India’s move away from coal hampered by Ukraine war: Nirmala Sitharaman

The price of crude has gone up due to the situation in Europe, as has the price of natural gas — a “transition fuel” for India — in addition to it being in short supply, said Ms. Sitharaman

The price of crude has gone up due to the situation in Europe, as has the price of natural gas — a “transition fuel” for India — in addition to it being in short supply, said Ms. Sitharaman

India’s transition away from coal as a fuel would be hampered by the Russia-Ukraine war, according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“One calculation which I think we had in our mind was that the transition [ away from coal] … will be enabled my natural gas,” Ms. Sitharaman said in Washington DC, at a roundtable organised by the Atlantic Council, a think-tank.

However, the price of crude has gone up due to the situation in Europe, as has the price of natural gas — a “transition fuel” for India — in addition to it being in short supply, said Ms. Sitharaman, who is in Washington D.C. for the World Bank International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings.

Almost all of the world’s energy needs are met by coal, oil and natural gas, but coal releases almost twice the amount of carbon dioxide relative to natural gas, on a kilogram to kilogram basis.

India has come under pressure from the U.S. to not increase import of energy from Russia, which has been sanctioned by Europe and the U.S. for its invasion of Ukraine. Approximately 1-2% of India’s energy imports come from Russia, as per official U.S. data, and the government has begun buying oil from Moscow at a discounted price.

“The dependence on coal, and the speed with which we want to get out of it, will now be challenged,” she said, adding that, however, India’s commitment with regard to renewable energy would be met.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (the 26th Conference of Parties-COP26), held in Glasgow last November, countries agreed, after pressure from India and China, to “phase down” rather than “phase out” the use of coal. India also increased its focus on a lack of climate finance from developed countries and asked for $1 trillion in climate financing over the current decade, in order to meet its climate commitments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on November 2 that India would have a renewable energy target of 500 GW by 2030 and meet 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources, by then. It would also achieve net zero emissions by 2070, as per Mr Modi.

“Our commitments to refashion our energy basket remains intact,” Ms Sitharaman said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitments at COP26 are being “taken seriously” by India, which is moving forward on them.

India’s non-fossil energy capacity would reach 500 GW by 2030; it will meet 50% of its electricity requirements with renewable energy by 2030; reducing its total projected carbon emissions by a billion tonnes by 2030; it will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45% and achieve net zero by 2070.

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