As the world wrangles over its next steps in fighting climate change, each country has its own concerns and interests they hope to advance at this year’s U.N. climate summit starting on Thursday in Dubai. Brazil, South Africa, India and China make up a bloc of populous, fast-developing countries. Each has asked for more climate financing and equity through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” — meaning rich countries that emitted the most historically should do more to address the problem.
Chart 1 | The chart shows the share of clean (blue) and fossil fuel (red) sources in power generation in BRICS countries between 2000 and 2022.
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The reduction in the share of fossil fuels in China’s power generation — from 82% in 2000 to 65% in 2022 — was unmatched among the BRICS nations. However, China leads the world in both clean and dirty energy, with more renewable energy capacity and more coal consumption than any other country globally. Responsible for about 30% of annual global emissions, China is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
India’s progress has been relatively slow with its share of clean energy in power production rising from 17% to 23% in this period. India, last year, proposed widening a deal on phasing down coal to include oil and gas. It won backing from more than 80 countries, but Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas producers blocked it and the chart shows why. Over 99% of Saudi Arabia’s power is produced by fossil fuels — about 67% of which is from gas. Among BRICS nations, Saudi Arabia has the highest such percentage, as UAE improved its clean energy share post 2020 with the nuclear fuel in the electricity mix rising.
Brazil is among the only two countries in BRICS, along with Ethiopia, where the share of clean energy in power generation is higher than fossil’s share. In fact, in both countries, clean fuel contributes to over 90% of generation. In past summits, Brazil has spearheaded negotiations on rules for carbon credit markets, through which it plans to monetise its vast forests.
South Africa, where fossil fuel’s share in power generation is still very high at 86%, with a meagre shift recorded in past years, secured a 2021 deal for $8.5 billion from the EU, United States and other nations to help its shift from coal to renewable energy. But the country now is facing its worst power crisis, with rolling blackouts and ageing coal plants frequently breaking down.
States of India
Chart 2 | The chart shows the share of clean (blue) and fossil fuel (red) sources in power generation of select Indian States between 2019 and 2022. Only the top 15 States in terms of power generation are selected.
Gujarat has recorded a drastic decrease in its usage of fossil fuel for power generation from 80% in 2019 to 60% in 2022. Rajasthan, too, along with Gujarat, has recorded a decline.
Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are the only States among the top 15 producers where the share of clean energy is already higher. Tamil Nadu was inching closer to the 50:50 mark but progress has stagnated in recent years.
On the other hand, the share of fossil fuel in power generation was more than 90% consistently in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Bihar. In the four years considered, the share has not budged at all in these States. Odisha’s fossil fuel usage has shown an increase in recent years along with Punjab.
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