Coal remains the goal, COP not on top yet!
India does not seem to be anywhere near the goal of planning cut down on fossil fuels as Govt goes for aggressive coal mining
Let's face it. We cannot do without coal. On the one hand, we are telling the world that we will cut down our dependence on fossil fuels, while on the other we are going to be increasingly dependent on coal for thermal power production. So, it is miles to go for India to transition from coal to other sources of energy.
In reality check narrative, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi himself has said despite the global thrust on energy transition away from coal, for India, coal continues to be an affordable source of energy. Coal holds prime importance for meeting its energy needs being fuelled by a rising economy and the fuel accounts for more than 51per cent of the country's primary energy requirement and around 73per cent of power generation. Also, coal is one of the important ingredients in production of steel, sponge iron, aluminium, cement, paper and bricks, he said and pointed out that coal demand in the country is yet to peak and will continue to play an important role in the energy mix till 2040 and beyond.
"Thus, no transition away from coal is happening in the foreseeable future in India." Joshi said chairing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of Ministry of Coal last week in Indore. The meeting was held, ironically, to discuss an emerging issue related to the coal sector on Coal Mine Closure - Achieving Just Transition for All.
Coal Secretary Amrit Lal Meena briefed that the phrase Just Transition came into prominence after its inclusion in climate declarations made during UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) held in Paris in 2015. It was emphasised that the transition from a carbon intensive energy source to low-carbon energy source should not be harsh on the people dependent on that source. It is expected that such people should be compensated for the impact of transition and/or re-trained and re-employed in some other low-carbon economic activities.
Joshi also addressed the Investors Conclave in Indore and urged industry leaders to participate in the 6th tranche of commercial coal auction. Now look at this: The Minister tweeted that under PM Narendra Modi, several steps for ease of doing business have been taken to make mining attractive for investors.
Out of a total of 141 coal blocks on offer, 30 blocks are from Madhya Pradesh. These include a mix of partially explored and fully explored mines. Also emphasised that any investment in the coal sector is an investment in India's energy security, he said. If this is the government's conflicting stand on the Climate Action Plan, corporations with a billion-dollar turnover do not seem to be far behind in this dichotomy.
While organisations recognise the sustainability requirement and most have announced net zero commitments, there is still a gap between long-term ambition and short-term concrete actions, according to a new report from the Capgemini Research Institute, 'A World in Balance – Why sustainability ambition is not translating to action.'
The report also highlights that the business case for implementing sustainability measures is largely underestimated or misunderstood, with only 21 per cent of executives believing that it is clear.
Capgemini Research Institute surveyed 2,004 executives from 668 large organizations with annual revenues over $1 billion across 12 countries and key industries.
The report found that many organizations are lacking a collective vision and coordination around sustainability efforts across their operations, and various teams are still working in silos. For example, only 43per cent of respondents say that sustainability-related data is available and shared across the entire organization, and less than half (47per cent) of businesses are actively recruiting new talent with strong sustainability skills.
This is really a sad state of affairs. Once upon a time, the society used to look up to the rulers and the so-called elite for guidance. Now, it appears that the society as a whole has to take that responsibility and tell the governments as to what it wants. This is where I fully agree with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev that the environment must be made an election issue. Politicians will not do it. On the contrary, they are experts in politicising even the environmental issues. Sample this.
Expressing "serious concern" over Delhi's air quality remaining in the 'severe' category for the fifth day in a row, forcing closure of primary schools, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology Dr Jitendra Singh cautioned that air pollution related stubble burning cases have risen by 160per cent in Rajasthan and 20per cent in Punjab. This, he said, implies that the governments in the two States are not doing enough to check stubble burning and are, on the contrary, increasingly contributing to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi NCR.
The Minister, who is also in charge of India Meteorological Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Sciences, pointed out that States such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have recorded progressive decline in the incidents of stubble fire burning.
It is for the people to judge as to why Punjab and Rajasthan continue to show further deterioration raising several questions regarding their intent, sincerity and prosperity, while many States have done an appreciable job in stubble management and are gradually moving in positive directions.
Referring to findings by India Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology under the aegis of Ministry of Earth Sciences, Dr Jitendra Singh said, there was 160per cent and 20per cent rise in cases of stubble burning in Rajasthan and Punjab respectively in October, 2022 compared to October, 2021.
Farm Fires in Punjab rose from 13,269 to 16,004 from October 2021 to October 2022 recording a 20per cent jump, while in Rajasthan, it rose from 124 to 318 from October 2021 to October 2022 recording a rise of 160 per cent. The Minister also raised alarm that Delhi recorded 7 "Very Poor" Air Quality Days in October this year compared to nil such cases in October, 2021.
Dr Jitendra Singh also pointed out that Haryana and Uttar Pradesh witnessed decline of farm fires incidents by 30 per cent and 38 per cent respectively during the same period. Haryana witnessed 1995 fire counts in October 2022 as compared to 2914 in October 2021. Similarly, UP registered 768 fire counts this October, compared to 1060 cases in October, 2021.
Lies, damn lies, statistics and now politics. Basically, the Centre should have summoned all the Chief Secretaries – not just the CMs - of the States bordering Delhi and taken an account of the ground reality much ahead of the stubble burning season. Then, the Centre should have set up a task force with these officials instead of making political statements blaming non-BJP States and indirectly sending messages about 'double engine' governments.
As a top researcher told me, the governments talk about Delhi air quality during the farm fires, discuss on floods in exploding cities such as Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad during the monsoon and forget the environment during the rest of the eight to 10 months as the subject is out of context. Unless we plan fire-fighting before the fire, we are heading for doom.
(The author is a Mumbai-based media veteran, known for his thought-provoking messaging. The views expressed are personal)