The Society for Policy Studies (SPS), in association with the India International Centre, organized a Round- Table discussion on “India’s Energy Security and Climate change commitment: Policy challenges” on June 24, 2016 Held at Private Dining Hall, IIC, New Delhi.
The conversation was led by Vikram Singh Mehta, Director, Brookings India with Karthik Ganesan, Research Fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water as the discussant.
As Mr Mehta observed in his address, the energy crisis that the world is facing today is a combination of the exceedingly high demands that have been placed on the limited natural resources that are available. Highlighting the necessity to deal with the issues of energy demands and environment as a cohesive whole, but which are in need of being understood individually, he mentioned that the problems of global warming, climate change and the like that we are witnessing today pose a very tough question to us all- and which is, in his words, the problem of ‘squaring the circle’.
According to Mr. Mehta, the biggest challenge to the effective tackling of the current environmental challenges lies in the lack of adequate infrastructure to deal with the problems at hand along with a constrictive mentality that is hindering cooperation between sectors. Working in silos, as he mentioned, the bureaucratic apparatuses particularly in India make it difficult to satiate energy demands, ensure economic growth and environment sustainability.
Specific to the Indian context, he mentioned that the pressure on the environment arise from three inter-related quarters: surging demand (for natural resources), inadequate supply and stress on environment. Highlighting the importance of infrastructure and technology to mitigate the issues that have hampered sustainable sustained growth, Mr. Mehta concluded by suggesting robust institutional structures need to be put in place in order to ensure that our compartmental treatment of these interlinked concerns are not subject to disaggregated treatment.
Karthik Ganesan discussion about the energy security was a number-crunching assessment of India’s environmental scene. India, he mentioned, is the second largest importer of coal, fourth largest importer of all and the eleventh largest consumer of natural gas of which almost 1/3rd is imported. He indicated that the demand for energy will increase by the day as the country sees an upswing in its power-consuming population.
He also mentioned that while the sectoral contribution of agriculture remains as low as 18%, most of the energy subsidies are directed towards it. While necessary, Mr. Ganesan suggested that the disbursement and distribution of energy subsidies should be made more pragmatic for ‘every unit of energy conserved is a unit of energy produced’.