Framing Just Transition in India: Context, Opportunities, and  Challenges

The need for just transition is being realised globally as the countries make the climate crisis-induced transition away from fossils towards renewables. As the transition unfolds, the challenge for the countries is to adapt this concept according to their national context and incorporate it into actual policy making. The acceptance and legitimacy for the new changes must come from the people and communities directly or indirectly dependent on the current fossil-fuel sector since this workforce will be most acutely affected by the transition. 

With the deep-rooted, historical, and socio-economic dependence on coal, India’s challenge is more complex. First, the sector is already riddled with socio- economic inequalities in terms of caste, indigenous identities and gender. Second, the coal-rich regions have remained economically backward, less dynamic and diverse in terms of employment opportunities,  resulting in people depending on employment in coal mines. In the transition process, this lack of economic diversification will further deepen the problem of unemployment and underemployment. Third, a large informal workforce complicates the process further. India has an entire value chain with multiple sectors such as railways, steel, etc depending on coal.

The above points highlight the need to introduce the notion of justice in the transition process so that the existing structural inequalities are not carried forward to the new energy systems in the making. Just transition planning would demand a significant push in the long term for  India, given the impacts of the energy transition on multiple stakeholders, including the workers, communities, government revenue systems, etc. 

GIZ implements the ICCC Project on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the  Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection. Among the objectives, the project promotes dialogue and knowledge exchange among governments,  research institutes, academia and civil society organisations to coordinate actions on climate change, contributing to India’s climate goals as well as the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs).  

The workshop had the following objectives: 

1. Building knowledge on ways to mould the concept of just transition for the Indian context and sensitising various stakeholders about the same.

2. Exploring the perspectives from various stakeholders on ways of diversifying the current coal-dependent economies.

3. Formulating an actionable set of recommendations that can facilitate the policymakers  to frame just a policy roadmap for transition.

– From CANSA, Nakul Sharma Program Manager, participated in the workshop and spoke on “ Way Forward on Just Transition in Indian Context”, giving the Environmental Solutions.