With the COP21 climate conference in full swing in Paris, all eyes are on emerging nations, especially India. The country is the world’s fourth-largest polluter and its CO2 emissions per inhabitant are expected to double by 2030. Yet New Delhi refuses to commit to specific targets to reduce its emissions and does not intend to deprive itself of coal, which it has plenty of.
With 1.3 billion inhabitants and a fast-growing economy, India is facing one of the planet’s biggest energy challenges. On the one hand, the Asian giant has to meet its population’s demand for electricity — 300 million Indians still have no access to power — but on the other, it must contribute to the fight against global warming, of which it is also one of the first victims. It needs to do all this without compromising its economic growth.
Although New Delhi has committed to developing an ambitious solar energy programme, its whole industry is based on coal, the only fossil fuel present in large quantities on its territory. For this fast-growing demographic giant, coal is also the cheapest energy, albeit bad for the environment.
"There is this central dilemma between the costs that you need to put in now and the climate benefits that you get later," Ajay Mathur, chief of the government's Bureau of Energy Efficiency, explained. "And what we're trying to do is to walk a tightrope between these two tensions," said Mathur, a member of the Indian delegation at COP21.
From the Indian countryside to the Ministry of Environment, our reporters went to meet those who live closest to this “black gold”.