National Action Plan on Climate Change (summary and link to whole plan here). It orders the various ministries to submit detailed implementation plans in each of eight mission areas by the end of this year. Although the plan contemplates no specific limits on Indian carbon emissions, and that development objectives have priority over limiting global warming, it pledges that India's per-capita greenhouse gas emissions "will at no point exceed that of developed countries even as we pursue our development objectives." Since India's per-capita GHG emissions are about 2 tonnes CO2equivalent, while the average of the developing world is about 16 tonnes, that seems like a safe bet.

But what if the United States miraculously follows Al Gore's "Generational Challenge to Repower America", and becomes largely carbon-neutral in energy within ten years? That would give Americans per-capita GHG emissions of about 3 tonnes CO2e (more than 85% of U.S. GHG emissions come from energy use). Even if other developed countries didn't do the same, the average of their per-capita emissions would be around 6-7 tonnes. Could India beat that at its current rate of increase in coal-based power?

And consider that such a crash program would make the United States the leader in a whole range of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies, from solar and wind to electric vehicles and public transport. Plus redirecting spending from importing oil to domestic research and manufacturing would have a profound effect on the economy. Paychecks for Americans instead of for Canadians and Saudis.

When do you think India's per-capita emissions will exceed America's?