Examining social and institutional costs of decarbonisation in India’s coal-bearing regions

Dr Vigya Sharma1

1University Of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia


She is also part of the RapidSwitch Initiative at UQ, a multi-country research agenda examining the pace of global decarbonisation. Her presentation is based on recent work in this project.

Coal is critical to the global decarbonisation narrative. Its continued use or abandonment is likely to significantly influence the outcomes of our combined action on climate mitigation over the next few decades.


Following the Paris Agreement of 2015, while several countries have committed to taking meaningful actions in their quest to combat climate change, the reliance on coal world-wide remains alarmingly high. For countries such as India, where investment towards enabling energy transitions may divert critical resources away from pressing development needs for more than a third of the total population which remains in poverty, coal offers an indispensable economic lifeline rooted in a strong cultural and social identity. Efforts to phase coal out therefore, need to pro-actively consider potential socio-economic and institutional impacts across all levels – national, state and grassroots – to ensure these impacts, and resulting potential bottlenecks to the decarbonisation process, are adequately addressed and managed.

This presentation will discuss findings from fieldwork undertaken in early 2019 in one of India’s largest coal mining belts. Interviews and focus group discussions provide insightful evidence of the suite of factors that may offer critical impediments to India’s decarbonisation ambitions.


Vigya is a research fellow with the Energy and Poverty Research Group at the University of Queensland. She has a PhD in human geography and international development and has since worked in the area of climate adaptation and resilience in the energy and mining sectors.

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