At the start of COP26, India drew praise for pledging to reach net zero by 2070. It surprised many after the country’s environment minister had rejected calls for a net-zero pledge just days before. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also set out a broad renewables policy to meet this pledge. 

“First, India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500GW […] Second, by 2030, 50% of our energy requirements will come from renewable resources,” Modi told the climate summit in Glasgow.

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The Rewa Ultra Mega Solar power plant in Madhya Pradesh, India. (Photo by The Banjara Man via Shutterstock)

According to India’s Foreign Secretary, Vardhan Shringla, the country’s sudden adoption of a pledge was largely the result of one reason: the massive roll-out of solar power taking place across the country. He said the country’s previous renewables capacity target of 175GW by 2030 was likely to be achieved eight years early.

In 2020, India had 41GW of solar PV capacity in operation, according to GlobalData. Six of the world’s ten largest solar plants under development are in India, and under current policies India’s solar capacity is set to more than quadruple to 183GW in 2029, alongside 162GW of capacity from other renewable sources. This represents a massive scale-up, but the 345GW it adds up to is still well off the 500GW target Modi has laid out.

Nevertheless, the Indian government evidently believes the country’s renewables market is attractive enough for it to grow further still. 

“We [have] voluntarily and unilaterally enhanced our commitments,” said Shringla. “It was very, very carefully thought through and considered.” However, he also stressed that rich countries need to offer more climate finance if they expect developing countries to be as ambitious as India is planning to be. 

“While there is greater pressure on climate action, there should be equal pressure on commitment to climate financing,” he said. “While developing countries are interested in meeting climate-related targets, at the same time they need the means to deliver on those commitments.” 

Modi called on rich countries to provide $1trn in climate finance for developing nations “as soon as possible”; rich countries are currently planning to provide $100bn by 2023.