Energy and climate governance: CAG's story so far!

Thu, 23/09/2021 - 13:32

The Energy Versus Climate Conundrum

The current energy market is becoming more and more entangled in energy transition with rising concern about climate change due to fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) utilisation. However, a recent report shows that India is on a lower rank (87th out of 115 countries) in the Energy Transition Index (ETI) despite its “strong political commitment and regulatory environment for the energy transition”. An energy mix with a greater share of renewable energy (solar and wind) can meet both energy security and climate change mitigation needs. Thus, strong climate and energy policies need to be framed and effectively implemented to meet the urgent need to mitigate and adapt to climate change and transition to a low-carbon future. Devising a concrete framework for climate governance can level the playing field for India to contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Climate governance assessment framework (Source: Climate Action Network).

Background

The Government of India (GoI) aims to achieve an ambitious renewable energy target of 175 GW by the year 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. Thus, it is continuously investing in schemes such as smart cities, LPG connections to all housing, universal electricity access and other schemes that promote renewable energy capacity. India framed the National Environment Policy in 2006, followed by the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008. The eight prominent missions launched under NAPCC include the national solar mission, the national mission for enhanced energy efficiency, national mission on sustainable habitat, national water mission, national mission for sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, national mission for a green India, national mission for sustainable agriculture, and national mission on strategic knowledge for climate change. 

In 2009, under the direction of GoI, the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) was framed as a part of a state-wise adaptation strategy to undertake and promote localized action. Further, GoI had pledged in 2015 to generate an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 as part of a nationally determined target (NDC). However, India does not have a well-defined energy governance framework (see figure 2) to resolve uncertainty in energy sector based on good quality and reliable data on the energy demand and consumption to boost energy transition under the following national strategies and policies:

  1. The Energy Conservation Act, 2001
  2. National Electricity Policy (NEP), 2005
  3. Integrated Energy Policy (IEP), 2006
  4. The National Policy for Farmers, 2007
  5. National Solar Mission, 2008  
  6. National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, 2008  
  7. A Sub-Mission under National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, 2008   
  8. A Sub-Mission under National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change, 2008  

The same applies to the following new policies and actions:

  1. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP 2020), 2012
  2. National Smart Grid Mission, 2015
  3. National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, 2015
  4. National Mission on Advanced Ultra Super Critical Technology, 2017
  5. Draft National Energy Policy, 2017-2040
  6. National Policy on Biofuels, 2018
  7. National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, 2019
  8. India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), 2019
  9. Draft National Hydrogen Energy Mission, 2021

Figure 2: Schematic representation of energy governance framework (Source: IEA)

What is CAG doing to strengthen energy and climate governance?

The Environment and Climate Action team at Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), through the  Thermal Watch Initiative (TWI), brings together grassroot NGOs and local communities across south India to respond to announcements about coal-based plants in their neighbourhood by providing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) related awareness and information. CAG is actively involved in conducting technical assessments of the EIA and proposes mitigation measures for a plant, using an expert team comprising a technical expert, an environmental lawyer and a socio-economic expert. This information is subsequently shared with grassroot NGOs and local communities to take up against a proposed/existing plant.

CAG also works to create awareness among NGOs and local communities about the EIA process through distribution of information booklets and posters in English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. CAG collaborates closely with NGOs and persons affected/potentially affected by a thermal power plant to disseminate the possible intervention strategies they can adopt at every stage. CAG publishes a monthly e-newsletter St(o)ppwatch which carries developments about thermal power plants in South India. The newsletter reaches over 1000 subscribers including environment and consumer groups, village representatives and media representatives.

Figure 3: A screenshot of the homepage of TWI website (https://www.thermalwatch.org.in/)

Table 1: Key works of CAG on Energy and Climate. 

Work Type

Details

Resources

Awareness

CAG built a narrative for the phase-out of coal and adoption of climate-friendly alternatives through a combination of demystification, awareness generation, capacity building, research and technical interventions. 

