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Honest Reckoning On Moving Away from Fossil Fuels

Context:

The limit defining discussions on the global climate is set at 1.5°C, representing the average temperature increase since the pre-industrial era. With the threshold of 1°C already surpassed, the ongoing negotiations at the climate summit in Dubai aim to constrain the additional half-degree rise. However, the existing commitments to reduce emissions fall short of achieving this goal.

Relevance:

GS3- Environment-

  • Conservation
  • Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Mains Question:

How far do you agree with the assertion that the major world economies seem unwilling to move away from fossil fuel. Give illustrations to support your answer. (15 Marks, 250 words).

Current Projections:

  • Current projections indicate that to restrict the temperature rise to 1.5°C, the world needs a threefold increase in renewable energy capacity by 2030, equivalent to at least 11,000 GW.
  • The consensus for this tripling was initially formalized in the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration at the G-20 summit in September.
  • Prior to the Dubai summit, it was anticipated that the majority of the approximately 190 countries under the UN convention on climate would endorse this target.
  • As of now, 118 countries have backed the commitment, while major nations like India and China have refrained from signing.
  • The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, though still in draft form, emphasizes that in their pursuit of tripling renewable energy capacity, signatories must also agree to “phase down unabated coal power,” specifically terminating investments in new unabated coal-fired power plants. This stance poses a significant challenge for India.

About the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge:

  • At the COP28 climate summit held in Dubai, 118 nations made a commitment to triple their installed renewable energy capacity by 2030, aiming for a minimum of 11,000 gigawatts (GW).
  • Additionally, they pledged to double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to exceed 4%.
  • Notably, India, along with China and Russia, chose not to endorse this commitment. It’s important to note that this pledge lacks legal binding and has not been incorporated into the primary negotiation texts for the COP-28 agreement.

Position of India:

Even though India has positioned itself as a proponent of renewable energy, with its 2030 targets outlined in its formal National Determined Contributions (NDC) aiming to triple renewable energy capacity to 500 GW from the current 170 GW, it has consistently emphasized its reluctance to abandon certain fuel sources.

Renewable Energy Landscape in India:

  • As of May 2023, India’s total installed renewable energy (RE) capacity, inclusive of nuclear power, is recorded at 197 GW, constituting 43% of the overall installed energy capacity. Globally, India holds the fourth position in Renewable Energy Installed Capacity, Wind Power capacity, and Solar Power capacity, according to the REN21 Renewables 2022 Global Status Report.
  • At COP26, India has raised its target, aiming to achieve 500 GW of non-fossil fuel-based energy by 2030, aligning with its Panchamrit Goals. These goals encompass five key elements of India’s climate action strategy:
  • Attaining 500 GW of non-fossil energy capacity by 2030.
  • Securing 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Decreasing total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from the present to 2030.
  • Lowering the carbon intensity of the economy by 45% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
  • Achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2070.
  • Approximately 70% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from coal-fired plants. In contrast, developed countries committing to relinquish coal often have alternative significant fossil fuel resources.
  • For instance, the United States, which pledged to completely phase out coal for energy use by 2035 at the Dubai summit, currently derives only about 20% of its energy from coal, with at least 55% coming from oil and gas. The U.S. even plans to increase fossil fuel production in 2030 compared to the present.

Conclusion:

The paradox lies in the fact that the commitment of the world’s major economies to renewable energy is not actively positioned to replace fossil fuels at present. Until there is a genuine commitment to substitute existing and future fossil capacity with clean energy, the value of pledges and declarations remains questionable, akin to being worth no more than the paper on which they are written.


March 2024
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