Adani plans climate crisis think tank, experts weigh in

The Adani Group plans to establish a think tank on the climate crisis that will push the cause of renewables and look at the issue from the perspective of the developing world.

The group has interests in businesses such as coal, power, and gas distribution, but has diversified into renewables. It also runs airports and ports.

The conglomerate will collaborate with other organisations and the government, and involve experts who can contribute to “policymaking that can both usher in a green transition and enable people in developing economies to aspire to higher living standards,” an Adani spokesperson said.

The Adani Group has attracted the ire of environmentalists in India and Australia, mainly over its coal mining efforts. The spokesperson added that the group acknowledges that “we are at a tipping point in terms of the global desire for action to be taken” but that the “discussion must include the views of people in developing countries who have a right to a better quality of life and who deserve the opportunity to fulfil their economic aspirations”.

This view is aligned with that of India’s and with many countries in the developing world that have been pushing for climate justice.

“The crisis in Ukraine has exposed some of the weaknesses in policymaking around energy, and how quickly even developed economies change track when confronted with rising prices, a lack of energy security and an inability to meet the needs of their people,” the spokesperson said.

The Adani Group’s idea of establishing a climate think tank comes at a time when energy prices are soaring and there is massive disruption in the sector due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This also led to several countries who were relying on Russian gas to start new fossil fuel exploration and extraction projects.

“Certain investments made by major economies recently will definitely prolong the life of fossil fuels — especially, opening up and exploration of new oil and gas fields. It takes a decade to develop these fields and then the investment is not for the next 10 to 20 years but for the long term,” a UN official said during an informal media briefing last month. “The commitments made by countries in Glasgow will lead to a 14% increase in emissions by 2030 over 2010 levels instead of falling by 40% to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius goal.”

“The window on the 1.5 degree goal is fast closing,” he said. “This is one of the main reasons for the UN secretary general to propose five critical actions to jump start the renewable energy transition.”

Progress on new, more ambitious 2030 climate targets and participation in sectoral initiatives have stalled since the UN climate summit in Glasgow last November, according to a June 3 analysis by the Climate Tracker, an advocacy group.

This goes against the clear agreement of the Glasgow Pact to update national 2030 climate targets in 2022, it said.

“Developed nations that were setting targets and giving stern lectures about climate change to the rest of the world now appear to be less censorious as their own energy security is threatened and prices spiral. Very few are willing to admit that there had been an overswing on the side of green solutions and technologies that were still in their nascent stage and that this fragility has been totally exposed by the crisis in Ukraine. Perhaps better sense will now prevail about what pragmatic energy transitions might look like as opposed to green transitions based on little more than magical thinking. It would have been worthwhile to have had more of this debate at the World Economic Forum, to have heard more about how we might realistically come together to enable a global green transition based on collaboration and mutual understanding rather than finger-wagging and scolding,” wrote Gautam Adani, the founder of Adani Group, on Linkedin on May 26.

India is also trying to enhance coal production and energy production from hydropower and other renewable energy in view of the energy crisis. Coal India will make available its closed underground mines to private companies for operations through allocation under the mine developer-cum-operator contract.

Skyrocketing international fossil fuel prices, particularly of natural gas, due to the Ukraine war, and a supply squeeze by energy exporting countries have compelled India to change its clean energy transition road map and revert to using both domestic and imported coal in a big way to meet its energy needs, HT reported on May 26.

“Part of the think tank’s role will be to propose policy solutions domestically as well as internationally. The point is to make sure perspectives and voices that are too easily ignored are heard in the mainstream, and to suggest equitable climate change solutions that consider the legitimate desires and aspirations of people in developing economies,” the Adani spokesperson said.

Adani’s plans to set up a climate think tank shows the climate crisis has started affecting their businesses, independent experts said.

“Private sector companies are seeking to systematically engage with climate change issues, a recognition that businesses and investments are directly being affected and the crisis cannot be ignored,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank.

However, an attempt to influence the global and national discourse should not run contradictory to the jal, jungle, zameen (water, forest, land) related conflicts that local communities are raising concerning the actions of the same companies pledging compliance with climate targets,” she said. “It will be important for companies to contextualise net zero targets within the local social and environmental footprint of their actions.”

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