These are crucial and defining years in the fight against the existential threat posed to humanity by man-made climate change. In recent years, several UN reports have pointed out that as the decade progresses, the window of opportunity to act decisively to reduce and ultimately end the new CO2 emissions that are heating up the world. planet is getting smaller and smaller. The world has already missed important deadlines.
At present, new global CO2 emissions are expected to have followed a downward trend. To limit the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by 2100, CO2 emissions must be reduced by one to two billion tonnes each year over the next decade over the next decade. less. To limit heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, global net CO2 emissions must fall 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
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Global economic lockdowns in 2020 caused global CO2 emissions to drop 2.6 billion tonnes, down 7% from 2019 levels. Most of this decrease is due to lower emissions from transport. To put it in perspective, the world needs the equivalent of a global lockdown every two years to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
It is in this larger context that we must read The Next Step: Natural Gas and India’s Journey to a Clean Energy Future, edited by Vikram S. Mehta. Through a collection of 24 essays written by experts who are, in large part, associated with the oil and gas industry, the book argues for natural gas, a fossil fuel, as a “transitional fuel” for the transition from India towards clean energy. future based on renewable energies (RE). Mehta is a highly respected voice in the oil and gas industry. He is currently chairman of the Delhi-based think tank Center for Social and Economic Progress (formerly Brookings India). In the past he worked with Oil India and was chairman of the Shell group of companies for 18 years, until 2012. He is also a board member of several companies (including HT Media, mintthe parent company of). His essay introduces the subject and argues in favor of natural gas.
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The Next Step: Natural Gas and India’s Journey to a Clean Energy Future. Edited by Vikram S. Mehta, 625 pages, â¹799, HarperCollins.
The case, roughly, is as follows. The book argues that gas should be seriously considered by the Indian government as an intermediate energy source “stepping stone” to reduce the country’s dependence on coal. To this end, the book argues that the share of natural gas in India’s energy mix, currently around 6-6.5%, is expected to increase massively in the near future. Indeed, gas is a “green fuel”, that is to say, it emits about half of the CO2 that coal emits. Analysts in the book argue that a transition to gas can prevent disruptions caused by the coal shutdown, and industries will be able to adapt easily without huge investments in modernizing their systems. In addition, natural gas, especially LPG, would provide safe and affordable energy without damaging the environment. The various essays in the book analyze the details of this transition, including tariff and tax regimes, the need for more LNG regasification terminals, the need for better penetration of gas pipeline networks, the use of gas in the pipeline. MSME sector as well as in transport. The argument also extends to natural gas in partnership with RE, becoming the fuel of choice to balance fluctuations or deficits in the RE network.
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The book pleads in favor of the liberalization of gas pricing and taxation and the need to subject gas to the GST regime, or tax on products and services. It also calls for exploration of domestic natural gas production (India is currently the world’s fourth largest importer of LNG and these imports accounted for over 50% of the country’s natural gas supply in 2019). To that end, the book says there should be better central state coordination for land acquisition, pipeline routing and royalty payments. And finally, it is strongly beating a larger share of private players in India’s natural gas sector.
However, the book suffers from a lack of balance. It does not paint a full picture that takes into account why countries are increasingly turning away from gas, rather than away from it. First, the UN has made it clear that any further development of untapped gas reserves is incompatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Existing and already approved gas, oil and coal projects are expected to push emissions beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius mark.
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Leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas of short duration but much more intense than CO2, warming the planet, have long harassed the gas sector. It has not been corrected. Numerous studies, as well as UN reports, have pointed out that as renewable energy technology – which also includes storage – becomes cheaper (it is already cheap), renewables can replace electricity entirely. coal and gas by 2050, the year set for the global energy sector to decarbonize. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that to limit warming to levels below catastrophic levels, global gas consumption must decrease by 55% by 2050.
What about India? The government has an incremental and much appreciated target of reaching 450 GW of RE capacity by 2030. This has boosted RE investments and will continue to do so. As manufacturing in the sector increases, it can match or even exceed the employment that coal currently provides. The ability of natural gas to do this is comparatively limited. Focusing heavily on investments in natural gas at this stage raises the question of resource allocation. Should the government invest in gas, which is ultimately incompatible with a carbon-free future and can lead to stranded assets? Certainly, gas can, and perhaps should be, a candidate for replacing electricity from coal in some sectors, especially when it comes to “dirty” and inefficient coal. But turning the gas into supplemental fuel at the ER does not seem advisable. Investing in or acquiring gas reserves from resource-rich countries and investing in new national exploration and production, which the book advocates, fails all sustainability tests.
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India just doesn’t have the luxury of growing now and cutting emissions later, especially when it comes to gas, like European countries or the UK did 30-40 years ago years. Growth and emission reduction must occur simultaneously. So instead of an opportunistic policy framework when it comes to meeting India’s energy needs, the focus should instead be strategic. In this strategy, gas will have a role to play, given that India plans in any case to increase the share of natural gas in the energy mix to 15% by 2030. The next stop has some strategic advice to give, but in its political formulations it seems confined to older, opportunistic language.