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India’s Battle With Climate Change

India’s Battle with Climate Change
India’s population and emissions are rising fast. Its ability to tackle poverty without massive new fossil fuel use is by no means certain, and with a population of 1.2 billion, this issue is vitally important for all of us in the context of preventing catastrophic climate change.

Joining the program is Tausif Mukri, an Indian technology analyst.

India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has pledged that every Indian will have electricity, and the education, health and business benefits that follow, by the end of this year. To the question: "Is this possible?", Tausif says: "I will be very happy if India's Prime Minister delivers on this promise. India is the world's third largest producer of power. The government made many election promises before coming to power, for which they are constantly being mocked by the opposition. Even the electrification of villages in India has to be seen in context. They consider that providing electricity to only 10% of these villages is enough to announce that they have been electrified. Similarly…But this does not mean that all the households will receive electricity. To believe that it is possible to achieve such a goal in that short a time is wishful thinking."

Host John Harrison suggests that the way forward is perhaps to build alternative energy creation systems such as solar panels, so as to avoid spending vast amounts of money on pylons and cables? Tausif says: ‘To be fair to the Prime Minister of India has actively promoted the use of alternative forms of energy…. But the biggest donors to the Prime Minister's Party are the biggest conglomerate in all India of exploration, processing, refining and distribution of fossil fuels in India. I am confident that they might not want to lose that….We have a huge lobbying group that has a way of working round the decision-making processes of the government. We have seen time and again, when it comes to the price of crude, when it comes to taxation, that there is a cartel which influences the decision making processes of the government on these policies."

Indians themselves are not particularly aware of the climate change issues involved and it seems do not particularly care where their energy comes from. They want and need electricity. Tausif says: ‘India started its transformation after independence. In about 1991 they reached a global platform, it was a real revolution. This was the beginning of the technological growth of India. That revolution allowed the Indian people to rise from poverty and reap the benefits of becoming a developing country. That allowed them to buy cars, and to spend money on various things, and all of that has increased the energy demand. Bearing in mind that we have a population of 1.2 billion people and counting, this will definitely have an impact on the world. Even though the world does not have the right to dictate terms to India as to how they can develop themselves, how they can be a richer nation, India has a moral obligation to the world to use cleaner sources of energy." Host John Harrison says that it is difficult to feel an obligation to one's country when you want to turn the light on and you can't. Tausif agrees, and says that the average Indian who accesses two hours of electricity a day might not think of his or her obligation to the environment per se.

What is abundantly clear is the scale of the challenge. Ajay Mathur, the head of the Energy and Resources Institute, an influential Delhi-based think-tank told The Independent newspaper recently. "No matter what numbers you look at, we will at least double or double-and-a-half our energy consumption in the decade to 2030." India can change course and develop more alternative energy power sources, but the questions remains, Tausif says: "whether it will or not."

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