Webinar on Economic Uncertainties and a Just Transition for India’s Coal Mining Sector

On September 16 the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies presented a report on the COVID-19 Impact on Coal Mining and Chances for a Just Transition in India at the workshop on "Economic Uncertainties and a Just Transition for India's Coal Mining Sector”. The report was commissioned by the IGEF Support Office on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The report outlines the economic uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is raising questions about the outlook for the thermal power generation and coal mining sectors in the coming decade and beyond. India’s coal belt states Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and to a lesser extent, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh were found to be characterised by limited progress in economic diversification. A large amount of the population is dependent on coal mining directly or indirectly regarding their livelihoods. Many daily workers are dependent on Coal India Limited (CIL) as an employer and a large part of the population in the coal belt relies on the local coal markets to make a living. It is no secret that the informal workforce in this sector is high. There are multidimensionally poor people in the region, the highest-earning members in rural households make probably less than 60 EUR a month in coal mines and 80% live on government food subsidies. The vulnerability of these people is especially high due to unorganised employment or unemployment. Moreover, their poor education and skill sets still undermine their scope of employability in better paying and secure jobs. Difficulties to describe employment in India’s coal sector are caused by the lack of data available, but it is estimated that millions of jobs are needed in the coal belt states, resulting in a further need to develop alternatives to coal and create employment. With an uncertain outlook for coal and the need to stimulate the Indian economy without accumulating unsustainable public debt, new ideas are necessary. ISEP experts Mr. Setu Pelz and Ms. Shrestha Banerjee argue that policy intervention shall look to the future and focus on strengthening community resilience to economic shock through expanding access to alternative, sustainable livelihoods. Both are drawing on their recent research into a just-transition for India’s coal belt states and highlight the need for the development of a set of broader policy recommendations. This should include the design of a green stimulus programme to shift finance away from coal and towards renewable energies. Public sector undertakings need to create job opportunities and embrace regional hub strategy to enable job creation as well as regional economic development. 

The report can be downloaded here. The recording of an insightful discussion on the topic can be found here.