Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What is net-zero, and what are India’s objections?

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

What is net-zero, and what are India’s objections?


In its bid to reclaim the global climate leadership, the US is widely expected to commit itself to a net-zero emission target for 2050 at the upcoming virtual Climate Leaders’ Summit convened by US President Joe Biden.

Other countries committed to net- zero:

Several other countries, including the UK and France, have already enacted laws promising to achieve a net-zero emission scenario by the middle of the century. Even China has promised to go net-zero by 2060.

The European Union is working a similar Europe-wide law, while many other countries including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Germany have expressed their intention to commit themselves to a net-zero future.

What is net-zero?

Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. Rather, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

  • Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

A call for net-zero:

A very active campaign has been going on for the last two years to get every country to sign on to a net-zero goal for 2050. It is being argued that global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.

  • The net-zero formulation does not assign any emission reduction targets on any country.

Net-zero and the Paris agreement:

The net-zero goal does not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the new global architecture to fight climate change.

  • The Paris Agreement only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can.
  • Countries need to set five- or ten-year climate targets for themselves, and demonstrably show they have achieved them.
  • The other requirement is that targets for every subsequent time-frame should be more ambitious than the previous one.

What about India? What are its objections?

India, the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China, is the only major player holding out.

India is the only one opposing this target because it is likely to be the most impacted by it.

Challenges unique to India:

  1. Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
  2. No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions.
  3. Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.


Prelims Link:

  1. About the Climate Leaders’ Summit.
  2. What is net-zero?
  3. Countries committed to net-zero.
  4. About Paris Agreement.

Sources: Indian Express.