Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to make a pledge for his country to reach net zero emissions, but it is well beyond the 2050 date many may have been hoping for.

During his speech on Monday, Modi claimed India would achieve net zero emissions by 2070, which would take it beyond the 2050 target many western nations are setting and even past China’s net zero emissions target of 2060.

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However, Madhura Joshi, a senior associate at European climate change think tank E3G, stated Modi had set India “firmly on a clean energy pathway”, while noting that the 2070 target could still be brought forward.

“While one reading of these targets could mean that the government is leaving some wriggle room on coal, but we know, and several studies have shown, that new coal capacity is both completely uneconomical, and not needed for India’s energy future,” she said.

“Judging by past performance, India often does better than its set targets. The stage is now set for a step change in clean investment.”

'Five elixirs' for India's energy transition

The net zero target was one of “five elixirs” Modi outlined in his COP26 speech, which included some more ambitious near term climate targets.

Modi stated that India would target “non-fossil fuel energy capacity” of 500 gigawatts by 2030, up from a previous target of 450GW, while India will also look to fulfill 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy sources by 2030, up from a previous target of 40%.

He also pledged that between now and and 2030, India would reduce its total projectected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes and the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.

While India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind China and the US, its large population means that it currently has one of the lowest per capita emissions rates globally .

Earlier this year, Wood Mackenzie vice chairman, energy - Asia Pacific, Gavin Thompson, highlighted that a net zero target by 2070 for India would still require “concerted effort to achieve”, given that over half of all capacity and 70% of electricity generation in India currently comes from coal.

Just this weekend, India joined Russia, China and Australia in opposing setting a firm deadline to phase out coal at the G20 meeting held in Rome, Italy.

Financial backing for India's green transition

In June, Thompson stated that in order to ensure India moves towards a net zero target, developed western nations would need to consider significant direct financial and technology support to help with the country’s decarbonisation pathway.

Following Modi's announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to Twitter to say the UK would work with India "to make even more progress", including through the Clean Green Initiative his government launched at COP26 on Monday.

The initiative is aimed at helping developing countries take advantage of green technology and grow their economies, and helping scale up public and private investment in sustainable infrastructure globally.

It will also see the UK double its aid-funded green investments to more than £3 billion ($4.1 billion) over five years and provide new guarantees to support clean infrastructure projects.

As part of the announcement, the UK government said it would provide an "India Green Guarantee" to the World Bank, to unlock an additional £750 million for green projects across India.

"I want to see the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution go global. The pace of change on clean technology and infrastructure is incredible, but no country should be left behind in the race to save our planet," Johnson said in a statement on Monday.

"The climate has often been a silent victim of economic growth and progress – but the opposite should now be true. Through the Clean Green Initiative, we can help to build back better and greener from the pandemic and put the world on the path to a more sustainable future."