With scarce and erratic rainfall, and frequent droughts in the region, a pastoralist community of Rajasthan, Raikas follow the practice of moving their flocks and herds in search of water and forage.

Climate change and the environment Natural resources under pressure

India's rapid economic development, its growing consumption of raw materials and its high population density are placing increasing strain on the environment. India is the world's third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after China and the US. However, per capita emissions are much lower than in Germany. At the same time, India is massively affected by climate change, with the livelihoods of the poorest people most under threat.

The air quality in many of the country's conurbations is very poor. Its waterways are heavily polluted; and in many parts of the country there are no proper systems of waste or wastewater management. 40 per cent of India's forests are degraded, and the groundwater table is falling dramatically.

A government target stipulates that one third of the country's surface area is to be covered by forests. For ecologically vulnerable regions, the target is two thirds. However, according to the 2021 Forest Report, actual coverage is only around 22 per cent. And, of that area, only about 12 per cent is actually covered by moderately dense or very dense forest.

Climate change

Increasing soil degradation and the considerable impacts of climate change on natural resources could potentially cause conflict. According to government figures, more than half of India's land area is affected by soil degradation. In 2020, more than 3.8 million people were displaced by natural disasters.

Furthermore, existing climate models for global climate change predict strong fluctuations in temperatures and changed monsoon patterns on the Indian subcontinent. In this unfavourable scenario, droughts, extreme heat and flooding will become even more frequent in the future, and that will lead to an increase in conflicts over water and land as resources that are in short supply.

Although India does have modern environmental legislation, the enforcement of these laws is often hampered by a lack of technical competence at the local level, clearly defined responsibilities and financial resources. “Greening” India's growth will be crucial for the country's sustainable development and for the global climate as well.

Setting itself ambitious climate targets

At the international climate conference in Glasgow in late 2021, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his country's new, ambitious climate targets:

  • Reaching net zero emissions by 2070
  • Taking non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030
  • Meeting 50 per cent of energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030
  • Reducing projected emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030
  • Reducing the carbon intensity of the economy (CO2 emissions relative to gross domestic product) by 45 per cent by 2030

By setting these targets for itself, India has enhanced its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In 2022, the country submitted its first decarbonisation strategy to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With assistance from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the government is drafting its first roadmap for reaching net zero emissions by 2070. However, India's NDCs have been given a rating of “highly insufficient” by the independent scientific project Climate Action Tracker (CAT), which tracks government climate action. India's commitments are not consistent with the globally agreed goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As at: 06/06/2023