ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Climate Change and the Energy Challenge: A Pragmatic Approach for India

India has been arguing that it (and the rest of the developing world) should incur no expense in controlling emissions that cause climate change. In the face of heightened concerns about rapid climate change, that argument is increasingly losing force - both in the fundamental arithmetic of climate change, and in the political reality that important western partners will increasingly demand more of India and other developing countries. The Indian government has outlined a broad plan for what could be done, but the plan still lacks a strategy to inform which efforts offer the most leverage on warming emissions and which are most credible. This paper offers a framework for that strategy. It suggests that a large number of options to control warming gases are in India's own self-interest, and with three case studies it suggests that leverage on emissions could amount to several hundred million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually over the next decade and an even larger quantity by 2030.


Climate Change and the Energy Challenge: A Pragmatic Approach for India

Varun Rai, David G Victor

India has been arguing that it (and the rest of the developing world) should incur no expense in controlling emissions that cause climate change. In the face of heightened concerns about rapid climate change, that argument is increasingly losing force – both in the fundamental arithmetic of climate change, and in the political reality that important western partners will increasingly demand more of India and other developing countries. The Indian government has outlined a broad plan for what could be done, but the plan still lacks a strategy to inform which efforts offer the most leverage on warming emissions and which are most credible. This paper offers a framework for that strategy. It suggests that a large number of options to control warming gases are in India’s own self-interest, and with three case studies it suggests that leverage on emissions could amount to several hundred million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually over the next decade and an even larger quantity by 2030.

Varun Rai ( is a research fellow at the Programme on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University and David G Victor ( is at the Stanford Law School and faculty affiliate at the Programme on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

nthropogenic (human-caused) emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), are the main human cause of global climate change (IPCC 2007a). Many analysts and governments are now focused on the goal of limiting the total change in climate to 2°C. Achieving this goal would require, roughly, that global CO2 emissions peak before 2015, followed by a 50% to 80% reduction in CO2 emissions below 2000 levels by 2050 (ibid). Given likely global growth trajectories such massive emissions reductions are only possible through the large-scale deployment of low-carbon technologies.

1 Introduction

The sober math of climate change, which underscores the need for radical changes in the world’s energy systems, has been known for some time although most governments have not made much investment in actually changing the status quo. All that is now changing, and policy efforts on climate change are becoming much more serious. The pivotal shift has been the emergence of real policy in the United States (US) – the world’s largest economy, the largest of per capita emitter of GHGs of the all the major economies, and an absent leader on many issues of international concern in recent years. The essential role of the developing countries is now widely known and appreciated, even in the key developing countries such as China and India. Indeed, the Bali “road map” for the climate change talks that are slated to conclude this year in Copenhagen envisions that developing countries will make efforts to control growth in their emissions.1 India is now responding – both to demonstrate its contribution to the global effort and because it realises that India, too, stands to suffer from unchecked changes in climate. The country has crafted a National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), which provides the road map for India’s climate change policy. I ndia’s NAPCC, while asserting its emphasis on adaptation to climate change and priority for economic development, also lays out, in general terms, the overall framework for actions in different spheres of its energy system in response to climate change. Specifically, it lays out eight national missions as the way forward (GOI 2008a): national missions for solar energy, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat (public transport; building codes), water, Himalayan ecosystem, green India (aforestation), sustainable agriculture, and strategic knowledge for climate change. The NAPCC is a positive first step in India’s efforts to combat global climate change.

2 Scope of Paper

The NAPCC is comprehensive in ambition – the agenda it sets for the eight national missions is wide-ranging. These missions span

Figure 1: Per Capita CO Emissions at Present (2006) and Projected (2030) for India 3 Adaptation or Mitigation: Changing Dynamics


and Other Countries

Since the very beginning of international negotiations on climate


change, India has disavowed direct responsibility for emissions

18 16

mitigation efforts and instead has emphasised adaptation to cli

mate change as its preferred response. It has fiercely advocated

2006 2030

US Brazil Europe Russia India China Japan World

14 12 10

Tonnes per person

that the international response to climate change be based on the

principle of equity “that must allow each inhabitant of the earth an



equal entitlement to the global atmospheric resource” (Figure 1).2


India has also been a foremost proponent of adaptation as a cor


nerstone of international response to climate change, and champi


oned the Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change and

Source: World Energy Outlook 2008.

actions that are cost-effective and ready for implementation to those that are difficult to see achieved in practice. But the real opportunity each of the mission areas provide as a viable and a valuable response varies. In the eyes of India’s foreign-policy partners, it is hard to assess the real leverage that the NAPCC will have on the country’s GHG emissions.

In this paper we lay out a framework to evaluate which of the energy-related policies on global climate change are achievable in India and can be viewed as credible internationally. We then apply the framework to discuss what we believe to be most p romising options available for India as the world tries to settle on a serious response to the climate change problem. Through a discussion of the political and economic aspects of the possible options, the purpose throughout is to highlight options that are not only materially relevant to climate change but are also feasible to attain.

