India’s state-owned oil giant ONGC aims for net zero

The firm is responding to growing pressure on the world’s third largest emitter to decarbonise ahead of climate talks in November.

An ONGC oil platform
An ONGC oil platform. The firm wants to measure the full scope of its emissions, including those in its full supply chain and the consumption of its products. Image: Nandu ChitnisCC BY 2.0 via Wikipedia Commons

Indian energy giant, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), is preparing to set a target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as the country’s state-owned firms come under pressure from the government to reduce their climate impact.

In a tender document seen by Eco-Business, the US$52 billion crude and gas firm is searching for partners to help the firm measure its carbon footprint as it aims for “deep emission reductions” to help combat climate change.

India is the world’s third largest emitter, and the coal-dependent nation is facing ever louder calls to make a carbon reduction pledge ahead global climate talks (COP26) in Glasgow in November. The country’s officials have been debating whether to set a net-zero pledge to compete with China, which committed to carbon neutrality by 2060 a year ago.

ONGC wants to measure the full scope of its emissions, including Scope 3 emissions — those of its full supply chain and the consumption of its products — before working towards reducing and offsetting those emissions, including the procurement of renewable energy.

The state-owned entity issued an expression-of-interest for carrying out a detailed study. A target date to achieve net-zero has yet to be set. 

ONGC has been working to reduce its emissions for some time, and has cut the carbon emissions intensity of its operations by more than 12 per cent in the past five years through the investment in clean energy projects as well as carbon capture, utilisation and storage projects.

Energy firms in India’s vast coal sector have also been responding to pressure to decarbonise. State-owned Coal India, one of the world’s largest mining companies, announced in June that it would taking measures to lower its carbon exposure by improving the efficiency of its operations and offsetting its emissions over the next five years. Other big private-sector emitters such as automative company Tata, conglomerates Reliance and Adani, Mahindra automative company and Dalmia Cement, have also committed to lower their emissions.

But India remains resistent to calls to decarbonise quickly. The country’s environment minister said in July that India, along with other developing nations, needed financing help from industrialised nations to offset the cost of shifting to clean energy. Wealthy countries pledged in 2009 to scale up climate funding for poorer nations by providing US$100 billion annually by 2020. Much of that finance has not materialised.

India’s current climate commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce emissions intensity by 33-35 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, and generate 40 per cent of its electric power from non-fossil fuels sources by 2030. The country’s level of climate action has been rated as compatible with a 2°C increase in global temperatures, but not in line with a 1.5°C increase in line with the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, air pollution from burning fossil fuels in India is responsible for 30 per cent of deaths — or about 2.5 million people — every year. Some 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India. 

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