The challenges of phasing out coal and oil in India: How far is it from avoiding global warming, says a UNICEF climate scientist
It’s not unusual for temperatures in India’s Thar Desert to reach 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). Even when they drop, hot winds sweep across the bare plains. The soil is infertile and there is little or no water. It is a place that is near unlivable for humans but is ideal for a large solar farm.
In Rajasthan, projects like the Bhadla Solar Park have helped the state exceed its renewables goals, but experts say that success isn’t happening widely enough.
The budget indicates that India is serious about mitigating climate change, says climate scientist Jayaraman Srinivasan at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. He says that it will take decades of consistent policy to transition from coal, oil and gas to renewable sources. Senior government scientists say that the announcement will help set the country’s future research agenda.
If India doesn’t receive the financial support it needs, maintaining its pace on developing renewable energy will be difficult. Increasing it will be even harder.
India objected to language in the proposed joint statement about phasing out coal at last year’s COP26 negotiations. The chief delegate argued the government had a duty to give subsidies to fossil fuels to the public so that poor people in India were able to get natural gas for cooking.
Four of the world’s five most polluted cities are close to the Bhadla Solar Park. They are covered in soot and ash of burned coal on a daily basis.
According to a report on Climate Change in the Indian Mind from Yale University’s School of the Environment, 81% of Indians surveyed were worried about global warming, with 50% saying they were “very worried.” In addition, some people think their government should be doing more to address global warming.
He worries about what life will be like in the future. “If no concrete action is taken, life after 10 years is going to become extremely difficult,” Sharma said. “What can we do? We need to live here.
The Modi government has been encouraging Indians to live more sustainably – in October launching a program that urged drivers to turn off their engines at red traffic lights and for people to take the stairs instead of the lift.
But the question isn’t just whether the world can count on the Indian public to decarbonize – it’s also about whether Indians can count on their government to do so, too.
A report by S&P Global earlier this year said India may not meet its 2022 target, partly because the country still lacks a clear commitment to phasing out coal.
The developed world was supposed to be providing $100 billion a year to developing nations to help them slash their emissions and adapt to the climate crisis. That goal has never been met.
The ministry of new and renewable energy will receive 10.22 billion rupees, a 48% increase on last year’s budget. Funding for the ministry of environment, forests and climate change is stagnant, with no plans for change in the foreseeable future.
Tiju Thomas, a materials engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, says that to boost the country’s production of low-emissions hydrogen will require synergy between policymaking, industry and research. “It is the right time for India to up its game in energy transition,” says Thomas.
But the country also needs to increase its energy-storage capacity to take advantage of other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, which are not available all the time, Srinivasan points out.