We make three main arguments here. First, the diplomatic status quo maintained by India (and other major developing countries) that developing countries are not responsible for most global warming and they will follow with efforts to control GHG emissions only once the industrialised countries have made decisive first steps is increasingly difficult to sustain politically and environmentally. Failure to substitute this policy stance with a Sustainable Development issued in 2002, which emphasised “urgent attention and action on the part of all countries” for adaptation. Although this stance has evolved, and somewhat softened, over the last two decades, the essence and tone remain the same.

Parts of India’s climate strategy are unassailable. Adaptation must play a larger role; the deal crafted on climate change must be seen as fair and equitable. But the view that India is most famous for espousing – which is that the west caused the climate change problem and the emerging markets should not be expected to focus on this problem until they are wealthier – is increasingly unsustainable. India’s rapid economic growth since 1991 – mainly fuelled with the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, coal – has put India in a leading role for controlling emissions. Economic models predict that over the next two decades India’s emissions will grow threefold to reach over 3.5 billion tonnes CO2/yr in 2030 (but per capita emissions still remain lower than most other major countries; Figures 1 and 2).3 At both the international level and within its domestic politics, the government of India is increasingly feeling severe pressure to take active part in the global response to climate change.

Figure 2: Total CO Emissions at Present (2006) and Projected (2030) for India


and Other Countries




US Brazil Europe Russia India China Japan Source: World Energy Outlook 2008. 2006 2030

more pragmatic and accommodating view will lead to a growing

rift between India and the west. The US, among others, will in

creasingly put climate change at the top of the list of foreign policy

priorities and India will be under growing internal pressure to

make more visible contributions to the global mission of protect-

Billion metric tonnes



ing the planet. Second, in the context of international negotiations a viable engagement strategy by India must satisfy two critical conditions (the “viability conditions”). The strategy should align well with India’s core “interests” (economic growth and energy security) while also making a material reduction in emissions of warming gases. Moreover, it should also be seen as credible internationally, which requires that other countries be confident that what India offers as promises to the world it can actually implement. Credible promises must be tailored to the administrative, regulatory, and technological resources that the Indian government has at its disposal and, in some circumstances, the resources it can also mobilise from foreign partners. Third, contrary to the view maintained that costs of mitigation will be very high for India (thus violating India’s growth plans) we argue that there are several options available in India for large-scale CO2 e missions reductions that satisfy the viability conditions.




At the international level, India has been the most visible m ember of a coalition of nearly all developing countries that has firmly maintained that the moral and economic responsibility to combat global warming lies with the industrialised n ations that, due to their industrialisation based on fossil f uels, have caused most of the atmospheric build-up of GHGs. Moreover, this coalition under India’s banner has made their e ngagement conditional on financial and technological transfers. This view has held for nearly two decades – ever since the first climate change talks began in 1991 – in part because the i ndustrialised (“Annex-II”) countries,4 especially the US,


august 1, 2009 vol xliv no 31


t hemselves did not advance a particularly coherent and significant action plan.

But the situation is rapidly changing – GHG mitigation is a top priority for most Annex-II countries now. The new US administration under President Barack Obama has been vocal about its seriousness on the issue. The $787 billion economic stimulus package has provided about $40 billion in new funding to the Department of Energy (DoE) for low-emission energy investments (notably renewable power). Within the US several economy-wide cap-and-trade policies are being actively debated. The Waxman-Markey discussion draft, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009”, pushes strongly for national limits on GHG emissions and for aggressive use of renewable sources of energy. But crucial elements of climate change action began to emerge bottom-up (at the state and local levels) as early as 2002. Several states (most prominently California and the north-eastern states) are well ahead of the US federal government in promoting energy efficiency and electricity from renewable sources. The European Union, a long-time champion of aggressive mitigation actions by industrialised nations, too has notched up its own mitigations plans. In an agreement reached on the “20/20/20 by 2020” European Union (EU) programme, the EU is committed to material difference that the growth since 1991 has brought. At the national level, any policy measure, whether related to ene rgy or not, must further India’s economic development, or at least align well with this agenda. Energy security is the other major issue that concerns India. The Indian political leadership considers energy security as the ability to “supply lifeline energy to all our citizens as well as meet their effective demand for safe and convenient affordable cost” (GOI 2006). Moreover, India’s continued economic success and energy security hinge on obtaining reliable and cost-effective energy supplies; increasingly, those supplies depend on delivery chains that are unsustainable. Central policymakers in India are quite aware of the situation, and they see energysector reforms and better energy infrastructure as the key to India’s energy problems (GOI 2006, 2008a). All domestic and international strategies involving India must realise these core interests (shown on the horizontal axis in Figure 3) as boundary constraints on what India is willing to offer as part of its contribution to climate change. The vertical axis in Figure 3 shows the potential for CO2 reductions. At the

Figure 3: Framework for Evaluating the Viability bottom of the chart of India’s Energy Options as a Credible Response

to Climate Change

(Boxes III and IV) are

reducing GHG emissions by over 20% in 2020 compared with 1990 options with small or
levels.5 As the industrialised nations get more serious on climate negative CO2 reduc
change, action on mitigation efforts will form a crucial part of India’s tions (i e, large emis

continued successful international relations with these countries. sions) – these options

At the domestic level within India, the debate has become a lot offer no leverage in

Potential CO Reductions


Small or Large Negative



more dynamic over the years. The government and various ministries international climate

Dead-ends Potentially Viable Options
Irrelevant Irrelevant or Potentially
Harmful for Climate Change

Low High

Alignment with India’s Interests (Economic Development, Energy Security)

concerned with energy are engaged in the process in one way or another through the NAPCC. Awareness of the climate change issue is also increasing among the public, thanks to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other ad campaigns.6 There is also increasing evidence that India will be one of the worst sufferers of the consequences of drastic climate change (IPCC 2007; TERI 2003). Such evidence has done more to galvanise the attention of Indian people and policymakers alike than two decades of international negotiations.

