COP26: How Big India Will Go?

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India has been under pressure to declare either enhanced ambition or to declare net zero goals in the run-up to the annual climate change talks, the COP26, but it has so far maintained top secrecy, a report by Nivedita Khandekar

Just as it was the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the time of Paris COP in 2015, there is a strong possibility that India would go big about “green” hydrogen at this COP that starts on Sunday at the UK’s Glasgow.

India has been under pressure to declare either enhanced ambition or to declare net zero goals in the run-up to the annual climate change talks, the COP26, but it has so far maintained top secrecy, saying whatever is the country’s stance, it would be announced “at an appropriate time and appropriate place.”

The COP26, the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to take place from October 31 till November 12 at the Scottish city of Glasgow where the world leaders and negotiators will deliberate actions to reduce carbon emissions to restrict the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to attend the High-Level segment on November 1 and 2 and so are the Ministers of Environment and Power on other days. Going beyond its committed 175 GW of renewable energy, India has already announced that it will pursue 450 GW of installed capacity of renewable energy by 2030.

The government has not, however, announced any break-up of this 450 GW target. There have been big ticket solar power plants across states, some already functional, some under-construction, so solar is a big part of this renewable energy basket. But it is now also certain that green hydrogen will occupy a pride of place in it.

“Modi is going to own up solar plants and green hydrogen in a big way,” a source, who has been involved in the energy sector, told IANS.

Another source from the development sector concurred.

“We are going to say something big about green hydrogen. We are trying to get some other countries on board – on the lines of the International Solar Alliance – for some kind of global consensus for an alliance on hydrogen. It is a technologically attractive option,” the source said.

India has already declared a National Hydrogen Mission in August this year. With this, it is looking at a great opportunity to cut down on fossil fuel-based chemicals, which are used to produce hydrogen.

“Today, hydrogen is made in all refineries, all fertiliser plants using natural gas. It is a fossil fuel, which means, sending out a lot of CO2 emission. Green hydrogen will help us cut that down,” the energy sector source said.

The government is planning to go phase-wise, for example, this Hydrogen mission is likely to give a mandate to progressively start giving 1 per cent dose in year one, then three per cent dose in year two and so on so forth, and then at the end of 2025 or 2030, whichever is decided, the target would be 10 per cent.

“That (10 per cent) is how a huge quantity of fossil fuel replaced. Green means the entire carbon footprint should be zero and hydrogen will help achieve that to a large extent,” the source said.

There are various ways to make green hydrogen without adding any carbon. If solar energy is used for the hydrogen making process, then the entire cycle becomes carbon free.

Earlier in September, stating that India has the potential to step in to meet not just India’s but global demand for green hydrogen, Union Earth Sciences and Science and Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh had declared the aspirational goal of ‘Hydrogen 2-1-2’ wherein “2 means green hydrogen that would costs for less than $2 per kg; 1 means hydrogen storage plus distribution plus refueling cost less than $1 per kg, and the last 2 is for replacement of incumbent end-use technology with green hydrogen technology with ROI of less than 2 years”.

“Various options have been given to the PMO, all of them are under consideration. Some of these endorsements will find a way to this forum (COP),” said another source in the Environment Ministry.

In this decade, the whole economy of the world is to rest on hydrogen, and the “H2 economy” will bring in a paradigm change.

It is a continuously available material and totally renewable. One cannot store energy anywhere else except in hydrogen and batteries.

“This development – of announcing big on green hydrogen – would be greatly helpful in reducing import bills from batteries needed for storage in case of solar energy,” a consultant from the energy field said.

All eyes are now set to what Prime Minister Modi announces during the High-Level segment.

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