A week ago, the United States committed to a mid-term 17-percent emissions reduction pledge at the upcoming Copenhagen climate talks. The next day, China followed suit, promising to cut its carbon intensity by at least 40 percent by 2020. Now it’s India’s turn.

The Guardian today obtained leaked figures indicating that India will seek to reduce carbon intensity by 24 percent in 2020, relative to 2005 levels.

Carbon intensity refers to emissions levels relative to economic growth, and so India’s emissions, like China’s, will still rise in the coming years, albeit at a slower rate. Nonetheless, the news that India, the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter — China and the United States are numbers one and two, respectively — is taking voluntary action to stem its greenhouse gas production gives environmentalists important momentum going into Copenhagen, particularly given the country’s earlier resistance to emissions targets.

India will take a multifaceted approach to reducing its carbon intensity, including energy efficiency improvements, carbon sinks, and increased solar power, following its August announcement of a massive push to create 75 percent of the world’s solar power by 2020.
The earlier moves by the United States and China played a role in India’s decision, according to an Indian climate negotiator quoted in The Washington Post.

“The Americans are now on board after President Obama’s offer,” the negotiator said. “China has expressed its willingness to stick its neck out. Now, we are also willing to do our bit, China-style. The two developments signaled to us that the global politics has moved beyond everybody sitting behind their tables and doing nothing.”

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