The political equation on climate change is rapidly changing, and India’s stances in years past are losing steam. It is imperative that India realises this, and engages more constructively in global mitigation efforts.

4 Framework for India’s Engagement

The implication of this shifting political equation is that India must search for ways to engage with the climate change issue – not only in easing India’s adaptation to likely climate effects but also in mitigating emissions. In the face of that serious engagement, the international community must prepare to recognise (and where possible to facilitate) the positive efforts that India is making in that direction.

We suggest that the only serious and viable approach for India’s engagement in global efforts to tame global warming is one that aligns with India’s own core interests. Those interests are complex, but at their core are the goals of economic development and energy security.

Virtually, every Indian policymaker agrees that a strong and sustained economic growth is essential to raise living standards and bring India’s masses out of poverty. This belief is reinforced by the

change negotiations. The potentially viable options are in the upper right corner (Box II). The structure of Box II is further unpacked in Figure 4.

At the bottom left of the chart (Box III) are options that do not inte rest India – they are irrelevant to the discussion in this paper. The options at the bottom right (Box IV), where India’s interests are high, may be irrelevant; or they may be potentially harmful for climate change (for example, coal-to-liquids projects pursued under the umbrella of energy security). At the left side of the chart (Boxes I and III) are options that fail the condition that they be seen in India’s interest. The interesting box is the upper right (Box II) – also known in global warming policy parlance as “co-benefits”.

Thus India’s search for a strategy must begin with Box II. But not all options in Box II are equal. Some options exist in theory but will be difficult to implement; those options will be viewed as much less credible (and thus less effective as part of India’s strategy to engage with the world). As other countries look at India’s choices, there is much discussion about effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of climate change policies (TERI 2007; Adger et al 2005), but real progress in forging successful alliances for concrete action is often crippled by doubts about what parts of the strategy can be successfully implemented in the Indian context (Victor 2009). Irrespective of what India promises, only those promises will be valuable bargaining chips where the central government (the negotiator) “is seen” by outsiders to have real influence.

Figure 4 (p 81) unpacks Box II and explores two major dimensions to the credibility of the options that India can choose. On the vertical axis is the government of India’s (GoI) ability to administer policy. Across many areas of policy, GoI is unable to have much influence over what really happens in India – those areas of policy includetopics for which competence is given to India’s states through its 5.1 Power Sector Reforms7 federal system as well as areas where the central government Reforms in the power sector offer one of the best options of the codoes not have the administrative capacity to have much impact on benefit approach outlined above, as it aligns well India’s desire to outcomes. The options at the bottom of Figure 4, though they provide reliable energy supply to its masses with the necessity to rebecome viable options over time as the leverage of GoI’s policy duce global CO2 emissions. Particularly interesting is the opportunity increases, are irrelevant now. The viable options for India’s en-of using advanced technology in power delivery and metering comgagement, then, are those where the ability of GoI to make prom-bined with commercial incentives to power distributors to check ises that it can actually deliver the massive losses in the low-


Figure 4: Exploring Box II of Figure 3 in More Depth – Leverage Inside and Outside India

is high. Those are shown in voltage electricity distribution

already available to Indian

India’s Capabilities 2006-07 the aggregate com
(Finances, Technology)

firms it would be possible and

mercial and technical (AT&C) cost-effective to make fuller

losses stood at 30%, i e,

Outsiders can Help Domestic-led Programmes up Delhi can make a for “bids” difference IIa IIb Irrelevant Now Irrelevant Now Need capacity building, Need capacity technology transfer, building and financial support IIc IId
electricity by end-users: in

Low High

Boxes IIa and IIb. Of those opacross the country.

Leverage of government PolicyLow High

tions, one more level of un-Defunct and bankrupt

packing is needed. For some state electricity boards (SEBs)

issues the government, state are the norm in India’s

firms and the private sector power sector. A major issue

have all the capability needed. is the widespread theft of

For example, with technology

Potential CO Reductions


Small or Large Negative


there is no revenue genera

use of natural gas or to shift to

Dead-ends Potentially Viable Options

more efficient technology for tion for about a third of the


supplied electricity. Besides,

new coal plants. These op

tions are shown on the upper

right side (Box IIb). For other

Irrelevant Irrelevant or Potentially

Harmful for

a large number of farmers

Climate Change

Low High across India are still pro

options, outsiders may need to Alignment with India’s Interests (Economic Development, help – by providing technology Energy Security) or fina nce to make viable options that are not otherwise available (Box IIa). This framework, then, transforms the debate about what India can and should do to mitigate emissions. India, working alone, can make credible offers to the international community in Box IIb. And the international community, working with India, can make options in Box IIa viable.

