India refuses to ink global renewable energy pledge at COP28 over call to 'phase down' coal

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit earlier this week to COP28, India's foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra categorically said India would not say goodbye to coal in the foreseeable future
Image used for representational purposes. (File Photo | EPS)
Image used for representational purposes. (File Photo | EPS)

DUBAI: India has reportedly refused to sign the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge at COP28 due to language on coal, indicated a top bureaucrat from the Union Environment Ministry on Sunday.

A total of 116 countries have signed the pledge, agreeing to triple worldwide installed renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts and to double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to more than 4 percent by 2030.

However, the pledge document, which was made public on Sunday, unequivocally called for the 'phase down of unabated coal power', which is a clear red line for India. The document says, citing recent reports of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "In order to meet the Paris Agreement goal, renewables deployment must be accompanied in this decade by a rapid increase of energy efficiency improvements and the phase down of unabated coal power, in particular ending the continued investment in unabated new coal-fired power plants, which is incompatible with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C."

While Leena Nandan, secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, who was there for a side event at COP28, refused to give a direct comment to TNIE on why India stayed away from the pledge, she indicated that the language on coal was a red line.  

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit earlier this week to COP28, India's foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra categorically said India would not say goodbye to coal in the foreseeable future, although it was ramping up renewable energy supplies to ensure a quick transition to green energy. “Coal is and would remain an important part of India’s energy mix, it has always been, as we move forward to meet our developmental priorities in our country,” he said.

Madhura Joshi, senior associate, India Energy Transition Lead, E3G, said it's disheartening that India has not signed on to the global pledge. "These were landmark decisions that were championed by the Indian G20 presidency and agreed to by G20 leaders in September 2023. Reaching net-zero commitments made by countries means that fossil fuels, including coal, need to be phased down and out. The good news is that India already has ambitious targets on renewable - 450GW by 2030, and a thriving energy efficiency programme spanning sectors. The hope is that India will champion tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 at COP28 in the main text. India is a global renewables leader and its support will provide a boost for the global renewables sector," she said.

According to the latest World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency, India will witness the largest energy demand surge in the world in the next three decades. According to the coal ministry, the demand surged from 778 million tonnes in 2021-22 to 893 million tonnes in 2022-23, a 14% growth. India has reportedly set a target of 1.31 billion tonnes of coal production for 2024-25 and aims to increase it to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2030.

Meanwhile, sources said Union Minister of Coal Pralhad Joshi, who was scheduled to come and participate in an event at COP28 on Sunday, had cancelled his visit at the last minute.

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