A strategic approach that could curb
global warming (Live Mint)
Mains Paper 4: Environment
Prelims level: Paris accord
Mains level: Climate Change impact and needed measures
- The effects of global warming are already visible. Average
temperatures are only 0.8 degree Celsius higher today than in 1880.
- Yet there is already an increasing frequency of extreme weather
events, rising ocean temperatures and disappearing corals, melting glaciers
and shrinking polar ice caps, and rising sea levels.
- Public action has nevertheless been too feeble to cope with this
- The Paris accord has been signed and containing global warming is
now on the policy agenda. Still, it is mostly business as usual both in
private industry and in public policy.
- It cited an estimate by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate
Change that containing the earth’s temperature increase over the 1880
benchmark to under 1.5 degrees Celsius will require a 20% reduction in oil
and gas production by 2030.
- But ExxonMobilalone plans to produce 25% more oil and gas by 2025,
and other oil majors are headed in the same direction.
In supporting Paris accord
- The oil majors support the Paris accord.
- They are also among the largest investors in solar power and other
- The roughly $300 billion of annual investment in renewables is
just a fraction of the investment being made in extracting more fossil
- Their investments are driven by profitability, which in turn is
driven by current and future projections of demand and supply.
- Fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are more profitable than
renewables and account for 85% of the total energy supply.
- That is what drives the current shareholder value of oil
Account of renewable energy market
- The renewables will account for just about 16% of total energy
supply in 2040, up from around 3% today and hydro and nuclear power will
account for another 11%.
- Fossil fuels will still account for over 70% of total energy
supply. In fact, the main transition, the BPEO envisages, is a shift from
coal to oil and further to gas, not from fossil fuels to renewables.
- No wonder that oil and gas continue to account for the bulk of
investment in the energy sector.
- The market incentives fall well short of what it will take to
contain global warming within the limits necessary for global survival.
- It is this market failure that requires muscular policy
intervention by governments.
- The intervention required is not rigid state control but fiscal
policies to radically shift market incentives and profitability in favour of
- Central to such an approach are the policies pursued in the
developing world, especially China and India.
- Energy demand is projected to grow annually by 1% to 2% over the
next 20 years.
- This is partly because of growing population but mainly because of
rising incomes in the developing countries which have started from a very
low base of per capita energy consumption.
- Virtually all the incremental demand for energy will come from
China, India and other developing countries, according to the BPEO
Major highlights of the India’s strategic energy policy
- India should move towards maximum dependence on renewables, given
its vast potential for completely clean, radiation-safe and strategically
riskless solar and wind power.
- Instead of subsidizing power prices and distorting energy markets
to achieve this goal, tax incentives should be used to maximize investment
- They can turn India’s barren deserts and other non-cultivable land
into vast energy generation fields.
- However, the share of renewables being very low at present, this
long-term strategy will entail continuing dependence on other energy sources
over the medium term.
- Heavy dependence on coal will continue for years, but it should be
- Meanwhile, large tax concessions could incentivize investment in
clean coal technologies that can significantly reduce carbon emissions from
coal-based power plants.
Oil and gas:
- The shift from coal to oil and gas will further increase India’s
import dependence and energy security risk.
- To minimize this risk, import sources should be diversified
further while incentivizing domestic exploration for oil, especially gas
- Though a clean fuel with large expansion possibilities, it carries
a high risk of disastrous accidents as seen in Russia, Japan and the US.
- Given India’s relatively weak regulatory environment, it is best
to draw on nuclear power only to meet gaps in supply from other sources.
- This is a clean, renewable energy source, though usually not
treated as such. Its share of energy supply has declined from nearly 54% at
independence to only 11% today.
- This neglect is inexplicable since only 35% of hydropower
potential has been utilized and “run of the river" projects do not require
large ecologically damaging reservoirs that also displace people.
- This readily available energy source is a low hanging fruit that
should be exploited to the maximum and at the earliest.
- India’s energy policy has to be seen in this global context, with
two India-specific factors in mind: resource endowments and energy security.
- India remains heavily dependent on vast reserves of coal, which is
also the dirtiest fuel.
- But switching from coal to cleaner oil or gas poses a security
risk since India is heavily dependent on imports for these fuels.
- India’s long-term strategic interest requires a radical shift from
fossil fuels to renewables, including hydropower.
- But other supporting strategies are required over the medium term.
Q.1) With reference to the 'Mobilise Your City' international initiative,
consider the following statements:
1. It aims to reduce Green House Gas emissions related to urban transport.
2. It was launched at the COP 21 of UNFCCC in Paris in 2015.
3. The European Union will contribute funds for the initiative in India.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) 2 and 3 only
Q.1) Why this disconnect between the required investment priorities for
containing global warming and the actual investment priorities of energy