A difficult choice is being faced by India which will have consequences for the whole world. India is expected to have the most energy needs which is going to be faster in the coming decades. Even under the most hopeful projections, a portion of the demand must be met by dirty coal power which is one of the key sources of heat-trapping carbon emissions.
Rameshwar Prasad Gupta who is India’s top environmental official stated the week before the UN climate summit at Glasgow which is also known as COP26 that India can either continue to burn coal from the country’s vast reserved or can concentrate on development that is needed to lift millions from poverty.
An important question remains with just few days remaining for the urgent talks: “Will there be enough carbon space in the atmosphere for India’s developmental needs to coexist with the global ambition of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last week that the nation would aim to bring a stop to adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at least by 2070 which is almost two decades after the United States and also almost 10 years later than its neighbor, China. Climate scientist NiklasHohne, of the NewClimate Institute and the Climate Action Trackers stated that “this will only shave off a tenth of a degree of the world’s warming.”
The short-term targets of India for 2030 is mainly ‘increasing its current capacity of non-fossil fuel electricity to 500 gigawatts and using green energy to meet half of its needs, cutting carbon emissions by a billion tons compared with previous targets, and reducing the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% — wouldn’t have any impact’, as stated by Hohne.
Experts argued that these goals have a good aim for the nation, considering the development status of the nation which will obviously be far from easy.
For instance, there needs to be triple in the non-fossil fuel capacity in India in less than a decade. And also, for that, the power sector of India will completely have to reimagine itself. It is a humongous task for a country like India as said by Sandeep Pai who studies energy security and climate change at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
Even after that, it might not be enough for the world.
India’s vast population is one of the reasons for energy choices to have a such a big impact for the whole world. There are approximately 27 million people who survives without any access to electricity. It does have homes and roads to build while the extreme heat is bringing the extreme demand of air conditioning. India will profoundly need to build a power system that is almost the size of the European Union’s to fulfil these needs.
Although after the US and China, India has the most annual emissions, the negotiators of India in Glasgow have repeatedly pointed out that they have contributed almost a fraction of the global emissions historically. Moreover, they also stated that the average Indian uses 12 times less electricity than the typical American.
Bhupender Yadav, Indian environment and climate change minister said to the Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday that “it’s a matter of conscience” and also said that “those countries historically responsible for emissions need to keep their unfulfilled promise of providing climate finance.”
Narendra Modi also mentioned earlier at the summit that India is expected that the world’s developed nations to make $1 trillion available as climate finance. As things are right now, Chirag Gajjar, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute said that the climate finance from rich nations to align with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is nowhere to be seen.
Climate scientist Hohne said that “It’s possible for the goal of 1.5 degrees and India’s development needs to coexist.”
Hohne added that ‘a transition away from coal, specifically for coal-dependent regions of the world would necessarily require the assistance of the international community.’
When asked about coal, Indian environment minister Yadav said that the country do not have immediate plans to phase it out. All the issues arrive and gets stuck in the finance of climate.