India is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its transition to a low-carbon economy is crucial to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. But unfortunately, the nation is still clinging firmly to coal.
Our new research considered this problem, drawing on a case study in the Angul district, India’s largest coal reserve in the eastern state of Odisha.
We found three main factors slowing the energy transition: strong political and community support for coal, a lack of alternative economic activities, and deep ties between coal and other industries such as rail.
India must step away from coal, while maintaining economic growth and not leaving millions of people in coal-mining regions worse off. Our research probes this wicked problem in detail and suggests ways forward.
Why India matters
India’s population will soon reach 1.4 billion and this decade it is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation. This, combined with a young population, growing economy and rapid urbanisation, means energy consumption in India has doubled since 2000.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates India will have the largest increase in energy demand of any country between now and 2040.
An affordable, reliable supply of energy is central to raising the nation’s living standards. A recent World Bank analysis found up to 150 million people in India are poor.