What India needs from COP28?

India has been vocal about its energy security needs


At the centre of the COP28 discussions is phasing out of fossil fuels— an issue from which India has varied with the dominant position at the previous conferences. 

India’s position is bringing down of all fossil fuel consumption, and not just coal. 

India has been vocal about its energy security needs that rely heavily on coal to meet peak power demand which went beyond 240 GW this year. This large need has seen an allied increase in coal production which went from 565.7 MT (million tonnes) in 2013-14 to 893.08 MT in 2022-23. It is expected to touch 1,012 MT by 2023-24 and 1.5 billion tonnes by 2030, as per various projections. 

Underground coal mines cause far less environmental damage than open-cast mines which, in addition to pollution also cause deforestation and displacement. Yet, the share of India’s underground coal mine production has fallen from 9 to four per cent in the last decade. 

According to Coal India’s targets, the coal from underground mines will rise to 99-100 MT in FY28 — which will be less than 10 per cent of the overall coal production of the country. 

At the G20 Leaders’ Summit, India’s demand for tripling renewable energy targets by 2030 has found support. But here lies the sore point— the country needs financial support for the development of green energy corridors and improved grid infrastructure to support the growth. 

The G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration has underlined the need for $5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period for developing countries to meet net-zero targets.

Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, Council on Energy Environment and Water warns against too much enthusiasm over the issue. “We might be taking the global target of tripling renewables for granted because the G-20 declaration kind of adopted it. But it will only become a global goal if all the 190 plus countries agree at COP28.... there are (thus) another 170 plus countries who have not really weighed in on this subject”. 

Avinash Persaud, Emeritus Professor, Gresham College, London said that ‘phase-down’ and ‘phase-out’ were the wrong issues to look at. 

“The real issue is that there is a massive increase in the need for energy from the global South. If that is in fossil fuels, we have a real problem. So let's focus and make sure that any new facility is renewable energy based there, then we do not have a huge impact. Phasing down like retiring is both economically costly and socially costly”. 

As an example, Persaud speaks of communities in South African coal mines, where retiring mines will obliterate those communities. 

“Let's make sure that all future demand is renewables. Let's get that going, and then we can phase down and phase out much more easily. But ambition without finance is empty ambition. Forcing countries to be ambitious is meaningless if you don't give them the money to do it”, he said. 

The independent think tank Ember, which released a report on Wednesday, calculates that a tripling of renewable energy use requires $293 billion in financing. To reach the net-zero target proposed by the International Energy Agency, an additional $101 billion is required. 

However, the analysis highlights that renewable projects in India face investment risks from payment delays to regulatory challenges, which contribute to financing barriers to mobilising investment. The financial requirements to achieve both targets far exceed current investment and funding capacities available in the country, the report suggests.

Thus, a commitment from the global North and private players to achieve targets will be critical for India, and the global South.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp