New Delhi, Nov 24 | The International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST), the New Delhi-based environmental non-profit, has published the first on-ground study to understand what ‘Just Transition’ means for India.
The study details the risks and opportunities of coal phase-out and proposes a policy and planning framework for ‘Just Transition’, based on an in-depth survey of Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, a top coal-producing district.
The book — Just Transition in India: An inquiry into the challenges and opportunities for a post-coal future — was released by Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren at an online public event on Tuesday.
Speaking at the occasion, Soren said, “We are mindful that coal will reduce over time, and therefore we have to plan for a post-coal future.
“As Jharkhand is rich in other natural resources, we are diversifying our economy and promoting tourism, forestry, agro-based industries, and the service sectors.”
He said ‘Just Transition’ is a good planning framework for the state government to consider.
iFOREST President and CEO Chandra Bhushan said, “Just Transition is an imperative for India as we have only 20-30 years to phase-out coal-based power to avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change. This is a very short time to transform coal mining areas and coal-dependent industries.”
“If we do not start planning for a post-coal future now, our coal-dependent regions will face major economic and social disruptions in the coming years.”
‘Just Transition’ was included in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to ensure that the workers and the local communities dependent on fossil fuels like coal do not suffer due to the phase-out of coal to meet the climate change goals.
Therefore, the basic idea of ‘Just Transition’ is to ensure decent work opportunities and social support systems for the people whose livelihood is likely to be affected by the energy transition.
India has so far not engaged nationally or internationally on coal phase-out and ‘Just Transition’ because of the country’s high dependence on coal for energy security and industrial growth.
But coal is rapidly losing its cost advantage to renewables, and the supply of affordable 24×7 electricity from solar and wind with battery storage is becoming a reality. In such a situation, coal consumption in the country is projected to peak by 2030 and then start reducing, believe experts.
This will have a significant bearing on coal mining areas as coal mines will shut down, reducing jobs and income.
But coal mines are already being shut down in an unplanned fashion due to various factors, including unprofitability.
As the iFOREST study points out, in Jharkhand, 50 per cent of mines are closed, and half of the operational mines are unprofitable. Most of the mines have been closed without proper mine closure and plans for the mining areas’ socio-economic transition.
The situation in Ramgarh district, which the book captures in detail, illustrates why ‘Just Transition’ is not a consideration for the future; instead, it is a challenge of the present.
Ramgarh is one of Jharkhand’s top coal-producing districts, but its mining activities are shrinking, shows the study. About 50 per cent of mines are closed, and two-thirds of the operational mines are unprofitable.
Besides, Ramgarh is an aspirational district with poor socio-economic indicators.
“The situation becomes alarming when we look at the economic dependence of the district on coal. Coal mining and coal-dependent industries contribute about 40 per cent of the district’s GDP. Moreover, one-fourth of the households depend directly on the coal industry for income, most of them being informal workers. Without planning for a Just Transition, the district is already suffering and will suffer immensely in the coming years,” said Shruti Agarwal, Programme Associate, iFOREST.