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Climate Action 2010-2011

Policy and Governance

Policy and Governance services. A booming economy has fuelled a seemingly insatiable appetite for energy and infrastructure development, with major investments being made in power generation and distribution. By 2031, India’s energy demand could increase as much as seven-fold based on an annual growth rate of eight to 10 per cent. To meet the demand, India has adopted an aggressive nuclear policy with nuclear power being seen as critical in meeting energy needs and providing energy security while tackling greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the signing of the 123 Agreement as part of the contentious Indo-US nuclear deal created wider awareness and debate on the implications of nuclear power for India. The intrinsic pitfalls of nuclear had almost no chance against much shriller voices arguing that the nuclear option would enhance India’s national pride, and ensure energy self-sufficiency. National pride in India, is a force to be reckoned with. India has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 20-25 per cent in the next 10 years and aims to become a leading solar nation, in terms both of the scale of its application and of focused research. Yet there continues to be a strong perception that the country’s leaders in both political and corporate spheres have staked their bets on continuing down a ‘growth-at-all-costs’ trajectory. Why nuclear isn’t the solution for India India plans to have 20,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032 or the equivalent of some 31 new nuclear reactors. Many are planned in areas with a high population density. India rushes headlong into nuclear with no acknowledgement of its very poor track record in safety. Recent events have demonstrated that India is poorly equipped to deal with the safety implications of its existing nuclear industry and further expansion would only exacerbate the problem. Two-light solar system – both for security and safety – installed on the hut of migrant workers in the state of North Karnataka, India. | 30 | There are glaring inadequacies in the existing policy and regulatory framework. The Atomic Energy Act of 1962 has not kept pace with recent political developments in the field of civilian nuclear technology nor is there a coherent distinction between civilian and military nuclear affairs. The bottom line, as summed up by a researcher on nuclear waste for the Heinrich Boll Foundation, is that “the 123 agreement provided India with a de facto recognition as a nuclear weapons state. There has never been a ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme anywhere in the world – and if nuclear power is not used to make weapons, at the very least these cause immeasurable ecological damage.” The regulatory regime is both redundant and lacks transparency. It is impossible to prise information out of what has been referred to by a former insider as “an opaque black box”. Given the track record of overruns in both cost and time in the construction of nuclear power plants – both in India and abroad – it is extremely doubtful that the nuclear option will meet the power and energy requirements of the next decade. Meanwhile, existing plants will at best be able to provide a total of 3.1 per cent of the country’s electricity needs. Indian energy policy continues to view renewable energy as a token complement to nuclear and fossil fuels, rather than a viable alternative. Renewable energy – a force to be reckoned with Many energy experts and business entrepreneurs already recognise India’s renewable energy potential. They are able to visualise what a renewable energy intensive pathway would look like for a country like India; a pathway that takes into account the fact that 70 per cent of the population still live in rural areas, many of which continue to struggle for basic survival in adverse, energy-deprived conditions. Summed up below are some suggestions on concrete, practical steps to be taken which see the country’s poor as partners and allies in making an Energy [R]evolution a reality: 1. Explore linkages between renewable, decentralised energy and poverty alleviation through income generation. 2. Motivate the large number of state-level technical institutes to design and implement a range of simple interventions – such as solar lighting to replace kerosene lamps – thus synergising technology, finance and marketing for small entrepreneurs. 3. Involve local communities and existing local technology institutes, especially in rural areas, in developing workable solutions using futuristic ideas and innovative financing plans. Devise financing plans for energy efficient, safer alternatives to the ‘three-stone’ gas cooking stove of the poor, for example, or a solar light bulb which a poor woman or the small-scale vendor can pay for on a daily rather than a monthly basis. 4. Urgently prioritise appropriate technology together with details of the supply chain and financing, which would make solar, biogas and small hydro affordable to the poor today; not tomorrow. www.climateactionprogramme.org

5. Make the poor central to energy policies as participants rather than passive recipients. 6. Incentivise financial institutions to shift their resources into the energy sources of the future. Legislation could bring rural and nationalised banks to earmark a certain percentage of investment as priority sector financing for solar energy. 7. All changes need to be strengthened and prioritised by effective and proactive policy frameworks which would include phasing out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. 8. Measures to internalise the social and environmental cost of energy production must come into effect rapidly. Such measures include cap-and-trade mechanisms, the mandating of strictest efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles, establishment of legally binding targets for renewable energy and the radical reform of electricity markets by priority access to grids for renewable power generators. The latter would help ensure stable returns for investors in renewable energy, by feed-in tariffs for example. 9. Finally, possibly most importantly, we must increase the research and development budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency. There are many good reasons why India should make the transition to renewable energy, phasing out both coal and nuclear. But, as of now, there is no policy road map which visualises a complete switch to clean, renewable energy. Obstacles to a clean energy future There are a number of road blocks to achieving a clean, sustainable future instead of one based on dirty, and deadly, energy. The current business environment is one: policies emanate from the outdated, Bretton Woods era of financial institutions and the well-known nexus between corporate and political leadership. The G8, nuclear states, and even the world’s emerging economies are each busy balancing the demands of a loud and influential domestic middle class while proffering minimum sops to the poor and powerless. Corporations are another road block. According to e-magazine, Climate Progress, the oil, gas, and coal industries spent US$543 million on lobbying in 2009 and the first half of 2010 to kill the US Climate Bill and push offshore drilling. Power to the people – what can we do? If India and the rest of the world are to resist the temptations to chase after short-term profits and take calculated risks for long-term gains instead, extraordinary levels of mobilisation will be necessary on all levels. At the one end, political and business leaders who are still open to dialogue will have to be engaged. At the other, those who are most affected will have to be considered. Can these disparate and diverse forces come together to speak truth to power (or power to truth)? Their very lives and existence depend on it. On October 2 this year on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, one of India’s leading newspapers took Policy and Governance Greenpeace donates a solar power system to a coastal village in Aceh, Indonesia, one of the worst hit areas by the tsunami in December 2004. out a half-page advertisement on behalf of the Ministry of Power pledging to bring “light into the life of the last man [no mention of women] in the remotest corner of India.” They quoted the great man as saying: “India cannot prosper if rural India lags behind and I think rural electrification is the first step towards this.” Gandhi, a man who was able to confront the might of the British Empire with non-violent direct action and civil disobedience by picking up a fistful of salt in defiance of the oppressive and unjust laws of the colonisers, would be the first to join us in this Energy [R]evolution. It is our challenge to find the moral courage and discipline to push for what we believe is right. If we fail now, we force ourselves to ask, as JFK did: “Will we look into the eyes of our children and confess that we had the opportunity, but lacked the courage? That we had the technology, but lacked the vision…” Lalita Ramdas is an educator and activist. Education for marginalised and minority communities, human rights and peace have always been central in her work and writing. She is a Founding Member of the Board of Greenpeace India and currently Chair of the Greenpeace International Board. Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. It comprises 28 independent national/regional offices in over 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, as well as a coordinating body, Greenpeace International. Greenpeace International Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066AZ Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel: +31 (0) 20 718 2000 Email: pressdesk@int.greenpeace.org Website: www.greenpeace.org/international/en/ © Greenpeace/Hotli Simanjuntak www.climateactionprogramme.org | 31 |