  1. Puppet Show (Video)
  2. Documentary On Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Process (Part 1 & Part 2)
  3. Documentary On Climate Change And Coastal Thermal Power Plants (Part 1 & Part 2)
  4. Animation On EIA Process (English, Hindi And Tamil)
  5. Journey Of Coal: From Transportation To Power Generation (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 And Part 6)
  6. Curriculum On Monitoring And Compliance Of Thermal Power Plants
  7. Monitoring And Compliance Tool
  8. Training Modules On EIA (Module 1, Module 2, Module 3, Module 4 And Module 5)
  9. Cartoon Booklet On EIA Process (English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil & Telugu)
  10. Poster & Flyer On EIA Process
  11. Booklet 1: Thermal Power Plants and EIA Process
  12. Booklet 2: Empowering Communities On Eia Process
  13. Booklet 3: Judgements And Circulars
  14. Booklet 4: Renewable Energy
  15. Booklet 5: Monitoring And Compliance
  16. Booklet 6: Demystifying EIA Report
  17. Thermal Power Plant Infographics (Raichur, Bellari, Dr Narla Tata Rao, Kothagudam, Sri Damodaram Sanjeevaiah, Kakatiya, Nlc-1, Nlc-2, Mettur, Tuticorin, Ennore And North Chennai)
  18. Coal Infographics Series (Water Pollution, Air Pollution, Land Pollution, Solar Power, Health And Groundwater)
  19. 30 Days Sustainable Lifestyle Challenge Calendar
  20. Podcast-what You Need To Know About EIA
  21. Podcast-biodiversity For Life
  22. Podcast-earth Overshoot Day 2020
  23. Podcast-pretty Only On Outside
  24. Podcast-air Quality During Bhogi
  25. Podcast: Sustainable Gastronom

Capacity building

  1. Training On Monitoring And Compliance (August-2018)
  2. Energy Finance Workshop 2018 (Day 1 And Day 2)
  3. Workshop On Ifis And Aiib
  4. Energy Finance Workshop 2021 (Day 1 And Day 2)
  5. State Of Environmental Decision-making In India - A Workshop For Practitioners
  6. Consultation On Draft EIA, 2019 And Status Of Forest Rights Act, 2006 In Tamil Nadu 
  7. National Consultation On Draft EIA 2020 - Focus On Environmental Protection And Justice
  8. Understanding Climate Action In An Indian Context - Panel Discussion
  9. Media as a catalyst for clean and sustainable power generation

Blogs 

CAG contributed to environmental sustainability and good governance of Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) by empowering local communities to address the impact of existing and proposed TPPs and related aspects in India through a combination of demystification, awareness generation, capacity building, research and technical intervention.

  1. Climate Injustice 101 - the whys, whos and hows of it
  2. A brief insight into why ecocide should be prosecuted as an international crime
  3. Biodiversity Loss -a Threat To Our Very Existence
  4. A Brief Overview Of Environmental Safeguard Policies In India
  5. Democracy And Air Pollution: Are They Related?
  6. Green Tribunal Cancels Forest Clearance To Captive Coal Blocks In Chhattisgarh
  7. Ash Everywhere; In Your Food And Water, Too?
  8. Identifying The Global Coal Industry’s Water Risks
  9. VEAG To Oppose Yet Another Coal Based Power Plant Near Nagpur Proposed By Reliance Power
  10. 800 Mw Unit-i Of AP Genco's Krishnapatnam Plant Goes On Stream
  11. Time Running Out To Meet Global Warming Target - U.N. Report
  12. The Uphill Struggle To Save Mahan Forests
  13. Coal At Cop24 - Key Decisions And Failures
  14. The Triple Tragedies
  15. Coal Block Allocation - Scuttling The Voices Of People And The Environment
  16. Covid-19 And Air Pollution - The Toxic Marriage
  17. The Emergence Of Environmental Impact Assessment In India
  18. Why Should India Think Again About Bringing Carbon Capture Utilisation And Storage (CCUS) Technology In The Country?
  19. Environmental Impact Assessment Notifications In India: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities And Threats
  20. Coal Ash: Types, Effects And Solutions
  21. Climate Crisis: A Ticking Time Bomb
  22. Sustainable Behaviour: Everyone Speaks About It, Nobody Practices It, Why?
  23. The Power Of Pr: How Induced Climate Denial Is Becoming Big Business
  24. Debunking The Science Behind “Net-zero”
  25. Limiting The Pollution From Coal-based Power Plants
  26. Empowering Women For Cleaner Power
  27. Climate Crisis Is Breaking The Back Of South Asian Countries
  28. Coal Addiction: You Use, You Lose
  29. A Critique Of National Clean Air Programme
  30. Land Requirement For Thermal Power Plant
  31. Ozone Pollution And Its Impact On Climate And Health
  32. Impact Of Coal Fired Power Plants On Fisheries - Mitigation Measures
  33. Solar Radiation Management - A Controversial Approach To Mitigate Global Heating
  34. Land-based Geoengineering - A Bad Bet To Stay Within 1.5°c
  35. Plant Load Factor
  36. Impact Of Coal Fired Power Plants On Fisheries - Problems

