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Carbon numbers and climate target

Date: 06 January 2020 Tags: Climate Change


The State of Forest Report (SFR) 2019 has shown an increase in the carbon stock trapped in Indian forests in the last two years. It also indicates why it is going to be an uphill task for India in meeting one of its international obligations on climate change.



India, as part of its contribution to the global fight against climate change, has committed itself to creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.



  • This is one of the three targets India has set for itself in its climate action plan, called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, that every country has to submit under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

  • The other two relate to an improvement in emissions intensity, and an increase in renewable energy deployment.

  • India has said it would reduce its emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) by 33% to 35% by 2030 compared to 2005.

  • It has also promised to ensure that at least 40% of its cumulative electricity generation in 2030 would be done through renewable energy.

Role of forests in reducing carbon

  • Forests, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis, act as a natural sink of carbon. Together with oceans, forests absorb nearly half of global annual carbon dioxide emissions.

  • The carbon currently stored in the forests exceeds all the carbon emitted in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age.

  •  An increase in the forest area is one of the most effective ways of reducing the emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere every year.

The current challenges

  • An assessment by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) last year had projected that, by 2030, the carbon stock in forests as well as tree cover was likely to reach 31.87 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the business as usual scenario.

  • In the last two years, the carbon sink has grown by just about 0.6%%. Even compared to 2005, the size of carbon sink has increased by barely 7.5%.

  • To meet its NDC target, even with most optimistic estimates of carbon stock trapped in trees outside of forest areas, the sink has to grow by at least 15% to 20% over the next ten-year period.

Way forward

  • The baseline year can impact the business-as-usual projections for 2030. So a 2015 baseline would lead to a higher BAU estimate for 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline when less efforts were being made to add or regenerate forests.

  • The FSI projections made last year used a 2015 baseline. If 2005 baseline is used, India’s targets can be achieved relatively easily.

  • India would also have to specify whether it wants to count the carbon sink in the agriculture sector in its target. The NDC specifically mentions that and additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink would be created through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Carbon sinks

  • A carbon sink is a natural reservoir that stores carbon-containing chemical compounds accumulated over an indefinite period of time.

  • Carbon sinks are very important for our environment because they act like sponges to soak up the carbon compounds that are playing such an enormous role in degradation of environment.

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