Chennai, January 19, 2024: “The issue of energy and climate havoc are very complex and have been approached in a reductive way. That’s why we have not moved towards real solutions,” noted environmentalist and climate activist Dr. Vandana Shiva said in her keynote address at the 5th annual Energy Finance Conference India, held at IIT Madras on Jan 18 & 19. 

She further added, “Food has become the turf of contestation in climate change debate. Industrial food production is leading to consumption of fossil fuels, and is a leading driver for pollution and climate change. The fertiliser industry’s new buzzword is ‘farming without farmers’ which will pave the way for a disastrous future.”

Prominent among the speakers for the two-day conference were Aniruddha Banerjee, Chief General Manager from ONGC India; Dr. Satyanarayanan Seshadri, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Chennai; Soumya Dutta, Trustee, MAUSAM; M Arun Kumar Murugan, Tata Power; Prabhajit Kumar Sarkar, CEO, Ampera Energy Pvt. Ltd; Maria Chirayil, Senior Research Associate, Prayas Energy Group; Suranjali Tandon, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy; Avantika Goswami, Centre for Science and Environment; Chandrashekhar Chincholkar, Customized Energy Solution; Simran Grover, Centre For Energy, Environment, and People, and others. 

Dr. Krishna Vasudevan, Center and Area Coordinator for Energy at Indo-German Center for Sustainability (IGCS) and Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras said, “With decarbonization becoming an urgent need, it is prudent to address immediately, the sector that contributes the most. The Energy sector is the one to be focussed on, addressing all the ramifications on technological, economic, social and environmental fronts.”

The Conference, held at IIT-Madras on January 18th and 19th, 2024, was attended by academics, think-tanks, industry representatives, experts and activists. The theme of the conference this year is ‘Decarbonisation’ with several discussions held around the policy on decarbonising, role of technological innovation in decarbonising the energy sector, financing decarbonising, international trends in decarbonising and its influence on India, alternatives to fossil fuel industry, etc. 

“A policy on energy decarbonisation needs to necessarily address emissions from the fossil fuel industry. Anything short of this is only an eye wash, a postponement of a climate catastrophe and letting the industry go scott free while putting the burden on people who are already vulnerable to the outcomes of the climate crises,” said Swathi Seshadri, Director Programs, Centre for Financial Accountability.  

“Decarbonisation is a vital cog in India’s energy journey. If India has to grow sustainably while tackling the impacts of climate change, it becomes imperative that it follows the path of decarbonisation. For the Indian industry, which is trying to compete globally, it is becoming crucial to incorporate policies supporting decarbonisation otherwise they won’t remain relevant on the international stage, which is becoming extremely sensitive on the issue,” said Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends.

Background

India emitted 2.412 gigatons of CO2 in 2020 contributing to 6.71% of total global emissions in the same year. It is the third largest carbon emitter after China and the USA. Key sectors that contribute to carbon emissions are power (above 40%); steel and cement (25%); transportation (15%); and agriculture (14%). It is true that 2 of the top 3 emitting countries are also the 2 most populous countries of the world, but therefore have much lower per capita emissions in case of India. However, the cumulative emissions are a matter of concern, especially given that we are experiencing more frequent and increased extreme climate events over the years.

The impact of the climate crisis and pollution does not affect everyone equally. Studies over the globe have proved that marginalised people of colour, poor neighbourhoods and indigenous communities pay the heaviest price. In India, several similar studies have shown that populations with low-income, adivasis, dalit and minority communities, while having much lower per capita GHG emissions, are far more exposed to pollution and its impacts than middle or high-income populations. The caste-class nexus in India adds another layer of vulnerability to the environment and climate crises.

The conference was jointly organised by the Centre for Financial Accountability, a Delhi-based research and campaign organisation that aims to transform finance into a force for positive change promoting social justice, environmental sustainability and economic inclusivity, Indo German Centre for Sustainability at IIT Madras, a joint Indo-German Centre developing interdisciplinary research, teaching, training and exchange in the area of sustainable development and Climate Trends, a research-based consulting and capacity building initiative that aims to bring greater focus on issues of environment, climate change and sustainable development. 

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