NEW DELHI - India thinks it may be possible to cut its carbon intensity by 24 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels, according to provisional government estimates obtained by Reuters Wednesday.
Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of gross domestic product.
By 2030, India estimates it could achieve a reduction in its carbon intensity by 37 percent from 2005 levels. The figures were arrived at after an analysis by various government departments.
A senior government official who declined to be named said India's final targets, likely to be presented at next week's global climate change talks in Copenhagen, could reflect a broad range rather than a specific figure.
India's carbon intensity cut figures are based on a projection that the country would achieve 20 percent energy efficiency by 2020 from 2007 levels.
India, the world's fourth highest emitter, is under pressure to announce details of how it will control its growing carbon emissions, and issuing targets will likely strengthen New Delhi's hands at the Copenhagen negotiations.
China and the United States, the top and second largest emitters in the world, have unveiled plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, leaving India the only major polluter still to issue any targets.
Government sources said India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh will make a statement in parliament Thursday in which he could announce the targets.
The carbon intensity projections are likely to be voluntary domestic action and not open to verification by foreign inspectors or part of any legally binding agreement.
Also, it was not immediately clear if India would pledge its carbon intensity or energy efficiency targets as part of any global deal.
The carbon intensity goal still means that India's overall emissions will rise in coming years, just not as fast as its rapid economic growth needed to lift millions of its inhabitants out of poverty.
According to an analysis by WWF India based on the 2020 and 2030 carbon intensity figures obtained by Reuters, India could slow down growth in carbon emissions by 12-14 percent by 2020 from 2007 levels.
Looking at India's renewable energy targets and plans in forestry sector up to 2020, this is possible, Shirish Sinha, the head of WWF India's climate change and energy program, told Reuters.
Our analysis does not take into account actions planned in sectors such as transport and buildings.
Developing countries, under no obligation to make any cuts under the existing Kyoto protocol, say they could make the shift to less polluting economies with a helping hand from the rich.
Many larger developing countries, such as China and India, say they are taking voluntary steps to curb the growth of their emissions, such as increased use of renewable energy and imposing energy efficiency standards.
The December 7-18 U.N. talks in the Danish capital were aimed at settling a legally binding deal after arguments between rich and poor nations about who should cut emissions, by how much and who should pay.
Negotiations have run out of time but there are still hopes that a substantive political pact can be agreed at the meeting instead.
India has said rich countries such as the United States were offering anemic cuts. But they still could help seal a global deal by transferring emissions-reducing technology and paying to reduce the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities.
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)