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South Asia’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint

South Asia’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint
South Asia’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint

With rapid growth and the resulting increased demand for energy, greenhouse gas emissions have risen in South Asia by about 3.3 percent annually since 1990. The main source of carbon dioxide (CO2) is energy transformation, while methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are generated largely from agriculture.

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South Asia’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint

India accounts for about 75 percent of total regional emissions and though per capita emissions remain low, there is considerable potential for future increase with economic growth. While nuclear power and hydropower have some potential, under most realistic scenarios thermal power will contribute the bulk of the region’s energy, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions will require considerable investment in cleaner thermal generation technologies, though any mitigation strategy must be consistent with a country’s development objectives.


Coal is likely to remain the major source of energy for the region in the foreseeable future. In India, for example, 80 percent of electricity is produced from coal, though there are considerable opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through increased plant efficiency and reduction in transmission and distribution losses.


There is also enormous scope to increase industrial efficiency and reduce the intensity of energy systems, though the huge number and diversity of the small- and medium-scale enterprises that characterize the industrial sector present a considerable logistical challenge. Initiatives exist within the region, as exemplified by the passage of the Energy Conservation Act of India in 2001, and the World Bank will continue to support numerous initiatives to maintain its engagement in this important mitigation area.


With rising household incomes and the availability of cheaper vehicles, transport demand is projected to grow rapidly in South Asia, with potential to significantly increase air pollution and traffic congestion. Investment is needed in policy, infrastructure, and the design, management, and operation of systems to promote a shift to more sustainable options, particularly those involving public transport.


Methane is the principal greenhouse gas emitted from agriculture, primarily from rice cultivation and livestock, with India again the largest source, though per hectare emissions are only 20–30 percent of the global average, reflecting such factors as poor soils, low levels of chemical application, and continued use of low-yielding rice cultivars and traditional planting regimes. Little is known about the costs and feasibility of reducing agricultural emissions.

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