When Jairam Ramesh said recently that India will make commitments of domestic voluntary cuts in energy intensity of 25 percent by 2020, the news caused a series of questions around energy and carbon intensity. Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) whereas Energy intensity is the amount of energy used for each unit of GDP. India’s energy intensity has been on a declining trajectory, as befits a services-driven economy. From 0.12 kgoe (kg of oil equivalent) per dollar of GDP at purchasing power parity in 2003, its energy intensity has fallen to 0.09 kgoe.

Meanwhile, government officials and experts remain divided on whether India should focus on carbon intensity or energy intensity. Its current stance emphasizes the latter. Most people below the poverty line use biomass and wood as fuel, which is very energy inefficient, but its carbon dioxide emissions are very close to zero, as it (the fuel) is grown, cut and then grown again. But as they move to say kerosene, the energy efficiency will improve, but carbon intensity will worsen. Over long time frames, the two parameters are different. Energy efficiency, or the efficiency with which energy is generated, can affect a country’s energy intensity.

India needs to realize that sudden moves on targets may jeopardize its position domestically and globally. There needs to be a proper deliberative process, if India needs a carbon or energy intensity number. That has still not been done. India already has a commitment on energy intensity for the 11th Five-Year Plan. It must not make a laughing stock of itself by announcing new numbers everyday; it should stick to its own 20% by 2020 domestic commitment.