New Delhi: Experts welcomed UN Secretary General’s advice to India asking to discontinue fossil fuels and said it would be a great time e to shift to renewable energy but can only be done in the wraps of a detailed and inclusive action plan that would ensure livelihood to the workers during this energy transition. They also raised concerns over the country’s need for financial and technological support.
The UN SG had on Friday said it has high hopes from India and expects the country to take on global leadership and work on clean energy and climate action, saying the country can become a “true global superpower” in the fight against climate change if it speeds up its shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Avinash Chanchal, Greenpeace India’s climate campaigner said, “It’s a known fact that burning coal is one of the major reasons for air pollution and the increasing climate crisis. The UN chief rightly mentioned that burning coal in power generation is not only impacting public health and climate but also the economy.”
“Fossil fuel still comprises a major chunk of thermal power provided through grids to light up our homes, cities. They are still a prevalent choice of fuels to propel our vehicles. We can already see the ill-effects of air pollution caused by fossil fuel have been found to cause 30 percent premature deaths, cancer, and mental diseases in the country. A recent study found that emissions caused by diesel vehicles are responsible for 66 percent of air pollution-related deaths in India. It’s important to progressively shift to cleaner fuel alternatives for cleaner air,” Kamal Narayan Omer, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council, said. He added that advocates of clean air will always support a shift from fossil fuels because it has already been found to be at the root of several health problems in the country.
Environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, the founder of NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) said, “The Indian government will have to do this in the future to deliver climate justice. Our leaders must consider it seriously. At the same time, the UN has to understand that we are a developing country, and raising the living standards of our people is important to us. Often, renewable power sources are more expensive than coal, therefore the UN should look for ways to support India financially and technology-wise in this segment”.
Chanchal said that India is estimated to bear Rs 10.7 lakh crore annually because of air pollution from fossil fuels.
“At the same time, the market is also unfavorable for coal power. The pre-construction pipeline continued to shrink In India and it fell by half from 2018 to 2019. Mostly because of financial reasons, at least 42 coal-fired power plant units under construction at 19 locations totaling 19,255 MW were on hold as of July 2020,” he said.
He said that according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India has the potential for 1,050 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity by 2030 but “there is a need to ensure the growing demand is fuelled by sustainable and cleaner sources of energy and that is possible in today’s world where renewable energy is not just environment and climate-friendly but is an economically cheaper option as well.”
Suyash Gupta, Director General, Indian Auto LPG Coalition pointed out that investing in clean energy will create new job opportunities and help recover the economy.
“Fossil fuel still comprises a major chunk of thermal power provided through grids to light up our homes, cities. They are still a prevalent choice of fuels to propel our vehicles. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ plea to India to invest in clean and environmentally sustainable fuels is therefore important at this time as we work towards a post COVID recovery. Investing in clean energy solutions and creating new jobs in the sector can drive economic growth and recovery,” he said.
He also suggested replacing high carbon fuels like petrol and diesel in the transport sector with low carbon fuels like Auto LPG.
Aarti Khosla from Climate Trends cited examples of a few states which have said no to coal and said it reflected the sentiments of investors as well as industry.
“Gujarat was the first state in India to announce a no new coal policy last year, Chattisgarh followed up soon after though didn’t make an official statement but has clearly hinted to move in that direction. Maharashtra just recently announced that it would also not build new coal plants. This shift coming from the ground, reflects the sentiments of investors, as well as industry,” she said.