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INDC Clues From Large Developing Nations: Part 3

In the second part of this series on the March 31 UN climate target, we stopped at China in our list of INDCs. Analysts expect that country to present its formal commitment in June. The other main players from the developing world are India (with 5.9% of emissions), Brazil (1.4%), and Indonesia (1.4%). It’s noteworthy that three of these four (China, India, and Indonesia) invested $131 billion in renewable energy last year, a 36% rise from 2013.

India electric transmission infrastructure (Flickr/reidmix via

India is a major player in terms of world emissions, third among nations. Within the next 20 years, it will likely surpass China in both population and energy use. Both giants are also expected to pour substantial amounts of cement thanks to robust growth. India has strongly emphasized that its foremost priorities are development and economic growth. It has so far refused to cap carbon because its per capita emissions are so low—India is 130th in the per capita rankings, with 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per person.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected last May, has made it clear that India has its own timetable. However, he has markedly increased commitments to clean energy production to help drive the nation’s growth and has taken a proactive stance in international negotiations. The nation has also promised to cut its carbon intensity (carbon dioxide released per unit of gross domestic product) by 25% and is this week working on refining and strengthening its six main environmental laws. Today, the prime minister launched the nation’s first national air quality index in New Delhi.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told a March 16 conference in New Delhi that India needs to “change the narrative from a negative one on emissions capping to a more positive one on cleaner energy and energy efficiency.” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is pondering offering the world a choice of one set of commitments to rein in emissions individually and a second that his nation may achieve if money pledged by developed economies comes through. As for the India INDC, sources have placed its likely submission between May and “in due course,” as Javadekar noted at the end of March.

In Brazil, the main climate issue is not fossil fuel emissions, but forest. The Brazilian Amazon, which has historically sequestered huge quantities of carbon dioxide, had the highest deforestation rate in the world just 10 years ago. The nation has since spent considerable effort and investment on the problem. Although a study last summer found that Brazil kept 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere since 2004—reportedly more than any other country has done to reduce climate alterations through forest measures—a look at satellite data released in February challenges the finding. It cites a 62% acceleration in net global humid tropic deforestation from the 1990s to the 2000s.

Aggravating the situation, Amazon clearing reportedly rose 63% in the second half of 2014, and the nation’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who campaigned on “zero-deforestation,” has fast-tracked large hydro projects, devoted 70% of her 10-year budget to offshore oil drilling and exploitation of other fossil fuels, and held back on a pledge to reduce deforestation by 2030 at the October 2014 Climate Change summit in New York. We don’t know how these factors will pan out for Brazil’s INDC.

In Climate News Network yesterday, Jan Rocha pointed out that severe drought in the nation may force Rousseff from hydro in the direction of solar power, which she once laughed off. Its potential is said to be 20 times that of currently installed electrical energy. According to Carlos Klink, secretary for climate change at the country’s environment ministry, via the Sydney Morning Herald, Brazil is already intending to make a 36-39% reduction by 2020 and working to deliver its INDC before October.

Indonesia, also in the world’s top 10 emitters, has lost most of its huge blanket of protective forest cover to extensive illegal logging and conversion of forest lands to plantation crops, notably oil palms. Sumatra and Kalimantan may have suffered the worst. The country has shifted public policy to de-emphasize clearance and conversion; however, sustainability demands reclamation of currently idle land and conservation of the remaining primary forest. These issues should be addressed in Indonesia’s INDC.

The most vulnerable nations (least developed countries and developing small island states), which contribute little to global emissions and will suffer some of their worst impacts, do not need to submit INDCs, Sophie Yeo explains in Carbon Brief. Rather, they’re expected to provide information on their low-carbon development plans. Carbon Brief’s map (below) is instructive.

Global INDC submissions for Paris COP21 (

Next: The holdouts–developed nations that can only plead “No excuse, sir.”

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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