India has refrained from signing a pledge on tripling renewable energy capacity as its draft text made references to phasing out electricity generated using coal and ending investments in coal-fired power plants, The Indian Express reported on Monday.

The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge proposes to triple global renewable energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts by 2030. The pledge was signed by 118 countries at the United Nations’ annual climate change summit in Dubai on Saturday.

Plans for a global declaration on rapidly increasing renewable energy capacity were first tabled as a concrete proposal during the Group of 20 negotiations in September in New Delhi.

The United States and Brazil, the second and the third-largest renewable energy generators after China, signed the pledge. India comes fourth on the list with 170 gigawatts of installed renewable energy capacity.

India plans to expand this to 500 gigawatts by 2030 but also considers hydropower from large dams as a renewable energy source, a matter on which there is global disagreement, The Hindu reported.

India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Thursday that India’s economic imperatives do not allow for “a sudden abandonment of coal, as is often demanded” He said that coal “is and would remain an important part of India’s energy mix”.

India also opted out of the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health. The declaration emphasises the need to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions for “benefits for health” and proposes to achieve this through “[energy] transitions, lower air pollution, active mobility and shifts to sustainable healthy diets”.

COP28 refers to the 28th edition of the United Nations’ annual climate change conference.

The pledge was signed by 124 countries as of Saturday. While the United States did not sign the pledge, China was the latest country to do so a day after its public announcement.

India’s absence from the list comes despite its involvement in developing the pledge as a “country champion”, as described by the COP28 website.

News agency PTI reported that India expressed concerns over the practicality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the health sector as this could hurt its ability to provide medical services, especially in remote parts of the country.

India is reluctant to commit to such climate actions that are not part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty, according to The Indian Express.

Both documents propose reducing fossil fuel emissions, albeit for different outcomes. The pledges are not legally binding.

COP28 chief’s comments ‘incredibly concerning’

COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber recently said that there is “no science” to suggest that a rapid discontinuation of the use of fossil fuels is essential to restrict global warming to a 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

Scientists told the publication that Al Jaber’s comments bordered on climate denial and were “incredibly concerning”.

Al Jaber, who serves as the minister of industry and advanced technology in the United Arab Emirates, made the comments on November 21 in an online event prior to COP28. He was responding to questions by Mary Robinson, a former United Nations special envoy for climate change.

“Show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” The Guardian quoted Al Jaber as saying.