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More priorities, more problems? Decision-making with multiple energy, development and climate objectives

Summary

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement pose new conceptual challenges for energy decision makers by compelling them to consider the implications of their choices for development and climate mitigation objectives. This is a nontrivial exercise as it requires pragmatic consideration of the interconnections between energy systems and their social and environmental contexts and working with a plurality of actors and values. There are an increasing number of indices, frameworks and academic studies that capture these interconnections, yet policy makers have relatively few ex-ante tools to pragmatically aid decision-making. This paper, based on a collation of 167 studies, reviews how multi-criteria decision approaches (MCDA) are used in energy policy decisions to explicitly consider multiple social and environmental objectives, and the conceptual usefulness of doing so. First, MCDA can be used to distil a finite set of objectives from those of a large number of actors. This process is often political and objectives identified are aligned with vested interests or institutional incentives. Second, MCDA can be used to build evidence that is both qualitative and quantitative in nature to capture the implications of energy choices across economic, environmental, social and political metrics. Third, MCDA can be used to explore synergies and trade-offs between energy, social and environmental objectives, and in turn, make explicit the political implications of choices for actors. The studies reviewed in this paper demonstrate that the use of MCDA is so far mainly academic and for problems in the Global North. We argue for a mainstreaming of such a multi-criteria and deliberative approaches for energy policy decisions in developing countries where trade-offs between energy, development and climate mitigation are more contentious while recognizing the data, capacity and transparency requirements of the process.

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Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India’s States

Introduction

Despite several decades of reform, India’s electricity sector remains marked by the twin problems of financial indebtedness and inability to provide universal, high quality electricity for all. Although political obstacles to reform are frequently invoked in electricity policy debates, Mapping Power provides the first thorough analysis of the political economy of electricity in Indian states. Through narratives of the electricity sectors in fifteen major states, this book argues that a historically rooted political economy analysis provides the most useful means to understand the past and identify reforms for the future. The book begins with an analytic framework to understand how the political economy of power both shapes and is shaped by a given state’s larger political economy. The book concludes with a synthetic account of the political economy of electricity that is animated by insights from the state-level empirical materials. The volume shows that attempts to depoliticize the sector are misplaced. Instead, successful reform efforts should aim at a positive dynamic between electricity reform and electoral success.

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Protecting Power: The Politics of Partial Reforms in Punjab

Summary

Punjab’s power sector, known for its agricultural embeddedness and chronic subsidy challenges, was one of the least attractive and pragmatic choices for reform advocates. Considering a feeble external push and forceful internal resistance, the state has undertaken partial electricity reforms to comply with legislative mandates from the central government. Despite limited reforms, Punjab has made substantive progress on electricity access, quality of supply, and some operational efficiencies. This chapter in ‘Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India’s States’ analyses how the power sector has evolved in Punjab, especially through institutional restructuring and policy reforms, with the objective to examine the policy choices, outcomes, winners, and losers at the state level. It analyses the political–economic drivers for these policy choices and how they deviate from or comply with signals from the central government. Building on these findings, it also discusses the implications of past experiences and prevailing power dynamics for ongoing and future reforms.

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Poverty in the Midst of Abundance: Repressive Populism, Bureaucratization, and Supply-side Bias in Madhya Pradesh’s Power Sector

Summary

Electricity reforms in Madhya Pradesh remain underreported, despite some atypical outcomes. This chapter in ‘Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India’s States’ examines the political economy of transitions in MP’s power sector, with the objective of identifying drivers of policy choices and their outcomes. Drawing on the findings, it explains how intensive institutional restructuring has resulted in bureaucratization and consolidated state control over the sector, and discusses the resulting outcomes. It also analyses the implications of past experiences for ongoing and future reforms.

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Transforming Reforms: Hype, Hostility, and Placation in Andhra Pradesh’s Power Sector Reforms

Summary

Andhra Pradesh’s experience with electricity reforms and their political ramifications has not only been fascinating a case for political analysts, but also have influenced reform approaches in other states. This chapter in ‘Mapping Power (‘Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India’s States’ explores the political economy of AP’s electricity sector transitions over four periods, with the objective to explain the drivers of policy choices and their outcomes. Drawing on the findings, it discusses the transformations in electricity reform strategy over two phases of reforms and analyses the implications of past experiences for ongoing reforms in the sector.

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India and Climate Change: Evolving Ideas and Increasing Policy Engagement

Summary

India is a significant player in climate policy and politics. It has been vocal in international climate negotiations, but its role in these negotiations has changed over time. In an interactive relationship between domestic policy and international positions, India has increasingly become a testing ground for policies that internalize climate considerations into development. This article critically reviews the arc of climate policy and politics in India over time. It begins by examining changes in knowledge and ideas around climate change in India, particularly in the areas of ethics, climate impacts, India’s energy transition, linkages with sustainability, and sequestration. The next section examines changes in politics, policy, and governance at both international and national scales. The article argues that shifts in ideas and knowledge of impacts, costs, and benefits of climate action and shifts in the global context are reflected and refracted through discourses in India’s domestic and international policies.

