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At G20, Only India Is On Track to Meet Goals for Keeping Global Heating to 3.6° F

Although most of India's electricity and heating now comes from carbon-intensive coal, the country has big plans to transition to renewables.

Gopalakrishna Devraj inspects the solar panels at the Fortum solar park in Karnataka state, one of indias bigest solar energy producers. (Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The 2020 Climate Transparency report finds that India is on track to meeting the carbon dioxide emissions levels that, if all countries on earth did the same, would keep global heating to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees centigrade).

The bad news? Of all the top 20 economies in the world (i.e. the G20), India is the only one, says The Weather Channel, that is on track to meet that 3.6° F. goal.

Although 3.6° F./ 2° C. does not sound like much, it would be a very challenging situation. This is the amount that the average surface temperature of the whole earth would go up. It includes the cold seas and Antarctica. So in any one place (say, Phoenix, AZ), the actual increase in average temperatures will be more.

India is above average on the contribution of renewables to power generation, with 27% coming from renewables. The G-20 average is only 21%.

Although most of India’s electricity and heating now comes from carbon-intensive coal, the country has big plans to transition to renewables. Despite the coronavirus downturn, India has made strides on renewables in 2020, adding 833 megawatts of rooftop solar in the first nine months of 2020. Some of this installation was supported by significant government subsidies for the sector, especially in Gujarat state. Gujarat has the largest solar farm in all of Asia.

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Solar energy has many uses in India beyond just electricity generation. Solar panels are being provided to rural families to run water pumps for drinking water.

In the third quarter, the country put in 438 megawatts worth of solar farms.

These numbers are lower than last year, given the sour economy and pandemic, but 2021 is expected to see a big rebound. All in all, 3.3 gigawatts of new solar is expected to be brought on line in 2020.

By 2022, India is expected to have a 100 gigawatt solar capacity. Its current solar capacity is 37 gigawatts, so the next two years will see nearly a tripling of solar in India.

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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