Global warming – the Indian example of inaction

I am writing this article as most of the world’s leaders are gathered in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. They would conclude their discussions this weekend and I will discuss in next week’s article what conclusions they reached. With this article, I begin to discuss how global warming affects developing countries. I will take the case of India to illustrate how the major developing countries are managing the crisis which is already affecting them.

Developing countries are not the cause of the global warming crisis but are seriously affected by it. The window to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees centigrade is closing fast. It is unlikely that the objectives agreed at the international meeting held in Glasgow in 2021 will be achieved. This is the warning issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the third volume of its assessment report published on April 4, a few weeks before the northern part of the southern subcontinent -Asia is hit by a record heat wave. . The heat was followed by devastating floods in Pakistan.

The latest IPPC report is the third in a series written by 278 scientists who have worked on climate change. The first in the series presented the current state of knowledge on the physical science of climate change and the second report examined the consequences of global warming. The most recent paper provides a comprehensive set of possibilities for how humanity might stabilize the climate and avoid catastrophic global warming. It was fear that motivated the nations of the world gathered in Paris in 2015 to act.

The goal of the Paris Agreement was to keep average global warming between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The two-degree target was adopted at the insistence of dozens of small island nations who feared being wiped out by rising seas. “We need to move fast and now or the 1.5 degree target will be out of reach,” said IPPC co-chair Jim Skae of Imperial College London. “If there is no breakthrough in the kind of commitments countries are making before they get to COP27 in Egypt,” he added. “We may have to conclude that 1.5 degrees Celsius has indeed disappeared.” Recall that the COP26 was held in Glasgow, Great Britain, during which India refused to make a firm commitment to the use of coal to produce energy. India’s stance on coal burning could change: what India does in terms of controlling carbon emissions will have consequences that go beyond its own borders.

In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pledged that India would achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070, a milestone for a country that has relied heavily on coal to produce electricity. energy as well as for household cooking and heating. The country has taken some steps towards achieving this goal by focusing on the development of alternative energy sources. It now ranks fourth in the world in the use of solar energy for electricity generation, increasing its capacity more than 100 times from 2011 to 2021. The Prime Minister has promised that his country, the third largest world’s carbon polluter, plans to get 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind and green hydrogen by 2030, up from 40 per cent in 2022. Despite this, plans for India to rapidly develop its economy implies that it will continue to burn coal in ever greater quantities for decades to come. The country is expected to be the fastest growing energy consumer in the world over the next few decades. Achieving this goal will require cooperation from the private sector.

The role of the private sector has been examined in detail by Emily Schmall and Hari Kumar in a recent article by The New York Times who was watching the activities of Gautam Adani now, with his estimated wealth of $120 billion, the richest man in Asia and the fourth richest in the world. The Indian billionaire was trying to work on both sides of the climate change equation. He was developing the coal industry in the state of Gujarat while investing in renewable resources. He had invested heavily in the development of the west coast of Gujarat, building a port and a railway line which would bring in coal for use in his industrial conglomerate. In a press interview, he said it would be unfair to ask India to disproportionately sacrifice growth to control climate change. As recently as the early 2000s, 300 to 400 million Indians lacked access to electricity. “India needs to move from a developing country to a developed country and energy is like food. We always align our business and our business philosophy according to the needs of the country. »

Adani’s investment in the development of non-coal power sources is to help India reach the goal of 100 gigawatts of grid-connected solar power by the end of 2022. During Over the past decade, competition has reduced the cost of solar power to that of coal. To convince big players like Adani to reduce the country’s dependence on imports, the government is encouraging investment in the manufacture of photovoltaic panels in the country.

Adani’s reach goes far beyond his home state of Gujarat; it even exceeds the coasts of India. His latest move was to Australia, where his Carmichael project is one of the largest surface coal mining operations in the world. The project has faced opposition from climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, the well-known young Swedish woman who has made climate control her life’s mission. His opposition and those of several other activists led to the withdrawal of other probable partners. Adani had to invest his own money – $7 billion – to develop the mine. It will produce coal and export it to India for use in Adani’s massive operations in his country. Adani, already the world’s largest coal trader, is on its way to becoming the world’s largest importer. While making such large investments in coal development, he and his supporters claim that around 80% of his capital expenditures go to the development of renewable energy sources. The war in Ukraine strengthened the argument made by Modi and Adani for maintaining India’s coal-based energy sector by increasing India’s supply of domestic coal. This approach has helped India cope with the loss of revenue generated by the war in Ukraine. The war had little impact on India.

Billionaire Adani’s operations in India and the fact that he has partnered with Prime Minister Modi to develop India’s coal-based economy are a good illustration of the challenges the world is facing and preparing for joint action. The United Nations has produced a report which will be the main document to be used by the participants in Egypt. I will discuss the main conclusions of the UN report in the article which will appear next week and the conclusions of the Sharm al Sheikh conference. While the conference was still in session, there was talk of transforming the IMF and World Bank to deliver resources quickly and cheaply to developing countries most affected by global warming.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14e2022.

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Teresa H. Sadler