5 Making Boxes II a and II b Real: Concrete Suggestions

The list of weak links in India’s energy system seems endless, but most of it stems from how India historically has chosen to organise its energy sector – centrally planned to balance d emand and supply, and run by state-owned companies (Carl et al 2008). Much of the present interest in India is to recast, if not c ompletely undo, the policies of the past that have engendered the precarious energy-supply situation in India. Indeed, such sweeping changes – or intentions thereof – have even become a possibility due to recognition that the present state of affairs vided with free (or very low

cost) electricity, a clear mani

festation of the political importance of this group of citizens. As the stolen and freely supplied electricity have no price tag, there is little incentive to economise on its use. Thus, irrespective of the cost of electricity generation, the demand from these consumers remains very strong. The ever increasing demand-supply gap for electricity (Figure 5) and SEBs’ inability to respond to the needs were mainly responsible for initiating reforms in the power sector. The Electricity Act 2003 envisaged massive restructuring of the SEBs and wider participation of the private sector as the way forward in the power sector. While a few states have made commendable progress with reforms, most states still have done little and remain extremely inefficient.

Figure 5: Energy Shortages and Peak Power Deficit in 2004-05 in Some Indian States

Tamil Nadu Kerala Jharkhand

Peak Deficit Energy Deficit 0 10 20 30 % Data: Integrated Energy Policy, Government of India.

in the energy sector is the biggest roadblock to India’s economic prosperity.

Energy-sector reforms and better infrastructure are not only crucial for both economic development and energy security, but also are the necessary first step on which all other options must be built on – without reforming the energy-sector the positive impact of other options will be muted. The pressure to deal with climate change provides an external forcing that policymakers could use to address energy-related reform and infrastructure issues in India. Based on this observation, next we discuss some

Delhi Andhra Pradesh Karnataka Assam Rajasthan Haryana Maharashtra Madhya Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Punjab Gujarat

specific viable options that fit boxes IIa and IIb of the framework laid out in Section 4 (Figure 4).


august 1, 2009 vol xliv no 31


The case of Delhi is particularly interesting. The Delhi Vidyut preference for coal is well demonstrated by the actual build and Board’s (DVB) commercial losses were Rs 1,092 crore ($220 mil-dispatch of electricity in India. Under any plausible scenario, this lion) and AT&C losses were 45% in 2001 (GOI 2002). It was against trend is likely to continue for at least the next couple of decades. this backdrop that the Delhi government introduced power reforms As demand for coal has soared in recent years, cracks in India’s in 2002.8 The following reform process ultimately resulted in the coal supply chain have appeared, owing mainly to commercial

unbundling of DVB and privatisation of dis-Figure 6: Impact of Power-Sector Reforms on Electricity i nefficiencies (price distortions) and infratribution. The main aims were to rational-Demand in Delhi structure bottlenecks (poor technology,

31000 Projected demand (No reforms;

ise the tariffs, eliminate thefts, and bridge freight problems) (Carl et al 2008). If this

15000 Adjusted for economic growth) Projected demand (No reforms) Actual demand
situation persists, India may be forced to


Million Units of energy

the increasing gap between the peak and

off-peak demand. In 2002, three private

companies were entrusted with the task of

distributing power. Incentives were put in import large quantities of coal in the next

decade (Figure 8, p 83). From the view


point of India’s energy security, this would

place to reduce AT&C losses and to reign in expose India’s energy supply to interna


power theft. As a result, there has been a considerable reduction in the AT&C losses, which are down to below 30% in 2007-08.9

A completely unintended, nevertheless quite relevant to the climate change discussion, consequence of the Delhi reforms

1998-99 2000-01 2002-03 2004-05 2006-07

Figure 7: Potential CO Emissions Reduction Per Year


in India Due to Power Reforms in India for Scenarios in Table 1


tional energy markets on all fronts (oil, gas, and coal) – a scenario that Indian p oliticians dread, as control on energy prices have proven crucial in political battles. India recognises this fact, and there is general consensus to streamline coal production while improving efficiency of coal

5% growth rate 7% growth rate

2012 2017

Million tonnes CO/yr




have been a significant reduction in

growth rate of electricity demand, and

hence, in CO2 emissions. Rationalisation of

tariffs and stricter compliant mechanisms use as a way of both improving energy se

curity and continued economic growth

(GOI 2006).

But technology remains the main bottle

mean that the end users are now exposed

neck when it comes to burning coal in


to the true cost of power greater than

India. The technology and efficiency of

ever. As electricity distributors have used innovative technologies to crack down on theft, electricity demand in Delhi has grown much slower in the last five years (i e, post reforms) than in the pre-2003 state-of-affairs (Figure 6), despite a much stronger economic growth in Delhi post-2003.

