- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
Right to burn fossil fuels
Context: There has been quite a lot of debate on India’s dependence on coal against the backdrop of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) meeting.
Justification for continuing the dependence on coal
- The crux of the theoretical argument is that India needs to develop, and development requires energy.
- However, since India has neither historically emitted nor currently emits carbon anywhere close to what the global North has, it has no reason to commit to reduce dependence on coal at least in future.
- The argument is that it should ask for a higher and fairer share in the global carbon budget.
- Such justification for burning coal is transcending into right to burn coal.
Criticism of above arguments
- There is no doubt that economic development requires energy but that does not translate into energy by burning coal.
- Normally the argument in favour of coal is on account of its cost, reliability and domestic availability.
- However, recent data show that the levelised cost of electricity from renewable energy sources like solar (photovoltaic), hydro and onshore has been declining and is already less than fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
- As for the easy domestic availability of coal, it is a myth. According to the Ministry of Coal, India’s net coal import went up from ₹782.6 billion in 2011-12 to ₹1,155.0 billion in 2020-21.
- Global South should not be following the North in choosing the development model. The abundance of renewable natural resources in the tropical climate can give India a head start in this competitive world of technology. South-South collaborations can help India adopt a developmental path alternative to that laid down by West.
- High-employment trajectory that the green path entails vis-à-vis the fossil fuel sector may help address the issue of rising youth population and surplus labour problem in developing countries like India.
- Climate Justice argument narrowly focusing on the framework of nation-states. Injustice between the rich and the poor within nations and between humans and non-human species also needs to be taken into account.
- Chalking out an independent, greener path to development may create conditions for such negotiations and give the South the moral high ground to force the North to pay for the energy transition in the South.
Connecting the dots: