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India’s Quiet Counterpoint to Bali: Admirable Transparency, and a National Initiative to Limit Carbon Emissions


The Bali Conference witnessed more controversy about who should take responsibility for carbon emissions reduction. India and China refused to accept explicit emissions limits, citing the potential costs, their poverty problems. and US intransigence. The US countered by refusing to accept emissions limits as long as India, China and other developing countries remain exempt. Despite this rhetorical deadlock, a closer look reveals a more hopeful story unfolding in India itself. This story features an admirable commitment to transparency and an initiative to limit India’s carbon emissions. India’s Ministry of Power has set the carbon-disclosure standard among developing countries, providing carbon emissions and power production reports for hundreds of power facilities on a public website. The Indian Government outlines its carbon reduction initiative in a press release from India’s Minister of Environment and Forests on December 7.

In the same press release, the Minister responds to a query from India’s Parliament about CARMA’s report that carbon dioxide emissions from India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) rank third globally among power companies. While stating that CARMA’s report “has not been validated or authenticated by the Power Companies,” the Minister draws on CARMA itself to note that NTPC has a much better global ranking on another CARMA measure: CO2 intensity (emissions per unit of electricity produced).

It is very gratifying to see that CARMA has provided useful information for a public dialogue between India’s Parliament and Ministry of Environment and Forests. Doubly so because much of CARMA’s information cited by the Minister comes from the Indian Government itself. The Power Ministry’s website (cited above) provides CARMA with over 200 plant-level reports on CO2 emissions and power production. These official reports include many plants operated by India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). In this important sense, much of CARMA’s information on Indian plants has indeed been officially confirmed. CARMA’s contribution has been to map the facilities, link them to their parent companies (including NTPC), merge them with comparable data on power plants in other countries, and make all the information available to web visitors with a few keystrokes.

In the global movement to promote transparency about carbon sources, India has clearly established its leadership among developing countries. We can only hope that China will soon join India in this effort. With a few admirable exceptions (particularly the CLP group, as we have reported in a recent blog, China’s power companies have not disclosed their enormous, rapidly-growing carbon emissions.

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It is good to keep track of carbon emissions everywhgere and power plants are one of many types of sources. But this misses many sources of CO2. If we want to limit C)2, by taxes, permits or other restraint it is better to do so further up the carbon cycle – when carbon leaves the oil well, the coal mine, the gas field, or in the case of countries, the port of entry. Within a year it will be CO2. Yet the time scale of global warming is decades.
I urge people like yourselves to keep track of carbon entering the surface pool and compare your more local findings with bthe more general picture.
Richard Wilson, CAmbridge, MA

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[...] Ministry has disclosed information obtained from companies and plants since late 2006, and we have commended them for doing so. The latest version of that data provides power generation and carbon emissions at the plant level [...]

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