Photo: Amund Aasbrenn, CICERO

Bhavya Batra from TERI School of Advanced Studies in India aims to understand how the energy transition can be more just in her PhD. Photo: Amund Aasbrenn, CICERO

Understanding the impact of energy policies on inequality in India

India must reduce its emissions and meet sustainable development goals at the same time. How can the shift to renewable energy be a more just transition in the world’s most populous country?

“Climate policies have unequal implications for different people and population groups. India needs a just climate policy that considers everyone from people working with or depending on coal to those affected by the development of renewable energy”, said Bhavya Batra. She is a PhD student at TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi in India and her research aims to better understand how the energy transition in India can be more just.

Social dimension of climate policies

Batra believes that India has the potential to decarbonize in a just way, but then there is a need to get more knowledge on the challenges and social dimensions of climate policies. As a part of gaining more knowledge in this area, she studies how the implementation of India’s energy policy targets, such as the increase in renewable energy, and solar power in particular, effects the achievement of the sustainable development goals relevant for inequality. 

The case is a scheme for supporting farmers to install small-scale solar plants and to de-dieselise the farm sector.  How does that link to the SDGs, and particular those related to inequalities? Batra gives a few examples. Landownership. The solar power scheme benefits only those farmers who own land, but very few women own land and not the poorest farmers. Another SDG target is to increase the income and productivity of small-scale food producers. Shifting from coal to solar may increase a farmer’s income, but the scheme Batra studies does not take into account that small scale farmers often don’t have the means to benefit from the scheme.

Designing policies that takes inequalities into account

“We look at how this scheme may or may not reduce inequalities. There are many structural inequalities in India that can be reinforced if policies for the energy transition are not designed to reduce those inequalities. That is why we are looking at the trade-offs, so that we can inform policies to take those questions into account” said Batra. Her PhD is part of the INDGREEN project led by Solveig Aamodt at CICERO. The research project studies India’s ambitions and possibilities of becoming a global green leader.

During July and August 2023 Batra will be conducting her field study in the state of Rajasthan in India.