As shown in Figure 7, our calculations indicate that for plausible power consumption growth rate scenarios (Table 1), “power-sector reforms similar to Delhi across India could lead to annual savings in the range of 200 to 250 Mt of CO2/year by 2017” (Rai et al 2009). This is equivalent to nearly 50% of India’s total power emissions in 2007 (520 Mt of CO2) (GOI 2008b) and about 6% of Europe’s total emissions in 2006 (IEA 2008).Thus power reforms would not only have a positive financial implication but could also prove to be an efficient mitigation strategy against climate change.

Outsiders (international com munity) can help by co-funding such programmes on a large scale across India. India should also be engaged early on in international efforts on advanced local-grid management systems that will enable further technical efficiency gains as India, under its “electricity for all by 2012” programme, expands its electricity supply to encompass hundreds of millions that currently do not have access to electricity.

5.2 The Indian Coal-Efficiency Programme

As in the past, coal remains India’s fuel of choice for expanding its energy supply to fuel continued economic growth. Coal is relatively abundant and cheaper than oil and gas in India. In the absence of significant new discoveries of oil and gas, domestic oil and gas reserves are likely to run out in 20 to 30 years, while coal is estimated to last well over 50 years even after accounting for 5% annual growth in coal consumption in the years to come (GOI 2006). The

India’s coal plants lag far behind the world standards. The average efficiency of India’s coal-based power generation fleet is a paltry 30% – nearly all of India’s coal-based power generation comes from low efficiency subcritical units (GOI 2003). Its first modern efficient power plant – a supercritical unit that delivers 39% efficiency, far behind the world’s best practice – is slated to come online only this year even though the technology used in their new plant has been available for three decades. Even China started installing supercritical

Table 1: Scenarios for Growth of units nearly two decades ago Electricity Demand in India, With and

Without Reforms

(China’s first supercritical unit

Electricity Growth Rate

came online in 1992). Low effi

No Reforms Reforms

ciency plants need more coal to

Scenario A 5% 2.50%

be burnt for the same amount

Scenario B 7% 3.50% of power generated, and thus The growth rates are based on Delhi’s

experience between 2003 and 2008, and were

increase both demand for coal

chosen so as to yield a conservative value (on and CO2 emissions (CO2 emis-the lower end) for potential reductions in CO



sions from coal-based power generation form about o ne-third, or roughly 450 Mt/CO2, of India’s total GHG emissions (1.3 billion tonnes in 2006)) (GOI 2008b).

India’s own deep interest to improve its coal and electricity supply situation offers yet another serious option for GHG mitigation. An India coal-efficiency programme (ICE programme) to deploy coal-fired power plants with advanced supercritical units could help the country lift its average coal-combustion efficiency from 30% to perhaps 40% over two decades. As discussed in Section 6, outsiders will be a critical part of such a programme both to support India with the necessary technology and with finan cial help where necessary. Looking to 2030, such a programme could reduce India’s emissions by about 400 million tonnes of CO2 annually, Figure 8: Import Dependencies (in%) of major leverage for climate, notably Stanford’s Mark Jacobson


0 20 40 60 80 100

(Jacobson 2002; see also Zaelke 2008; Ramanathan and Carmichael 2008). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also recently issued a report on ABCs, highlighting the degree to which the issue is moving to the forefront (UNEP 2008).

While burning biomass has long been known to be a contributor to the ABC, exact estimates of the share from biomass have varied wildly. A paper published by Tami Bond in 2004 estimated that only 20% of black carbon came from biofuel burning (Bond et al

Oil Natural gas Coal 2004-05 2030 (A) 2030 (B)

Scenario A: Minimum requirement, maximum domestic production. Scenario B: Maximum requirement, minimum domestic production. Source: Integrated Energy Policy, government of India, April 2006.

b elow the level that the power sector would have emitted otherwise.10 The benefits of such a programme for coal demand and installed generation capacity are equally staggering: compared with the business-as-usual scenario, in 2030 coal demand will be lower by about 250 Mt/yr and the required installed capacity will be lower by about 90 GW.11 The programme should also emphasise the early deployment of ultra-supercritical plants to create learning and expertise with this technology, which will build the platform for further reductions in future. Achieving these higher efficiencies, especially for new plants, then, offer a tremendous win-win opportunity for India’s developmental goals and CO2 emissions reductions, and should be a top priority for India and outsiders.

Outsiders can play an important role in helping India move forward with the ICE programme outlined above. The best coal plants in the world – built in Germany and funded by expensive government research programmes – now approach 50% efficiency. But these plants are rare, and India is years away from developing the technology cost-effectively at home. So far, little has been done to help India move up the technology curve for coal plants. Other than sell age-old technology at commercial terms, the west has done little to help India burn coal more efficiently. One test of whether governments across the world are serious about global warming is to see if they encourage a speedy spread of best technologies around the world – a good example of which will be success of the ICE programme.

5.3 Local Pollution Standards and Climate Change: Advanced Cookstoves in India12

The atmospheric brown cloud (ABC, previously referred to as the Asian brown cloud) is a layer of smog looming over south Asia and the northern Indian Ocean. While the cloud has long been known to have climatic effects,13 the extent of the effect was not clear until recently. In the last few years research has revealed a strong net warming effect due to the ABC, increasing regional warming by approximately 50% (Ramanathan 2007). Estimates of the net global warming effect of black carbon range from +0.4 W/m2 to +0.9 W/m2, according to the IPCC and Ramanathan, r espectively (IPCC 2007b; Ramanathan and Carmichael 2008).

