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India pledges to cut carbon emission rate and boost renewable energy

World's third-largest polluter submits energy targets ahead of major climate change summit in Paris

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India this week announced a plan to curb its rate of carbon emissions and generate more electricity from renewable energy sources, ahead of an international conference on climate change in Paris. As The New York Times reports, India is the last major economy to submit a plan to the UN's climate office ahead of the December summit, where world leaders hope to reach a binding international agreement on reducing the rate of global warming. India is the world's third-largest carbon polluter, behind the US and China.

The 38-page plan submitted Thursday calls for the country to reduce its rate of carbon emissions relative to GDP (a metric known as carbon intensity) by 33 to 35 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. India would also produce 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, according to the document. Unlike the US and China, which submitted their respective plans earlier this year, India has not committed to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions. Under the plan, carbon emissions would still grow in stride with its economy, albeit at a lower rate.

"a comprehensive approach"

India has historically been reluctant to implement curbs on carbon emissions, arguing that it would hamper its goals of reducing poverty through economic growth. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed for stronger action to reduce pollution since coming into office, though he has also made clear that poverty reduction is the government's top priority.

In its plan, the government acknowledged that coal would continue to be India's primary source of power, though it pledged to "aggressively" develop hydro and nuclear power capabilities. The country also said that its plan could be implemented without additional financing from other nations, but it added that it would require a "transfer of technology" from others to facilitate the growth of renewable energy sources.

"India’s strong climate plan offers a comprehensive approach to curb the worst impacts of climate change," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement following the plan's release. "India now has positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy, and is poised to play an active and influential role in the international climate negotiations this December," Suh added.