As COP27 was progressing in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, the global energy and climate innovation editor of The Economist, made a compelling observation. He said, “We will see a much stronger focus on how the energy industry itself can play a role as a decarboniser. It’s about, in my view, a grown-up way of understanding that the oil and gas is here to stay. A number of countries, especially emerging markets, are going to rely on it.”
This resonates strongly in India – a rich emerging market that caters to a population of 1.32 billion and is expanding. For countries such as ours, especially, understanding the true scope and potential of the traditional energy industry will be pivotal to long-term sustainable energy transition. Indeed, in this regard, COP27 has been heartening as the first UN Climate Change summit where oil and gas executives were welcomed to official proceedings.
With energy continuing to be central to the livelihoods of billions of people, switching off the tap is not an option; the real deal is to ensure that the energy sector transitions into a ‘clean regime’ and that is happening already. India has been unequivocal in this stance. It has always advocated for clean energy transition that does not stymie development, and this is reflected in the Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy launched by Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This is also reflected in the nation’s commitment to the rational utilization of national resources with due regard to energy security.
What then would be the key takeaways for India – and the world – from COP27?
Energy security is central to climate progress
India’s position at COP27 is a message to the world – especially on the need to accept the realities of all developing nations – that low carbon development transition in the energy sector should not impact energy security, energy access and development. Energy security is not at odds with climate action as UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber observed, “We need maximum energy, minimum emissions.” For this, it is important to pursue all pathways, without wavering on the commitment to cut emissions of the current energy infrastructure – a position that Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri concurred to in a media interview.
Energy transition requires holistic solutions
The pathway to Net Zero requires an energy transition strategy that is holistic. In addition to embracing low-emission energy production pathways, supported by advanced technology that enhances the efficiency of operations, it is important to integrate the possibilities offered by solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen. It is also important that we tap into nature-based solutions for decarbonization such as developing green belts, encouraging biodiversity growth and developing appropriate carbon sinks. The energy sector in India has already made commendable progress in this regard, especially in harnessing geothermal energy from repurposed wells, and converting pipelines to solar.