Any Indian strategy to combat global climate change, and in particular any plan hoping to have near-term results, must address the role of the ABC. Reducing brown and black carbon may be one of the fastest ways to combat climate change. Brown and black carbon in the atmosphere last only a few days or weeks, as opposed to decades for carbon dioxide and other GHGs. Several authors have recently outlined the importance of black carbon as an area

Economic & Political Weekly

august 1, 2009 vol xliv no 31

2004; Novakov et al 2000). Recent efforts by Gustafsson et al (2009) to pin down the amount have determined a larger share from biomass than previously thought – about two thirds.14 Thus, the most up to date research suggests that biomass burning is the main culprit of the ABC, meaning that any comprehensive plan to combat global warming in Asia must consider the ABC and therefore its main source – biomass burning.

The problem is that biomass burning is a non-point source of emissions, dispersed across the homes and fields all across the country. Further, requiring people to stop burning biomass is an untenable option, since for many it is the primary or the only source of energy.

While transitioning large segments of the Indian population away from biomass burning may be a long-term policy goal, a shorter-term or transitional way to burn biomass more cleanly is through improved cookstoves. Such stoves have been and are being distributed by numerous NGOs, companies, and governments worldwide, with varying degrees of success. Meant to replace the traditional three-rock stoves used in many rural household, improved cookstoves use less fuel, reduce indoor air pollution, and drastically reduce emissions from cookstoves.

An initial calculation reveals that for a very low cost a cookstove programme could drastically reduce the ABC and thus regional warming. Assuming that every Indian family has a stove, and that each family is comprised of six to eight people, it is reasonable to assume that there are 120 million stoves nationwide. Replacing just half of these stoves – 60 million – with improved stoves would reduce the ABC by approximately third. And this programme, even if fully subsidised, would cost $300 million, assuming $5 per stove.15

Such a programme, in order to be effective in the long-term, would need to be accompanied by long-term improvements in the regulations of other sources of brown and black carbon, such as diesel engines. But the leverage from an improved cookstove programme could be a major part of a portfolio of India’s efforts to combat warming.

While such a large-scale effort is indeed feasible – China distributed more than 100 million stoves over a 15 year period, with only partial subsidisation and minimal government involvement – India’s track record on cookstoves is not stellar (Smith 1993). In “What Makes People Cook with Improved Biomass Stoves?”, Douglas Barnes et al (1994) describes the high cost and failure of the previous Indian cookstove programme. However, the largest sources of biomass burning are concentrated in a few major states, meaning that a focused programme in a few areas of India could have a major impact. Major heterogeneity in states’ ability to administer such a cookstove programme means that it is of crucial importance that one need only focus on a few states in order to have a large effect.


In a budget-constrained Indian government, there may be ap-too, just a handful of countries have led most of world’s R&D efforts: prehensions about the cost of a cookstove programme. But given only 10 countries spend more than 90% of global R&D expenditure India’s obvious interests in such a programme (the Indian govern-(Figure 9) (Dooley and Runci 1999). Success in technological invenment would like to and has attempted to distribute cookstoves, for tions requires more than mere spending. It requires a robust national reasons involving combating deforestation and improving health, system of innovation with a long-term vision that closely integrates among others), outside assistance would likely be welcome in ad-and coordinates basic R&D expenditure (mostly by the government) dressing the problem. What could an outsider do to strike a bargain with commercial R&D through favourable policies to pull these and to assist the Indian government technologies in the marketplace. In

Figure 9: 2004 R & D Expenditure of India and Some Other Major Countries

in a cookstove programme? One ob-

Japan India Brazil China Germany US 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 R & D Expenditure as a percentage of GDP Source: EIA, World Bank.

vious realm is in financing such a

programme, but also by helping

craft a programme that is sustaina

ble, using the knowledge gained

from other programmes, notably the

Chinese programme.

Another possibility is that the nuclear energy), such vision and

Researchers per million population


coordination has been lacking and

the system of innovation has not

kept pace with global advance

ments in science and technology.

Indian policymakers recognise this





I ndian government need not be involved directly in the distribution of cookstoves at all, but may simply make the market attractive for some of the major corporations trying to roll out large-scale cookstove programmes in the country. British Petroleum’s alternative energy programme until recently had a major cookstove programme that could have in the longterm satisfied a large portion of demand. The Shell Foundation, partnering with EnviroFit, is selling stoves across India. Philips Corporation also has a design and plans to sell across India. These major corporate programmes offer a unique experiment, which may end in a sustainable, profit-driven distribution network for stoves across the country.

6 Building Capability and Credibility

When planning international engagement strategies the key questions always hinge on credibility and enforcement – problems that are much more readily solved when the contributions of each country are broadly seen in that country’s self-interest. India’s decision about what is in its interest depends on and varies with India’s technological and administrative capabilities. India and outsiders can, together, shift that equation so that, in time, options that are “irrelevant now” (Figure 4) are transformed into viable options (Box IIa and IIb, Figure 4). That matters because it creates a greater potential for leverage on the climate problem and because it makes more of that leverage directly in India’s interest. A couple of possibilities are outlined below.

