/What is Just Transition? Is India ready to save livelihoods and jobs in the eastern states?

What is Just Transition? Is India ready to save livelihoods and jobs in the eastern states?

India is one of the most powerful and emerging economies in the world. India is the world’s second largest coal importer. Through this, one can understand the power and capability of India, especially in the coal sector. India’s primary energy demand is met by the coal sector. The Indian Coal Sector contributes 45% of the total energy demand in the country.

Explainer- What is Just Transition?

The population of India is highly dependent on the coal deposit in many different ways. India is heading towards the transition to net economies. Achieve the goal by 2070; the nation is focusing on a ‘carbon phase-out’ approach rather than a ‘carbon phase-out’. But, there is an alarming question that this step by India will lead to. The termination of India’s coal industry by 2070 raises the question of unemployment and other important options for energy production. Coal plays an inevitable role in improving the economy of India, at present.

With respect to environmental and/or climate justice, various organizations have used the Just Transition concept in recent years. When it comes to reducing climate change, the IPCC defines just transition as “a set of principles, processes and practices that aim to ensure that no person, worker, place, sector, country or region is left behind in the transition from a high carbon to a low carbon economy.

Geographic distribution has important implications

A particularly relevant aspect of India’s just transition is the geographical spread of the energy transition. The Indian states with high solar radiation, and therefore significant solar power generation capacity, are in the west of the country, while the coal-rich states are predominantly in the center and east. This geographic distribution raises important implications for how agencies at the local, state, and national levels should manage the energy transition and its impacts on particular groups and regions.

India’s national government has set ambitious renewable energy targets that include developing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2022. However, such a transition from coal to renewable energy will have a major impact on its coal sector. , which currently provides 45 percent of India’s total primary energy demand.

India set the goal of achieving net zero by 2070, at COP26 in 2021; with a focus on a ‘carbon phase-out’ approach as opposed to a ‘carbon phase-out’.

During COP27, held in November 2022, India released a national report focusing on the country’s long-term low-emission development strategy for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The key emphasis was on the transition from fossil fuels in a fair, seamless, sustainable and inclusive way.

The country also updated its 2022 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which it aims to achieve by 2030 to reflect a “carbon phase-down” approach. Through its NDCs, India has committed to achieving 50% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources and reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45%, from the 2005 level.

Explainer- What is Just Transition?

How it will affect employment and livelihoods

India’s pronouncements at COP27 and in the revised NDCs highlight the country’s commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels like coal, justly. Along with its commitment to global regulatory frameworks, India has introduced several domestic policy measures that align with the goal of phasing out coal, including:

The draft National Electricity Plan for 2022-27, through which the Government expects the domestic coal requirement to reach 1018.2 MT by 2031-32.

According to the Plan, the Government intends to retire coal-fired capacity totaling 4,629 MW between 2022 and 2027. The Plan also indicated the retirement of old and inefficient power plant units that cannot be renewed and modernized, to reduce carbon emissions.

Due to this exercise, around 30 million people will be affected. The impact will not be abrupt, but multidecadal. People may lose their jobs due to the closure of power plants and coal mines. For people living in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal, it could be a matter of survival.

An environmental organization and EY have published a report, “Livelihood Opportunities for a Just Transition in Jharkhand”, which discusses the impacts on these states, especially Jharkhand, which is the state that consumes the most coal. Climate Trends and EY conducted a survey of 6,000 people directly or indirectly employed in Jharkhand coal mines.

Explainer- What is Just Transition?

What the experts say about the transition

By releasing the report in Kolkata, experts from IIM, IIT and various government organizations express their concern for people’s livelihood.

Prof. Runa Sarkar, Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, said the cost of the transition is much higher than we expect. It is not just a question of people’s livelihood, but a question of the identity of the people who have worked in coal mines for generations.

Kunal Singh, Research and Data Analysis Leader, Policy Development Advisory Group, said there will always be uncertainty about the timing of the transition. It is not a task of one or two years, it is a task of several decades. He gave an example of Germany, which took 60 years to switch from fossil fuels to green energy.

Aarti Khosla, director of Climate Trends, gave her opinion on the transition, saying that the government needs to take several steps as it moves towards zero-emission energy. The main problem is the dependence of the state’s economy on fossil fuels. The government should take some learnings from the city like Giridih where the coal mine was closed in 2020 and after that how the city manages.

Study Recommendations

  • The government should make the ‘Guidelines for the preparation of the final mine closure plan’ to include suggestive plans to accommodate workers affected by mine closure through steps such as providing temporary income support, providing training to workers displaced workers and connect workers with potential employers.
  • The state must provide an alternative livelihood plan for workers.
  • The state should map the skill set for workers and provide them with training so they can find better opportunities in the future.
  • Investment in emerging sectors must be identified by state governments.
  • There is a need to quantify the level of investment necessary for the energy transition and to identify the sources of its financing.
  • Public and private banks may seek to further align their portfolio to address climate change, including the energy transition to encourage the private sector and corporations to invest in related projects.