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[NEW DELHI] A set of climate models has challenged projections of runaway greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in India over the next few decades.

Although India's GHG emissions are projected to grow almost four-fold in the next decades they are likely to remain below the world average, according to the results of five models released last week (2 September).

Such projections are in contrast to international estimates suggesting alarming emissions increases as India develops, say Indian environment ministry officials.

For example, Nicholas Stern, director of the UK-based London School of Economics Asia Research Centre cited figures of eight tonnes per person and total emissions of 12 billion tonnes by 2030 for India in a recent (15 July) speech to the United Kingdom's Chatham House.

India's average emissions per person from all five new models is 2.1 tonnes in 2020 and 3.5 tonnes in 2030, nearly four times that of the current level of 1.5 tonnes but still below the current world average of 4.2 tonnes. Total GHG emissions in the new models are an average of 5.2 billion tonnes by 2030.

"So far, researchers from developed countries have been driving the climate change debate through models that do not capture national realities," Jairam Ramesh, India's minister for environment and forests, said at the launch of the models.

"The result has been several implausible estimates of India's future GHG emissions trajectory — leading to suggestions that the key to global climate stabilisation is legally binding restraints on India's GHG emissions," he added.

"We can no longer depend on derived science from the West."

Three models were developed by the National Council of Applied Economic Research, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), Integrated Research and Action for Development and Jadavpur University with funding from India's environment ministry.

Another model was developed by TERI based on India's submissions to the 2008 UN climate summit in Poznan, before the country had its own detailed studies. The fifth model was released by international consulting company McKinsey & Company in the same year.

All five models use India's greenhouse gas data up until 2006 and extrapolate figures until 2030/31. Four of the five models assume no new GHG mitigation policies.

"India's GHG emissions are not poised for runaway growth," the report concludes.

A separate report released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests last month (11 August) says India's forest cover is increasing every year and helping to neutralise 11 percent of the country's GHG emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide. Is there any other reason given for why the emissions will be lower than predicted, eg. greater than expected development of clean energy?

But Delhi-based nongovernmental organisation the Centre for Science and Environment says that some of the assumptions in the models are inaccurate, particularly projections in the McKinsey model that energy consumption will quadruple to 5.5 billion tonnes by 2030. Other energy consumption patterns do not predict such massive expansion, it says.

Link to full report[3.41MB]