Advanced Technologies and R&D

Cutting-edge technologies like carbon capture and storage, fuel cells, solar photovoltaic (PV), which are also very expensive, will not make a significant difference in developing countries from a climate change viewpoint in the next two to three decades. India must facilitate demonstration projects at home and participate in international research efforts. But that should be part of a long-term innovation strategy (supported with domestic institutional continuity), and not a medium-term strategy as a viable response by India. New technologies will lead the warfront against climate change. The European Union, Japan, and US recognise this well, and have been most aggressive in incentivising inventions in green technologies since 1991. Historically lacuna, and there is increasing em

phasis to resurrect technological

innovation in India. But even if India fires all R&D cylinders and gets its act together in the next few years, the benefits will not be felt for years to come. Yet, a successful R&D programme will be enabling for India to spearhead its own technology-based mitigation response in future.

National Information Administration for Energy

Besides research in energy technologies, economic modelling and forecasting are also important in the planning and negotiation process. So far energy-related data in India are quite dispersed, incoherent, and often contradictory. This not only hinders serious research on energy economics in India, but also hurts transparency (and hence credibility) of India’s planning process in the climate change arena. Accordingly, we urge the creation of a National Information Administration for Energy (NIAE) that would serve as the central repository of all energy-related data in India.

7 Conclusions

Based on arguments of equity and per capita emissions, India has shied away so far from direct engagement in global efforts to mitigate emissions of GHGs. While essentially valid, such arguments are becoming increasingly unsustainable in the international politics of climate change. A serious climate change policy, backed with necessary action, will increasingly become a part of India’s relations with industrialised countries, especially the US

– as the world gears up for serious mitigation action, some kind of engagement on India’s part may be unavoidable.

We have argued that in the Indian context the costs of engagement at the margins are not as high as many think and that the apparent dichotomy between economic growth and de-carbonisation of energy sources is not nearly as serious. Of a number of seemingly interesting options for significant emissions reductions, only those offer real leverage in the climate change arena that align with India’s core interests (economic development and energy security) while also aligning with what the Indian government can implement given its administrative, political, and technological resources. Successful design of such policies will help boost India’s credibility and make still deeper cooperation possible in the future. This, we have suggested, is the framework through which all available options should be evaluated.


Within this framework, we have identified three major options that provide real leverage for reducing emissions in the Indian context: power sector reforms, efficiency of coal-based power generation fleet, and large-scale distribution of efficient cookstoves (for biomass burning). Our intention here was not to prepare an exhaustive list of such options, but to apply the framework for identifying viable options – it is likely that other options fit this framework as well. Power-sector reforms that crackdown on illegal theft of electricity by end-users across India can help reduce CO2 emissions between 200 and 250 million tonnes of CO2/yr (MtCO2/yr) by 2017. A national programme (the ICE programme) to improve the efficiency of India’s coal-based power plants from 30% to 40% over the next two decades can provide about 400 MtCO2-reductions/yr by 2030, while also reducing coal requirement by 250 Mt/yr. Finally, a national programme to distribute efficient cookstoves will radically improve health standards in low-income households, but also will hugely reduce local-warming effects caused by aerosols from inefficient biomass combustion. Outsiders can help India in all these programmes,

Notes References

but India will need significant help on advanced coal technologies for success of the ICE programme. The extent to which outsiders come forth with serious technological help for India will be a direct measure of how serious outsiders are about global warming.

Further leverage for the climate problem could be available through building India’s technological and administrative capabilities over time. For this, we have suggested that India should be involved in advanced-energy-technology R&D efforts at home and internationally. But that should be part of a long-term technology vision for India, and not an option for a near to mid-term mitigation strategy. Finally, we have urged the establishment of a NIAE – a central repository of all energy-related data in India – not only to facilitate energy economics modelling by researchers around the world, but also as a way to establish transparency and credibility.

An important issue not discussed in this paper is the institutional aspect of how these self-interested “offers” (Boxes IIa and IIb) could be crafted into international commitments/deals. In our view, key developing countries could make offers of what they would do on their own (IIb) and what they would like to have help for (IIa) and then negotiations would craft deals of those two elements plus outside support.

Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Intergovernmental

1 Bali Action Plan 2007. Decision -/CP 13, UNFCCC, Particularly see item 1b, p1.

2 National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), India, June 2008. India and other developing countries have maintained this position since the very beginning of international negotiations on climate change.

3 (i) Integrated Energy Policy, Report of the Expert Committee, “CO2 Generation Comparison in 203031”, Planning Commission, government of India, April 2006, p 50. The average of over 10 scenarios yields about 4 billion tonne CO2/yr in 2030-31

(ii) World Energy Outlook 2008, IEA, p 385. 4 Annex-II countries of the Kyoto Protocol are the industrialised countries responsible for helping developing countries with financial and technological

support in their efforts to reduce GHG emissions. 5 European Commission (2009). 6 Among many others, see (i) “Greenpeace to Launch

Anti-climate Change Campaign in India”, Thaindian News, 25 March 2008, available at http://www. (ii) Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India,

7 See V Rai, A Goel and D G Victor (2009). 8 Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (2000). 9 Information source from Central Electricity Author

ity (CEA), India and Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC),

10 Authors’ estimates.

11 Ibid.

12 “In Preparation”, PESD Working Paper by X Slaski and D G Victor, Stanford University, 2009.

