02 September 2009

Does This Look Like Business as Usual?

The Indian government has released a report showing what it claims to be its best guesses for future emissions trajectories under "business as usual," or in other words (from p. 16, available here, thanks BK),
which do not involve any new policies relevant to GHG mitigation, to determine the trajectory of GHG emissions in the economy without GHG constraints till 2030/31.
The scenarios suggest that India has already transformed its economy to one that is very aggressively decarbonizing, as illustrated in the above figure, which shows the historical CO2 per $1,000 of GDP (black curve, data from Maddison and EIA as per usual here) and how these values are expected to change in the future as presented in the new report. The red double-sided arrow shows the range of projected carbon intensities of the Indian economy for 2031 from the 5 different projections offered in the report, and the red dashed line connects the 2006 values to the mid-point of that 2031 range.

Based on this analysis, India claims to be exempt from any future binding emissions targets in the international climate negotiations by explaining, with a metaphorical straight face, that it expects to decarbonize by 2031 to a level less than that of France (in 2006) while maintaining 6-9% annual economic growth simply by following business as usual. I will give them one thing, they are very bold negotiators. If you find these projections to strain the bounds of credulity, welcome to the club.

However, when it comes to staining credulity India is not alone, as it turns out that the "spontaneous decarbonization" trick comes in pretty handy for many participants in the climate policy debate.


  1. Its appears India is portraying its policy of increasing efficiency in use of energy (e.g., a working light bulb in every home) as "business as usual" thereby leading to projected increase of GDP and de-carbonization. In any case, I believe the focus of India and China when negotiating will be primarily through the per-capita (rather than cumulative) prism.
    BTW, the graph takes on the image of an inverted "hockey stick".

  2. I was under the impression that this graph shows India becoming just as carbon efficient as France by 2030. Is that true? Is it realistic?

    If so, it surprises me. Certainly China can't make a similar claim.

  3. For comparison, France in 2006 was 0.30 on the same scale as the figure in this post.

    China suggests a similar rate of decarbonization starting from a higher 2006 level. I'll make a point to present this soon.

  4. Are the GDP figures adjusted for some projected inflation rate before calculating future data points?

    Bob K

  5. Nice graph "tons CO2 per $1000 GDP"
    But how fast will GDP rise in India?

  6. -4-Bob and -5-Hans

    The GDP and Co2 data are from the same sources discussed in this paper:


    Short answer is that the are PPP adjusted US dollars to allow cross national comparisons. Dollars are constant, so no inflation.

    India is projecting an "aggressive" future GDP growth, which in the report is 6-9% annually.

  7. I think the declining red line fails to represent reality.

    Dollars inflate, tonnes don't. In the graph I think tonnes carbon are equivalent to production.

    Hypothetical with a 3% inflation rate but ignoring future production growth.

    Dollars in 2030 will only buy 1/2 of what they do now. The GDP in 2030 must double current GDP to provide the same production as today. Even though the graph shows carbon usage per $1000 dropping, that $1000 in 2030 will only buy 1/2 of current production.

    The answer to your post title question is. Yes. Business as usual.

    Bob K