Reports

  1. Il&Fs Tamil Nadu Plant Site Visit
  2. ITPCL, Financially Viable Or Not?
  3. Coal Power Plants In Tamil Nadu - A Decade Of False Starts And Falling Performance
  4. Declining Efficiency Of Mettur Thermal Power Station: Reasons, Risks And Remedies?
  5. India Continues Public Financing Of Coal In The Time Of Climate Crisis
  6. Where Ease Of Doing Business Trumps Environmental Protection
  7. Too Hot To Handle- Chennai As A Cauldron Of The Climate Crisis
  8. Consultation On The Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2019 (Zero Draft) And Status Of Forest Rights Act 2006, In Tamil Nadu (September 25-26, 2019)
  9. National Consultation On Draft Environmental Impact Assessment 2020
  10. Energy Finance Workshop 2021: The Status Of Coal Financing In India
  11. Why and How to adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle: A Stepwise Guide
  12. Decommissioning of coal based thermal power plants - a baseline study report
  13. Alternatives to Geoengineering Technology for use in India

Outreach and advocacy

CAG worked towards creating the tools and knowledge pieces required for such community outreach, apart from engaging with the government towards transparent decision-making and ensuring stricter compliance with statutory requirements for environmental protection.

  1. Climate Action Month - 29-day Sustainability Challenge
  2. Taking Climate Crisis To Colleges: Lessons In Unlearning
  3. Trends And Insights From Air Quality Monitoring In Chennai And Cuddalore
  4. Pudukuppam: On The Brink Of Ruin
  5. EC Amendment - A Problematic Proposal By Il&Fs
  6. Are Geoengineering Projects In India An Effort At Greenwashing? Status And Risk Analysis
  7. Webinar On EIA Draft Notification 2020
  8. UN 75 Dialogues On SDGs - Sustainable Lifestyle
  9. UN75 Dialogue On SDGs - Affordable And Clean Energy
  10. Measuring Sustainable Lifestyle Status Of College Students
  11. New Draft Of EIA Will Endanger India's Wildernesses
  12. Sagarmala And Thermal Power Plants
  13. Legal Camp On EIA
  14. Water footprint of our diet and ways to reduce it
  15. Sustainable Behaviour: Everyone speaks about it, nobody practices it, why?

Other important roles: CAG works to  demystify, educate and assist local communities and stakeholders on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, through the following methods: 

  1. Formation of Professional Advisory Response Team (PART): The objective was to provide professional advice, including technical/procedural comments on the draft EIA and executive summary, to affected local communities on the legal, economic and technical aspects of the EIA Process. The local communities who make their representation at the public hearing used the inputs of PART such as written comments citing PART reports and advisory inputs.
  2. Desktop research on MoEF website: The project conducts regular desktop research on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change website. It took the following steps:
  1. Conduct desktop research of various environment-related government websites.
  2. Inform and get inputs from the PART members on any draft regulations put up on the website of the related Government agencies – EIA documents, and other draft notifications such as fly-ash utilization and emission norms, etc.
  3. Inform local communities about the same.
  1. Awareness programs: Several capacity building, train the trainer’s programs and workshops were organised for local communities, media and other environmental groups to discuss and train the stakeholders on the EIA process.
  2. SMS platform: To widen the information dissemination strategy CAG used a Short Messaging Service (SMS) Platform (Awaaz) in 2018 to send messages to stakeholders on the EIA process, updates on thermal power plants and other environment-related matters. This followed a growing realization that local stakeholders are not tech-savvy which inhibits their participation in the e-forum and newsletters.
  3. Online Forum: An online forum (energyenvironmenteia@googlegroups.com) to connect local communities involved in the EIA process and Thermal Power Plant Network - was created as a platform for discussion as well as to educate, inform and empower local communities and stakeholders on the EIA process with reference to thermal power plants in India. 

Conclusion

Working towards the betterment of energy and climate governance needs a clear vision and proper action plan with timelines from local/state/national government, NGOs, Civil Society, businesses and other stakeholders to ensure:

  • A shift towards sustainable and affordable energy 
  • Effective achievement of pollution norms
  • Stringent implementation of policies and acts
  • Standardised monitoring practices to check compliance
  • Timely and credible reporting/disclosure 
  • Complete transparency
  • Strong regulatory framework
  • Accountability and self-regulation

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