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Renewable energy is the answer to climate change, but on a small scale it’s almost useless. Large players in the industrial sector, like China and India, consume coal and fuel at a staggering rate that clouds the efforts of small solar movements. Out of the two, India’s carbon footprint is increasing faster than all of its competitors. New reports suggest that the country is on the way to becoming the “world’s greatest emitter” in 25 years.

“India is the biggest piece of the puzzle,” said John Coequyt, Sierra Club’s director of federal and international climate campaigns. “Is there a way for that rapid growth to happen quickly and pull people out of poverty using a lot more renewable energy than has ever been used before? Or will they build more of what they have—huge coal plants with almost no pollution controls?”

With this in mind, how India consumes energy matters. Even if other regions are doing their part, the country’s practices (if left unaddressed), which could result in irreversible damage, will eventually catch up in the long run. Here’s a closer look at the group’s role in the renewable energy space.


Lack of Cooperation

During recent climate talks in Paris, several Western countries attempted to clamp down on India’s energy usage. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated willingly at the event, it was clear that he did not agree with the grand plan to minimize greenhouse gases. India knows that it has the upper hand in the talks, but the representatives are also doing their best to protect their interest in the global economy. You see, the country is in a race of its own to becoming the world’s leading industrial powerhouse. Adopting new energy practices could deter the group’s plans to reaching their goal and maintaining it for the long term.


Does India Have a Point?

Before you peg India’s reaction as cold and harsh, there’s something you have to know. At the moment, the country only accounts for six percent of annual global emissions, while China is contributing over four times that figure at 28 percent. The flaw in the negotiations is that the groups are only shining light on the future use of harmful energy, and not its current state. However, this does not dismiss the fact that India is consuming a lot of coal, and will continue to do so for decades. It also probably didn’t help that the country had seven massive solar energy projects in 2010, but to date only one has come to fruition.

Throwing more logs in the fire was the prime minister’s demand for other countries to pay for the cost of its renewable initiatives, which tallies to about $2.5 trillion in the next 15 years. “The West—not India—filled up the air with carbon dioxide,” explained Sunita Narain, director general of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “The West is asking us to pay for its mistakes. They are saying, ‘Oh, you are a rich country now, you can cover the cost.’”

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