global warming climate change
So far around 44 nations representing a bulk of almost 60% of total emissions have submitted their reports. The planet seems set for a rise of 4-5C by end of the century Reuters

There are no major surprises in the list of 44 climate pledges submitted until now to the UN by some of the top emitters of greenhouse gases.

The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) will be studied to see if the planet can avoid irreversible climate change expected from breaching a 2C rise in global temperature. Trends so far indicate the planet is on course for a 4-5C rise.

Besides reiterating its intentions to peak emissions by 2030, China has submitted plans to increase its installed capacity of wind power to 200 gigawatts (GW) and solar power to around 100GW by 2020.

By 2014, China's installed capacity of grid-connected wind power reached 95.81GW, 90 times that for 2005, while installed solar power capacity was at 28.05GW, 400 times of that in 2005.

The country pledged to increase the use of natural gas and lower coal consumption by improving efficiency at its new coal-fired power plants as coal consumption accounts for about 66% of China's primary energy consumption.

India in contrast has refused to announce a date for peaking, arguing that the country's development needs absolves it of having to announce an emissions peak in its INDC report, which is expected in September.

Relying heavily on coal-fired plants, India has some of the most polluted cities in the world, with its capital New Delhi being the most polluted.

Recognising the threat of human-induced climate change as witnessed in the recent heat wave that killed more than 2300 people, India is now focussing on external funding for clean energy projects.

It has a goal to install 170GW of clean energy by 2022, for which it expects major investments from developed nations. The US has promised technical and financial support during president Obama's visit to India, but the green climate fund flows have been far from satisfactory.

Aid group Oxfam said this week it estimates that less than $20 billion per year in public finance dedicated to climate action, as against the promised $100 bn, is flowing to developing countries.

India has demanded more emission cuts from developed nations in the pre-2020 period, as also a historic responsibility-based apportioning of emission cuts.

Emissions at home are inevitable, the government insists, as the country aims for global standards of living for its 1.2 billion population. At present more than 350 million of its people, or one out of three, are ranked below the poverty line.

India could be second-largest emitter by 2030

A recent analysis from New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has predicted that by 2030, India's emissions could be at least two-three times its present level and India could be the world's second-largest emitter after China in 2030.

But, the World Resources Institute (WRI) — a global research organisation — in its latest analyses of the country-wise emissions shows that India despite being the fourth largest carbon emitter, after China, US and the EU, continues to be far behind the other three top big emitters in terms of per capita emission.

Developing countries like China, Mexico and Brazil too are way ahead of India in terms of per capita contribution to overall emissions.

The United States' per capita emissions are eight times that of India.

That is exactly what the Indian government would like to seize on - per capita emissions - where the total emissions are divided by the population to identify emissions per person.

It pre-supposes a notion that the development and related emissions are owing to every one of the billion. That is far from the fact, as India watchers know.

By 2030, Indian's emissions are on track to be two-three times its present level and the country could be the world's second largest emitter after China.

Even today, 400 million people in the country have no access to electricity, and energy related emissions are what make up almost 75% of global emissions.

What one needs to remember is that the damage from emissions to the climate ecosystem does not differentiate between per capita or total emissions.

More important, as India's former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, per capita alone can never be the basis of negotiations and the "world owes us no favour for our own reproductive profligacy".

It is not the population growth that drives emissions as much as consumption. A quarter of China's emissions are on account of it export sector meeting consumption needs abroad.

With a 'Make in India' boost for the manufacturing sector expected, emissions will also be continued to be 'made' here.

India has pledged to reduce its GDP emissions intensity by 20–25% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, which is considered 'medium' on the pledges' scale.

Emissions intensity

A faster GDP growth will trigger a spurt in the absolute level of emissions in the short term, but emissions intensity can be cut by a focus on efficiency and technology.

The CPR-IIASA study shows that by 2030, it is perfectly possible for India's emissions intensity to decline by 40-45% on 2005 reference levels.

Although China is doing more than India, the US and EU, its total emissions in 2030 will still be four times more than India's. So also its per capita emissions, note critics.

Ministers from the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) bloc meeting in New York recently called for any climate deal to reflect differentiated responsibilities after taking into account the distinct development stages of nations.

Developed countries should take the lead by undertaking ambitious while developing countries will enhance sustainable development which is supported by finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building from developed countries.

Pledges submitted so far

So far around 44 nations representing a bulk of almost 60% of total emissions have submitted their reports.

The United States has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent of the 2005 levels by 2025; EU by at least 40% from 1990 levels by 2030; Japan, the world' fifth-largest emitter hasn't officially submitted a target plans to reduce emissions by 26 per cent from 2013 to 2030.

Brazil which falls within the top 10 emitters has also promised to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix to 28-33% by 2030, besides implementing other low-carbon measures.

The recently released report of the IPCC mentions that the world needs to cut its emissions between 40 and 70% below 2010 levels by 2050 to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius temperature threshold.

This requires total anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to be kept below 2900 billion tonnes by the end of the century. As of 2011, total emissions since 1870 were a little over half of this, with current trends expected to exceed 2900 GtCO2 in the next 15–30 years.

Since pre-industrial times, carbon dioxide has risen 110 parts per million to cross 400 parts per million this year. It is expected to rise to 550ppm by 2050.

Unless Paris can achieve the impossible - get more from both developed and developing blocs.

Rank emitters
The two top emitters of greenhouse gases in the world today are China and the US, with China accounting for around 29% and the US for about 16% of world emissions.

The 28-member European Union (EU) next collectively accounts for 11% of global emissions. Then there is yet another gap and India is in fourth position at about 6% followed by Russia at around 5%.