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How well are the Brics meeting carbon targets?

Limiting global warming is dependent on a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. This in turn requires technological advance in renewable energy and electricity storage, strong government commitment, stable and transparent regulatory frameworks, and a business environment attractive to investment.

Subsequent to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries have committed to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by amounts that vary according to circumstances. For example, India aims to have 40 percent of power from non- fossil fuels by 2030. However, the imperative of economic growth, the pressure of urbanisation, and an infrastructure deficit are India’s challenge and it differs from that facing South Africa or Brazil. South Africa’s immediate priorities are to eliminate poverty by creating employment and achieving sustainable economic development but it’s over reliance on coal and the state-owned utility Eskom is a huge challenge to achieving sustainable energy.  Indeed, South Africa, Brazil and India are starting from different resource endowments and these ensure that their performance in delivering their commitments will also vary.

On environmental sustainability, Brazil ranks eighth out of 115 countries and is best amongst the BRICS followed by India a global 86th but second best in its peer group. South Africa is the most challenged country of virtually all, ranked at 114 out of 115 globally on environmentally sustainability and transition readiness.
India’s national gas pipeline network.


The seventh largest economy in the world, India has over 1.3 billion people and with GDP per head of US$ 1,982, the lowest of the BRICS. Nonetheless, reports Global Carbon Project December 2018, India is the fourth highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.

Under the Paris Agreement India committed to reducing CO2 intensity in its energy system to 33 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. At the same time, India will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by a tree planting programme. 

India has done much to increase use of cleaner gas and renewable energy and reduce coal’s contribution to 56 percent of electricity generation.  Renewable energy in the form of hydro ( 14.3%), wind (10.1%), solar(7.4%)  and biomass (2.6%) now accounts for 34.4 percent of power generation and owes much to the government’s enabling environment. Reducing reliance on coal-fired generation is a priority. The 50,025 MW of coal power plants currently under construction are to set against the retirement of   48,000 MW of old coal-fired plants.

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