Concerns in banning fossil fuel extraction

Concerns in banning fossil fuel extraction


The article delves into the surge of climate change litigation globally and the mounting pressure to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. It discusses the proposal for a Coal Elimination Treaty by 2030 and the challenges in aligning these efforts with international climate change principles.


GS – 3 (Mobilization of Resources, Renewable Energy, Environmental Pollution & Degradation)


Coal, Renewable energy, Paris Agreement

Mains Question:

Discuss the challenges and opportunities in phasing out fossil fuels globally, with a focus on the legal, ethical, and socio-economic dimensions. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Rising Momentum Against Fossil Fuels
  • UNFCCC’s Position on Fossil Fuels
  • Significance of the move
  • Challenges in Transitioning
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • India’s Dilemma
  • Challenges in Switching to Renewable Energy

Rising Momentum Against Fossil Fuels:

  • Climate change litigation is on the rise worldwide due to the inadequate response from governments and corporations.
  • There’s growing support for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and banning extraction, with discussions around a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • A proposal for a Coal Elimination Treaty by 2030 aims to address the Production Gap, where fossil fuel production plans conflict with Paris Agreement goals.

UNFCCC’s Position on Fossil Fuels:

  • The UNFCCC, particularly at COP26 and COP28, highlighted the need to transition away from fossil fuels to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • However, aligning these proposals with climate change principles like Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Nationally Determined Contributions poses challenges.

Significance of the move:

  • Demonstrates India’s commitment to combating climate change and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with global efforts to phase out coal and transition to cleaner energy sources.
  • Supports the development of renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency initiatives, with the government aiming to achieve 500 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 and net zero carbon neutrality by 2070.
  • Restricts the construction of new coal power plants to prevent mixed signals and maintain focus on ambitious renewable energy targets, which would otherwise hinder the growth of the renewables industry.
  • Enhances air quality and public health by reducing pollution from coal combustion, while also reducing India’s dependence on costly coal imports, thus improving energy security.

Challenges in Transitioning:

  • Countries heavily reliant on fossil fuel revenues face difficulties in transitioning away from them.
  • Developed nations with diversified economies and higher per capita income have greater capacity for transition.
  • In contrast, developing nations with limited diversification and high dependency on fossil fuels struggle to lead in phasing out fossil fuels.

Legal and Ethical Considerations:

  • International law grants states rights to use natural resources for economic development, but they must avoid significant harm to other states.
  • However, obligations regarding trans-boundary environmental impacts of fossil fuel extraction remain unclear. There’s debate over whether states must conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for fossil fuel projects.

India’s Dilemma:

  • India, despite progress in renewable energy, relies heavily on fossil fuels, particularly in its power sector.
  • Millions depend on fossil fuel-related jobs, posing challenges in transitioning. India faces scrutiny over subsidies, highlighting tensions between its developmental needs and international climate commitments.

Challenges in Switching to Renewable Energy:

  • Financial challenges faced by power distribution companies (DISCOMs), impacting the viability of renewable energy projects due to delayed payments and curtailed power purchases.
  • Inadequate grid infrastructure and storage capacity hindering the integration of variable renewable energy sources like solar and wind into the power system.
  • Limited availability of domestic financing options for renewable energy projects, leading to heavy reliance on foreign investment and exposing the sector to currency risks.
  • Lack of awareness and understanding among investors, particularly small and medium enterprises, households, and rural communities, about the benefits and opportunities of renewable energy.
  • Need for investments in transmission lines, substations, smart meters, and battery storage to ensure the reliability and stability of renewable energy supply.

Way Forward:

  • Achieving a phase-out of fossil fuels requires balancing environmental goals with socio-economic realities, especially in developing nations.
  • International cooperation is essential, with developed nations providing support for transitioning economies.
  • Legal frameworks must clarify obligations regarding fossil fuel extraction’s global impacts while respecting countries’ development needs.