Climate change is a hotly-debated political issue in the United States, but truly addressing it will require an even bigger consensus.

The world's nations will meet in Paris in December to discuss a global strategy for combating climate change.

That will include plans from individual countries detailing how they expected to reduce their carbon emissions.

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As the talks get closer, much attention is being paid to China and India--two countries with growing economies that are responsible for massive quantities of carbon emissions.

China is taking some steps to reduce carbon emissions, but India has resisted making any similar commitments.

The country is the world's third-largest carbon polluter, and was the last to submit a plan to lower greenhouse-gas emissions ahead of the Paris talks, according to The New York Times (subscription required).

New Delhi traffic, by Flickr user denisbin (Used under CC License)

New Delhi traffic, by Flickr user denisbin (Used under CC License)

This marks something of a compromise on India's stance on climate-change policy.

Indian leaders have said that their priority is lifting more of their population out of poverty, and that a coal-fired electrical grid is needed to accomplish this.

They have also argued that rich countries like the U.S. bear the moral responsibility for climate change, and should not deny poor countries the ability to grow their economies unfettered.

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India's proposed climate-change plan appears influenced by both this thinking, and international pressure to join with other nations in reducing carbon emissions.

Unlike the U.S., European Union, China, and Brazil, India is not committing to any absolute reductions in carbon emissions.

Instead, its plan allows emissions to continue to rise, but at a slower rate than if no restrictions were in place.

Beijing smog

Beijing smog

The plan calls for a reduction in emissions from burning fossil fuels 33 to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

India also aims to produce 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources--including wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power--by the same year.

Under the terms of the plan, India's carbon emissions would still triple from 2005 levels by 2030.

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But officials say that if the country takes no action, emissions will grow sevenfold.

None of these goals are predicated on financial contributions from wealthier countries--something climate-policy analysts view as significant.

However, India is calling for "transfer of technology" from other countries, to help it and other poorer countries establish industries around green tech.



Even though all countries have submitted emissions-reduction plans, experts are reportedly worried that they won't have a big enough collective impact.

If all national plans are followed, global warming could be reduced to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to Climate Interactive.

That's less than the 8.1 degrees predicted if countries take no action, but still leaves the planet significantly hotter than under a 3.6-degree target set in 2010.


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