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Govt of India seems 'least concerned': G20 nations' fossil fuel investment all-time high

By Shankar Sharma* 

The news article, on how fossil fuel investments are going up unabated at the global level, especially in G20 countries, quotes a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), which is reported to have found that G20 member countries extended an all-time high of $1.4 trillion in public funds to bolster the fossil fuel industry in 2022. Another study released by the International Monetary Fund highlights the worldwide sum of fossil fuel subsidies reaching an astounding $7 trillion in 2022.
Even if the data indicated above are factually correct only to some extent, the issues and concerns for the global community with regard to the threats associated with climate change can only be massive and unacceptable. This fossil fuel investment development should be a major concern not only to the global communities, but specifically to the people of G20 countries, because there are very many concerns associated with fossil fuel burning in addition to the GHG emissions.
Such a development year after year in ever increasing level of fossil fuel investments may be construed as a fundamental failure of G20 group, because the threats associated with climate change and fossil fuel burning will not spare any global society, and hence is a primary threat to the global community. This development may buttress one school of thinking that the G20 group may be fast turning out to be another "talking club", similar to the UN.
As the current Chair of G20, India could have been expected to lead in all feasible efforts to minimise global GHG emissions on top priority basis, but its actual performance has a left a lot more to be desired; it can even be termed as dismal, because the associated policies in the energy/ power sector alone are being termed by many as deplorable for the simple reason that much more attractive options to generate electricity and hence to minimise the GHG emissions in the country, such as much wider deployment of renewable energy sources, have been largely ignored.
In fact, no explanation for such unsustainable energy sector policies, including costs and benefits analysis of various generation/ T&D technologies, are rarely, if ever discussed. The most disconcerting fact in this regard is that none of the credible concerns and recommendations expressed by civil society groups are even acknowledged by the concerned authorities.
The stunning indifference exhibited by Niti Aayog/ Power Ministry/ PMO in preparing a credible national energy policy is shocking, to say the least. The multiple representations by civil society groups in this regard are not even acknowledged for courtesy sake.
It will not be an exaggeration to state that it is almost impossible to identify any major economic sector in the country, wherein the sum total of various policies and practices can be irrefutably linked to sustainable outcomes for our people. Hence, our country needs not only to do a lot more in practical terms, but also seems to be doing so, to lead the global efforts in minimising the threats associated with climate change.
Without such credible, sustainable and strategic policy framework most claims by the Union government can be construed as just grandstanding. Can we hope that the high profile responsibility, as current chair of G20, will persuade the Union government to start acknowledging the societal level concerns, and start thinking rationally on all the associated issues?
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*Power and climate policy analyst based in Karnataka. This article is based on the author’s representation to Dr S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs

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