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Reducing emission? India among top nations whose coal as energy source going up

By NS Venkataraman* 

The State of the Global Climate report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that the year 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global temperature of 1.4 degree celsius above pre-industrial 1850-1900 base line.
In a subsequent report published in March 2024, the World Meteorological Organization said that while year 2023 capped off the warmest 10-year period on record, even hotter temperature Is expected in the year 2024. It confirmed its fear that there is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023.
Global temperature rise would inevitably lead to several adverse consequences in overall climate scenario, with seasonal variation and occurrence of drought and flood in different regions,ice melting, sea level increasing and so on. The social and economic consequence of such climate change would be very severe in the coming years.

Consensus view in global climate conferences

This subject has been discussed repeatedly over the last two decades, with global climate conferences taking place every year, with participation from large number of countries.
The consensus view in such climate conference is that the emission of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane gas should be brought down and ultimately the world should achieve zero emission target for these global warming gases.
The further consensus view during the global climate conferences is that for achieving zero emission, the use of fossil fuel namely, crude oil, coal and natural gas should be totally curtailed and methane emission, which largely arise due to livestock population, should be completely stopped.

The fossil fuel production/ consumption not slowing down

However, the fact is that even after a few years of high sounding promises made by a few countries to reduce global emission, the production and use of coal or crude oil and methane emission have not been brought down so far.
On the other hand, they have been only increasing, leading to more emissions, which has made World Meteorological Organization to warn the world community that year 2024 will be the warmest year in the global history.
It is necessary to recognise the fact that the crude oil producing countries are not ready to even curtail the production of crude oil, as it would upset their national economy.
Coal producing countries like China, India, Indonesia, Australia are increasing the production and use of coal as energy source, even as they shout from the roof top that they would reduce the emission level. For example, India’s coal production during the year 2022-23 was 893.19 million tonne as compared to 778.21 million tonne during 2021-22, an increase of 14.7 percent. 
India is still heavily dependent on coal as the major source of energy, according to a recent report on the Energy Statistics 2024 released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. This is despite concerted efforts and strong push for green energy sources by the government.

Promises galore

Of course, these climate conferences have been marked by promises galore from various countries that they would reduce the emission level with some countries like China, USA and a few others, promising that they would achieve zero emission by the year 2050 and India promising that it would achieve zero emission by the year 2070.
The ground reality is that alternative eco friendly energy source and feedstock source, that would substitute for coal, crude oil and natural gas and avoid methane emission, have not yet seen the light of the day in the scale that is required, to develop alternate eco friendly energy source.
While technology development efforts are continuing, taking a holistic view of the global scenario, it looks to be unlikely that use of fossil fuel would be suspended anytime in the foreseeable future.

Ground reality

The solution so far talked about is the development and utilisation of renewable energy source like wind, solar and hydro power and green hydrogen that would be produced by water electrolysis. No doubt they would be part of solution, but certainly they would not be available to substitute use of fossil fuel in full scale at any time due to several limiting factors. Any such expectation should only be viewed as utopian.
While a few developed and developing countries in the world have spoken about fixing target about achieving zero emission at one time or the other, large number of other countries which are in the stage of developing or under developed economy, have been silent on this issue.
For several of the under developed and developing countries, access to energy is an important and immediate concern than climate change.
There is apprehension that the current global approach to overcome climate change by insisting on reduction of emissions will mean that several countries have to reduce the fossil fuel consumption for generating energy, which would set the under developed and developing countries on a course that would run the risk of forcing them to remain economically and industrially backward, which would be an unacceptable situation.

Emerging view

There is an emerging view globally that it is necessary to strike the right balance between economic and industrial development and emission mitigation.
Obviously, this means that any move to curtail the use of fossil fuel without alternative and eco friendly energy source in adequately large capacity would end up in a disaster for the world economy and that of the poor countries.
Ambitious target of reducing emissions and framing climate policies that are not pragmatic considering the need for energy security, have enormous socio-economic concern in the medium and long term.
While all countries, within their limitations should target to reduce emissions by pursuing policies and programmes with array of regulatory measures as well as incentives to formulate production and consumption pattern in their countries, it is necessary to keep in view that mindless policy of targeting zero emission would end up nowhere.
Obviously, in the forthcoming global climate conference, the world leaders must be honest and pragmatic enough to admit that achieving zero emission in the world is an impossible task and they have to reconcile themselves to continue global warming situation.
Possibly, formulation and initiation of mitigation measures to reduce the adverse impact of global warming would be the right course of action.
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai



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