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Coal phase-out in COP28 pledge

Context:

India chose not to sign a global pledge to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 due to concerns about the draft text’s mention of phasing out coal. Additionally, India is likely to abstain from endorsing a health declaration due to references to health sector emissions. These decisions reflect India’s reservations about commitments that could impact its energy choices, particularly coal, and raise concerns regarding health-related emissions.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of COP28 Pledge on Coal Phase-Out
  2. Why India Continues to Rely on Coal for Its Energy Needs?

Key Highlights of COP28 Pledge on Coal Phase-Out

  • The COP28 pledge primarily focused on tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, a commitment India had already supported within the G20.
  • However, the pledge also included references to phasing out coal and discontinuing fresh investments in the coal sector, which India was unwilling to endorse.
  • These pledges, part of the host country’s initiative to build alliances on specific climate topics to spur greater climate action, lack legal binding and have seen limited Indian participation.
First-Ever COP Health Day
  • COP featured a dedicated health day for the first time, highlighting the severe impact of climate change on human health and well-being and stressing the urgency of climate action to mitigate these effects.
  • Yet, the text mentioned measures to limit emissions from the health sector and assess greenhouse gas emissions from health systems, a position India opposes outside the UNFCCC framework.
  • India has traditionally avoided participating in such initiatives, especially those involving sensitive issues, as they could potentially prejudice its positions in climate change negotiations.

Why India Continues to Rely on Coal for Its Energy Needs?

Background:
  • India has recently stated its intention to continue relying on coal for electricity generation in the foreseeable future, despite significant expansion in renewable energy sources.
  • This stance appears contrary to India’s ambitious goals of achieving net-zero emissions. India has pledged to source 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 and achieve 100% by 2070.
Rising Energy Demand:
  • India’s energy demand is rapidly increasing, with a 2022 surge of approximately 8%, driven by heightened economic activity.
  • Industrial and commercial sectors are major energy consumers, alongside residential and agricultural sectors.
  • India is projected to experience the most substantial energy demand growth globally over the next 30 years, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Coal Dependency:
  • India has significantly increased coal production, growing by 14% from 2021-22 to 2022-23, reaching 893 million tons.
  • The country has set ambitious targets of 1.31 billion tons of coal production by 2024-25 and aims for 1.5 billion tons by 2030.
  • Currently, renewables contribute only 22% of total energy production, with fossil fuels, particularly coal, still providing 75% of India’s power supply.
Reliability Challenges of Renewables:
  • Renewables face reliability challenges, necessitating substantial investments in battery storage for a stable power supply.
  • Grid-scale battery storage is expensive due to supply chain disruptions.
  • Hydropower, a significant renewable source, has faced ecological concerns and conflicts over water resources in the Himalayan region.
  • Nuclear power generation efforts have not gained momentum, contributing only 3.15% of total electricity in 2021-22.
Future Plans:
  • India aims to achieve 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, three times the current capacity of around 180 GW.
  • However, due to constraints in renewable energy sources, India will continue to rely on coal-generated electricity.
  • India is focusing on phasing down coal use rather than phasing it out entirely.

-Source: Indian Express


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