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India's Current Climate Crisis

The current global climate crisis is causing irreversible damage across Northwest central India – but is PM Narendra Modi worsening the situation by pushing for the further expansion of coal production? At COP26: Modi pledged that ‘between now and 2030, India will reduce its total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes.’

Since the Paris agreement in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced several impressive pledges in contribution to this international agreement to combat climate change. Over the past 7 years, 197 countries have signed and are unified by their global response to reducing global warming. A central focus for all countries onboard is to limit global temperatures rising by no more than 2°C this century.

Since the Paris accord, India has been striving towards economic and social transformation. At COP26: Modi reaffirmed pledges that were even more ambitious than in 2015. Modi previously pledged that by 2030 India would reduce its emission intensity by 33-35% from the 2005 level. This reduction has now reached a determined 45% decrease of carbon intensity by 2030.

India is the fourth largest producer of wind power and fifth of solar energy, world-wide, and according to the Climate Action Tracker: India’s renewable installation capacity has reached 98.8GW since July 2021. India also plans to increase its use of renewable energy to meet half of the country’s energy needs by 2030, which, although hopeful, will be hard to fulfil due to India’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Over 70% of India’s electricity is produced from coal mining.

So, why does Modi want to exploit the country’s oil reserves amidst all this progress?

As stated in India’s INDC 2009 report to UNFCCC, ‘In order to secure reliable, adequate and affordable supply of electricity, coal will continue to dominate power generation in future.’ Coal is a current necessity for India to be able to produce enough energy state-wide. This is why climate goals are often gradual and long-term to ensure results of such goals have longevity.   

Oil fuels a vast majority of India’s power grid, and as the population rapidly increases, as will the subsequent demand for electricity. Oil also necessitates miners who depend on these jobs for their livelihood. The commodity brings in billions for the economy and increases India’s economic self-sufficiency. It is easy to see why India is still clinging to coal but is this excusable considering the current climate crisis?

Northwest India endured record-breaking temperatures of over 36°C throughout April 2022. The prior record for April was in 2010 at a high of 35.4°C. According to India’s Meteorological Department, Northwest Central India experienced ‘Severe heatwave days and higher than normal temperatures.’ Allahabad, officially known as Prayagraj, reached an insufferable high of 46.8°C.

The Meteorological department’s ‘Monthly Weather and Climate Summary for April also documented an average max temperature of 38.04°C in Central India. This is the highest temperature recorded in the said region for over 122 years, dating back to 1901. These extreme heatwaves have devastating effects on those who must suffer through such unprecedented weather.

Although India may be the world’s third-largest producer of electricity, air conditioning, shelter, and freshwater are not accessible for those living in poverty, especially elderly natives. Energy shortages have resulted in electric blackouts lasting several hours, even for those who can afford it. Water supplies are dangerously low due to severe drought and dams are at an all-time low. 

This vicious cycle of burning fossil fuels to produce energy, and subsequently heat, will result in extreme weather that will only become more common and dangerous as average global temperatures rise. It is understandable how scary and real this is, not only for India, but as an indicator of what will undoubtedly happen, and is happening, globally, if temperatures continue to rapidly increase.

Modi’s drive to produce more oil will further the amount of harmful, heat-trapping gases released into the earth’s atmosphere. However, it is useful to understand why India is so dependent on oil right now, although it might not be in the future.

Blockage by NSG nations, namely China, has meant that India cannot access nuclear technology from NSG members, or ensure a regular supply of nuclear materials to produce nuclear energy. India cannot gain admission into the NSG due to its refusal to sign the prior NPT that all 48 nations have signed to become a member. 

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed in response to India’s first, successful, nuclear bomb test in 1974. The reason for the formation was to establish guidelines on how to regulate the distribution of nuclear equipment and prevent proliferation between nuclear-using nations. The UK, US, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia are a few such nations.

Should India be granted access, nuclear power capacity would increase, as would the country’s ability to produce more renewable energy. There are severe limitations as to how much nuclear-power India is able to produce without further plantations. So, why has India not signed the NPT?

The subcontinent would have to forfeit all nuclear weapons and materials to be qualified for membership - although entry into the group could mean that India achieves its climate goals much sooner. 



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