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Why India Defended Coal at the Close of the COP26 Climate Summit

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an initiative to create a more interconnected global solar grid as evidence of its commitment to reducing emissions through international commitments.

“We are walking the talk,” he added.

While India has continued to highlight its work on renewable energy, it has been far more reluctant to take a stand on coal. It did not join a coalition of countries that committed to a coal phaseout during the first week of the climate summit.

And it continued to push back against language in the final text of the Glasgow agreement that it saw as deviating from the Paris pledge to account for national circumstances—language many developing countries interpret to mean they shouldn’t be asked to cut emissions as fast as the world’s largest historical polluters, like the U.S.

Market forces may be pushing that way regardless.

“Although coal is going to be clearly in the cards for the next couple of decades, just given the huge amount of its energy needs and the amount it already uses, already new coal is becoming completely uneconomic for India. So it has to address what the alternatives are and really work hard to scale those up,” said Camilla Fenning, a senior policy adviser on coal transitions at E3G.

Other initiatives that hinged on scaling up renewables or clean power transitions were also launched on the sidelines of the climate talks. Many of those are more measurable because they set hard targets. But whether they’re enough to limit global temperature rise in line with what scientists say is needed to prevent irreparable climate damage is difficult to tell, since many of the agreements exist only on paper.

How countries work to move them forward will be vital, said Fenning.

Rashmi said eliminating coal from the global energy system requires action, not just an agreement.

“Without a strategy in terms of technology and finance, these decisions don’t mean much,” he added.

Much of what India was pushing for when it caused an uproar in the last moments of COP 26 was time to make the transition—both for itself and other nations in the developing world.

“Ever since there have been COPs … the interests of different types of countries have never aligned, their needs have not been the same, their capacity to deliver has not been the same,” said Kelkar of WRI India.

“What matters is to see this as one more episode in a continuing multilateral process that is not the only weapon in our arsenal to fight climate change.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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