13 The aerosols, brown and black carbon particles that compose the cloud, have both warming and cooling effects, by scattering light and absorbing heat.

14 Estimates range from 50% to 90%. Biofuel burning contributes to two-thirds of bulk carbonaceous aerosols, according to the paper. See Örjan Gustafsson et al (2009). For an earlier estimate see T Novakov et al (2000).

15 Total Anthropogenic Emissions of Carbon Dioxide in India were 1,165.73 million metric tonnes in 2005, according to the EIA. See India Energy Profile, Energy Information Administration. Available at data.cfm?fips=IN

Economic & Political Weekly august 1, 2009


Adger, W N et al (2005): “Successful Adaptation to Climate Change across Scales”, Global Environmental Change, Vol 15.

Bali Action Plan (2007): “Enhanced National/International Action on Mitigation of Climate Change”, Decision -/CP.13, UNFCCC. Available at:http:// meetings/cop_ 13/application/ pdf/cp_bali_action.pdf

Barnes, Douglas F et al (1994): “What Makes People Cook With Improved Biomass Stoves? A Comparative International Review of Stove Programmes”, World Bank Technical Paper Number 242, May.

Bond, Tami C et al (2004): “A Technology-based Global Inventory of Black and Organic Carbon Emissions from Combustion”, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol 109.

Carl, J C et al (2008): “Energy and India’s Foreign Policy”, PESD Working Paper #75, Stanford University.

Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (2000): Concept Paper on Tariff. Available at: http://www.

Dooley, J J and P J Runci (1999): “Adopting a Long View to Energy R&D and Global Climate Change”, Prepared for the US Department of Energy.

European Commission (2009): EU Action Against Climate Change: Leading Global Action to 2020 and Beyond. Available at climat/pdf/ brochures/ post_2012_en.pdf

Government of India (2002): Annual Report on the Working of State Electricity Boards (New Delhi: Planning Commission).

  • (2003): Report of the Expert Committee to Recommend Next Higher Size of Coal Fired Thermal Power Stations, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) (New Delhi: Ministry of Power).
  • (2006): Integrated Energy Policy, Report of the Expert Committee (New Delhi: Planning Commission).
  • (2008a): National Action Plan on Climate Change (New Delhi: Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change). Available at Pg01-52.pdf
  • (2008b): Baseline Database, Version 4, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) (New Delhi: Ministry of Power).
  • Gustafsson, Örjan et al (2009): “Brown Clouds Over South Asia: Biomass or Fossil Fuel Consumption?”, Science 323.

    IEA (2008): World Energy Outlook. IPCC (2007a): “Fourth Assessment Report”, Climate

    vol xliv no 31

    Panel on Climate Change.

    – (2007b): “Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing” in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 129, 132.

    Jacobson, Mark Z (2002): “Control of Fossil Fuel Particulate Black Carbon and Organic Matter, Possibly the Most Effective Method of Slowing Global Warming”, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol 107 (D19).

    Novakov, T et al (2000): “Origin of Carbonaceous Aerosols Over the Tropical Indian Ocean: Biomass Burning or Fossil Fuels?”, Geophysical Research Letter, Vol 27(2).

    Rai, V et al (2009): “Impact of Delhi’s Power-Sector Reforms on CO2 Emissions” in Preparation, PESD Working Paper, Stanford University.

    Ramanathan, V (2007): “Warming Trends in Asia Amplified by Brown Cloud Solar Absorption”, Nature, Vol 448.

    Ramanathan, V and G Carmichael (2008): “Global and Regional Climate Changes Due to Black Carbon”, Nature Geoscience, Vol 1.

    Smith, Kirk R (1993): “One Million Improved Cookstoves in China: How Was It Done?”, World Development, Vol 21(6).

    TERI (2003): Coping with Global Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation in Indian Agriculture (New Delhi: The Energy and Resource Institute).

    – (2007): “Climate Change Mitigation and Sustainable Development”, Background Paper, for Workshop on Climate Change and Sustainable Development: A Workshop to Strengthen Research and Understanding organised by Department of Economic and Social Affairs and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), with the support of the Government of India, 7-8 April, New Delhi.

    UNEP (2008): Atmospheric Brown Clouds: Regional Assessment Report with Focus on Asia, United Nations Environment Programme Report.

    Victor, D G (2009): “Global Warming Policy After Kyoto: Rethinking Engagement with Developing Countries”, PESD Working Paper #82, Stanford University, January.

    Zaelke, D (2008): “Reducing Black Carbon May Be the Fastest Strategy for Slowing Climate Change”, Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development/ INECE Climate Briefing Note.

    Dear Reader,

    To continue reading, become a subscriber.

    Explore our attractive subscription offers.

    Click here

    Back to Top