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Appellate Authorities under Pollution Control Laws in India: Powers, Problems and Potential

Introduction

Over the last four decades, courts in India have developed a rich jurisprudence on environmental issues. The large body of environmental case-law reflects the judiciary’s predominant approach to environmental grievance redressal – directing regulatory institutions to take action against persistent violations and injustices, expanding the scope of environmental regulation and recommending special environmental adjudicatory mechanisms to make environmental justice more accessible. However, apart from a few judgments there has been less judicial attention, and resultant executive action, to strengthen existing structures and processes for effective redressal against administrative arbitrariness or inaction. This paper focuses on an often overlooked aspect of environmental grievance redressal, viz., the effectiveness of existing redressal forums. Such assessments of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) are already emerging. But, here the authors evaluate the effectiveness of a set of much older environmental redressal forums viz., the Appellate Authorities constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 (the Water Act) and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 (Air Act) on two broad dimensions – ability to deliver good quality decisions and accessibility.

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National climate change mitigation legislation, strategy and targets: a global update

Summary

Global climate change governance has changed substantially in the last decade, with a shift in focus from negotiating globally agreed greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets to nationally determined contributions, as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. This paper analyses trends in adoption of national climate legislation and strategies, GHG targets, and renewable and energy efficiency targets in almost all UNFCCC Parties, focusing on the period from 2007 to 2017. The uniqueness and added value of this paper reside in its broad sweep of countries, the more than decade-long coverage and the use of objective metrics rather than normative judgements. Key results show that national climate legislation and strategies witnessed a strong increase in the first half of the assessed decade, likely due to the political lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, but have somewhat stagnated in recent years, currently covering 70% of global GHG emissions (almost 50% of countries). In comparison, the coverage of GHG targets increased considerably in the run up to adoption of the Paris Agreement and 89% of global GHG emissions are currently covered by such targets. Renewable energy targets saw a steady spread, with 79% of the global GHG emissions covered in 2017 compared to 45% in 2007, with a steep increase in developing countries.

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India’s energy and emissions future: An interpretive analysis of model scenarios

Introduction

As a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, but also as a developing country starting from a low emissions base, India is an important actor in global climate change mitigation. However, perceptions of India vary widely, from an energy-hungry climate deal-breaker to a forerunner of a low carbon future. Developing clarity on India’s energy and emissions future is challenged by the uncertainties of India’s development transitions, including its pathway through a demographic and urban transition within a rapidly changing policy context. Model-based scenario analyses provide widely varying projections, in part because they make differing assumptions, often implicit, about these transitions. To address the uncertainty in India’s energy and emissions future, this letter applies a novel interpretive approach to existing scenario studies. First, we make explicit the implied development, technology and policy assumptions underlying model-based analysis in order to cluster and interpret results. In a second step, we analyse India’s current policy landscape and use that as a benchmark against which to judge scenario assumptions and results. Using this interpretive approach, we conclude that, based on current policies, a doubling of India’s CO2 energy-related emissions from 2012 levels is a likely upper bound for its 2030 emissions and that this trajectory is consistent with meeting India’s Paris emissions intensity pledge. Because of its low emissions starting point, even after a doubling, India’s 2030 per capita emissions will be below today’s global average and absolute emissions will be less than half of China’s 2015 emissions from the same sources. The analysis of recent policy trends further suggests a lower than expected electricity demand and a faster than expected transition from coal to renewable electricity. The letter concludes by making an argument for interpretive approaches as a necessary complement to scenario analysis, particularly in rapidly changing development contexts.

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Whose carbon is burnable? Equity considerations in the allocation of a “right to extract”

Introduction

Carbon emissions—and hence fossil fuel combustion—must decline rapidly if warming is to be held below 1.5 or 2 °C. Yet fossil fuels are so deeply entrenched in the broader economy that a rapid transition poses the challenge of significant transitional disruption. Fossil fuels must be phased out even as access to energy services for basic needs and for economic development expands, particularly in developing countries. Nations, communities, and workers that are economically dependent on fossil fuel extraction will need to find a new foundation for livelihoods and revenue. These challenges are surmountable. In principle, societies could undertake a decarbonization transition in which they anticipate the transitional disruption, and cooperate and contribute fairly to minimize and alleviate it. Indeed, if societies do not work to avoid that disruption, a decarbonization transition may not be possible at all. Too many people may conclude they will suffer undue hardship, and thus undermine the political consensus required to undertake an ambitious transition. The principles and framework laid out here are offered as a contribution to understanding the nature of the potential impacts of a transition, principles for equitably sharing the costs of avoiding them, and guidance for prioritizing which fossil resources can still be extracted.

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