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India unveils ambitious environmental targets

India has unveiled its climate targets ahead of December's United Nations climate conference in Paris. Its environmental targets include reducing its carbon intensity by 35 percent by 2030.

Ahead of a major United Nations environmental conference in Paris, India pledged to generate 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within 15 years.

"We are confident we will achieve the 35 percent (target) by 2030," said Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. He added that "it is a huge jump for India, therefore it is a very ambitious target.”

However, India vowed to continue expanding its use of coal - it plans to double coal production to one billion tons by 2020. It said that was vital to meet the needs of its expanding economy, which grew seven percent last quarter.

"India is not part of the problem, but we want to be part of the solution," said Javadekar. India has resisted rigid carbon reduction targets with the argument that developing countries cannot forego their right to development.

He has called on developing countries "to walk the talk" while also arguing that industrialized countries have a "historical responsibility" in curbing climate change.

"The developed world has polluted the Earth and we are suffering. Still, we want to become part of the solution and give results," Saaid Javadekar.

The goals are knows as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and were submitted to the UN ahead of the COP21 meeting in Paris in November, which will seek to forge a global agreement on curbing Earth-warming emissions.

Reactions are mixed

Environmental groups have welcomed India's announcement and several experts praised New Delhi's announcement on Friday, and it as positive given the country's developmental challenges.

"From all angles, India's INDC is as good as China's and better than the US's considering that both these countries have higher emissions than India," said Chandra Bhushan of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

Rhea Suh, president of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council said, "India now has positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy, and is poised to play an active and influential role in the international climate negotiations this December."

Yet, some environmental campaigners criticized the failure to curb coal use, and said it would hurt green efforts and increase air pollution, water scarcity and forest destruction.

"India's continued commitment to expand coal power capacity is baffling," said Pujarini Sen, a senior Greenpeace India campaigner. "Further expansion of coal power will hamper India's development prospects."

While India did not promise any absolute cuts in emissions, it vowed to slash carbon intensity - the amount of pollution per dollar of GDP.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel begins a three day visit to India with stops in Bangalore and in New Delhi to meet Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.

av/jr (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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