This content was released on November 15, 2021 – 09:04
Although its capital is shrouded in smoke, India was primarily responsible for weakening the pledges to end coal use at the COP26 climate summit, and experts say it has given priority to economic growth rather than the future of the planet.
At the Glasgow Summit, the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter, China joined forces to reduce fossil fuel contracts, prompting a final agreement to call for a reduction in the use of coal instead of eliminating it.
India’s reluctance to cut off such polluting energy stems from the need for cheap fuel to strengthen the growing economy to lift millions of people out of poverty.
“We have a large population and it has not yet reached the basic minimum standard of living,” Samrat Senkupta, a climate change expert at the Center for Science and the Environment in New Delhi, told AFP.
Coal consumption has almost doubled in the last decade, with only China burning more, and India running on 70% of its fuel in the electricity phase.
The government announced a series of mining auctions last year to boost production, with the exception of following stricter regulations for coal-fired plants.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to reduce his country’s dependence on coal, but said in Glasgow that India aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2070, a decade after China and 20 years after other major emissions.
But without decisive action in advance, experts say Indian emissions will increase in the coming years, undermining global efforts to control global warming, with catastrophic consequences.
– Hardest goals –
The effects of India’s addiction to fossil fuels are clear, with thick gray fog enveloping New Delhi every winter.
Emissions from coal mills and cars, along with smoke from agricultural fires, suffocate this 20-million-megacity.
On the same day that the COP26 delegates finalized their climate agreement, New Delhi ordered schools to close for a week to prevent children from going outside due to pollution.
A recent study by the University of Chicago found that smoke causes more than a million deaths annually in India, and pollution reduces the life expectancy of four out of 10 Indians by more than nine years.
The Modi government is trying to alleviate the problem by increasing renewable energy and expects solar power to have the same weight as coal in the electricity matrix by the end of this decade.
But India does not have the technical capacity to sustain the demand for solar panels, so it will rely on more expensive imported components.
Senkupta said forecasting solar energy for 2030 “should reach a bigger goal”. “This requires a lot of cheap funding and the availability of technology.”
India argued that historic pollutants such as the United States and Europe should provide technical know-how and funding for climate mitigation.
His environment minister, Bhubaneswar Yadav, told COP26 on Saturday that developing countries “have a right to use fossil fuels responsibly”.
He argued that countries with less historical responsibility for climate change should not have such demands as large emissions.
“In such a scenario, how do you expect developing countries to promise to gradually reduce subsidies on coal and fossil fuels?” He asked.
The COP26 deal was reluctantly accepted by other countries who wanted to finalize the deal after two weeks of marathon negotiations.
Faced with the threat of rising sea levels due to global warming, other developing countries, including the Pacific island nations, were outraged at the idea that India’s intervention was made with them in mind.
“We expressed not only our surprise but also our great disappointment,” said Iyas Syed-Kayum, attorney general of the Republic of Fiji in Oceania.
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