Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Modi, also sees no alternative for India’s using coal. But he wants the world to think big and advocates a massive research effort to make “clean coal” possible.
In the run-up to the conference, there is a growing call — first articulated clearly at this year’s summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations — to phase out fossil fuels. For India — a country struggling to provide basic electricity to about 25 per cent of the population, according to conservative estimates — this smacks of ‘carbon imperialism’. And such imperialism on the part of advanced nations could spell disaster for India and other developing countries.
So, although Delhi is committed to curbing climate change and to promoting renewables, making coal clean is vital to the country’s development. However, this cannot be done by India, or anyone else, alone. Technologies that are already available, such as carbon capture and storage, have proved prohibitively expensive. To discover truly effective techniques, the world collectively needs to embark on a programme akin to the Manhattan project that produced the first nuclear bomb.