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News from India on Climate Change and Energy

Jacob Scherr

Posted June 8, 2009

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 Here is the first edition of our news from India on climate change and energy which was compiled by Bidisha Banerjee:

The Hindu covers the leak of new Government of India draft strategy to advance solar as part of its National Climate Action plan. The targets are much more ambitious than previously outlined, and, if implemented, would be the largest solar program in any nation.  Here's some more analysis of India's current solar policies, and some context about the leaked strategy. Within the Indian government, some are questioning whether large solar subsidies would weaken India's position at the climate talks in Copenhagen.

On a related note, investment in renewable energy outpaced investment in fossil fuels for the first time this year; while industrialized countries' investment in renewables declined, the UNEP estimates that there was a 27% rise in investments from industrializing countries like China, India, and Brazil. This article has more details about the growth in different renewable industries in India.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Ratan Tata announced plans to sell the Tata Nano in New York within two years. The $2,500 Nano, which will go on sale in India next month, is expected to run at 65 miles per gallon. Tata claimed he will start selling an electric Nano by September.

A new Greenpeace report, "Monsoon Wager: Climate Change and the Indian Monsoon," surveys the latest science and emphasizes that climate change will wreak havoc with the Indian monsoon.

Now that India's UPA government is back in power following the recent elections, Jairam Ramesh, who resigned as Union minister of state for commerce, industry and power in February to work on the elections, has been appointed the Minister of Environment and Forests. In an interview with LiveMint, he said that responding to climate change is a local issue, not just an international one. The most important responses according to him are: "How efficiently we are going to use coal, how quickly we are going to expand nuclear energy in our country, on the energy front and on the greening front, how quickly we can go from 23% to 33% forest and tree cover."

Here's an excellent article highlighting one of Ramesh's highest priorities - speeding up environmental clearances for polluting industries. "The environment ministry ... has been under tremendous pressure from infrastructure ministries - power and coal specifically - and industries demanding that the clearance process be made simpler and more 'industry-friendly.'" In a speech on June 4, President Patil signaled that speeding up the process is key.

Finally, here's an interview with the head of the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India. He has a very optimistic outlook on the prospects of generating 60,000 Mw of nuclear energy by 2035 nuclear since the UPA government is back in place; fuel extraction and financing of new plants, he suggests, won't be a problem.

Most of that energy is going to fuel India's rapidly growing cities. Urban India is trying to do its part to cope with environmental challenges. Chennai has a new master plan that aims to make it one of the five cleanest cities in India. The city is also looking at creating a "Green Army" of 10,000 volunteers.

Some Indians are connecting local environmental issues to global talks on climate change. The Indian Youth Climate Network was in the news on World Environment Day for its attempts to send representatives to Copenhagen and to influence negotiators. And an editorial in the Bangalore edition of the Times of India demands more action from India in advance of Copenhagen. Pointing out how much more China and Brazil are doing, the author calls for a deeper discussion about materialism and whether economic growth necessarily leads to happiness.

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