1. Mock Questions for UPSC Mains
  2. Q1: Carbon Imperialism
    1. Introduction (Define | Origin | Data)
    2. Body#1: India believes in Low carbon economy
      1. 1A: INDC
      2. 1B: Carbon Tax
      3. 1C: Schemes, Missions, Initiatives
      4. Body#2: India vs Carbon Imperialism
    3. Conclusion (Summary | Finding)
  3. Q2: Coal is Necessary Evil
    1. Introduction (DATA)
    2. Cost: Benefit of Coal Vs Renewable
    3. Conclusion (Summary | Finding)
  4. Model Answer in Hindi
    1. Introductions / परिचय
    2. सबूत: भारत कार्बन उत्सर्जन कम करने प्रति संवेदनशील है:
    3. कोयला नवीकरणीय उर्जा से ज्यादा उपयुक्त क्योकि:
    4. Conclusion / सार

Mock Questions for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam:

Answer the following questions- each in 200 words, 8 minutes, black/blue pen on A4 sized blank page with 1″ margin on each sides:

  1. “While India believes in low carbon economy, it can’t be subservient to carbon imperialism”. Substantiate in context of Paris Agreement.
  2. “Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can become supplement but not substitutes for coal based power in India.” Analyze.
  3. “Despite its social costs and negative externalities, coal is a necessary evil in India’s quest for human development”. Elaborate.

UPSC IAS/IPS Mains Syllabus Relevance?

  • (GSM2): Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. In context of Paris Summit, CEA Arvind Subramanian says we should not blindly imitate the renewable energy obsession of the first world, and must resist carbon imperialism.
  • (GSM3): Infrastructure: Energy, environmental pollution and degradation: The latest Economic survey 2016-17 Vol.2 chapter 5 points out that though coal has social / environmental costs, we can’t substitute it with renewable energy.

Q1: Carbon Imperialism

Carbon Imperialism
Q. “While India believes in low carbon economy, it can’t be subservient to carbon imperialism”. Substantiate in context of Paris Agreement.

Introduction (Define | Origin | Data)

There are three ways to start the answer
Define Carbon Imperialism is a modern day type of imperialism wherein the developed nations are trying to enforce their views about energy-consumption upon the developing nations, with two primary motives:

  1. To sell their nuclear fuel and technology.
  2. To portray the third world in bad light for using coal power and thereby reducing their own culpability for global warming.
  • Paris Agreement is a multilateral framework for climate action post-2020 period, when Kyoto protocol expires. It requires the member states to set voluntary targets upon themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG);
  • since I’m using the GHG term for the first time in this answer, I’ve expanded the full form. But even if you give origin of Paris deal, still you’ll have to explain Carbon imperialism. Therefore, first approach (define) is the better method for introduction in this case.
  • In terms of population, though USA is 1/4th of India, it consumes atleast 35% more coal energy than India, and yet at international summits, USA asks India and China to do ‘more’ against global warming, disregarding the fact that 304 million Indians do not have access to electricity and around 500 million Indians are dependent on solid biomass for cooking.
  • Instead of helping India in these matters in financially and technologically, the same USA backed out of Paris Deal in June-2017! This is an example of “Carbon Imperialism”

[Sounds good for Twitter tirade but as a formal introduction, it’s less appropriate. And ultimately you had to explain carbon imperialism so better open with the ‘definition’.]

Body#1: India believes in Low carbon economy

In the first part of the answer, we’ll mention India’s initiatives and commitments regarding clean energy


At the UNFCCC summit at Paris (2015), India made following voluntary commitments/Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), with 2030 as deadline:

  • To reduce the emission intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent over 2005 levels.
  • To increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40 per cent of installed electric power capacity (cumulative).
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 gigatonne Carbon Dioxide through additional afforestation.

As such, UPSC MCQs (or descriptive questions) don’t test your memory power of dates, names and numbers, but the above INDC points must be memorized.

1B: Carbon Tax

  1. 2010: Government of India began levying Coal Cess on domestically mined and imported coal. Its proceeds are utilized for funding clean energy research. Budget 2016: 1) Coal Cess increased to Rs.400 per ton  2) It was renamed as  “Clean Environment Cess”.
  2. 2014-16: As crude oil prices kept falling in the global market, other nations kept passing on the benefits to final consumers. But India kept hiking the excise duty, thereby keeping a check on excessive consumption of petrol and diesel. [Although this was done to keep fiscal deficit in check and augment the treasury, but since Economic Survey Vol.1 portray it in such ‘positive’ light, so let’s roll with that.]
  3. 2017: In Goods and services tax (GST) regime, environmentally demerit goods such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are kept higher tax slab and GST compensation Cess is also imposed on them. [I’m not going into the criticism that GST removed coal cess thus it might hurt the funding of clean energy research. Because a candidate doing such nitpicking and elaborations will A) divert from the original question B) run out of time and space in the actual exam]

1C: Schemes, Missions, Initiatives

  1. 2008: National Action Plan on Climate Change, with missions on 1) solar energy 2) enhanced energy efficiency among others.
  2. 2013: Green Corridor Program to address the fluctuations/variability in the renewable power supply by Power Grid Corporation of India.
  3. 2015:  Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME India) by Heavy Industries Ministry.
  4. 2015: RBI included renewable energy projects under the Priority sector lending norms (PSL)
  5. 2017: SEBI notified framework for issuing green bonds and listing them on stock exchange for better public participation.

Encyclopedic knowledge is a curse in UPSC Mains exam. Because you’ll have neither the time nor space to express it. ^These many schemes are more than sufficient. You don’t even have to mention the years like I’ve done.

Body#2: India vs Carbon Imperialism

In the first part of the answer, we proved that India has made sincere attempts towards low carbon economy, now let’s point out why we can’t blindly imitate first world’s clean energy obsession.

  • Since the age of industrialization, first world economies grew on coal based energy. The present global warming is a lagged result of their pollution.
  • But, when India or China try to grow in the same way, they’re chided (censured) by the first world media and politicians.
  • Simultenously, at the UNFCCC negotiations, the first world countries remain ambivalent about how much financial and technological support are they willing to provide for such adoption of ‘clean fuel’.
  • Coal offers the cheapest source of energy, therefore India’s electricity infrastructure is built around this fuel. Alternatives are neither cheap, competitive nor convenient because:
    • Hydel energy requires construction of large dams. Implications: displacement of people and ecological concerns.
    • Nuclear energy has issues related to safety of humans and environment, availability of fuel and technology.
    • The land requirement for solar powerplant is 10 times that of thermal power plant. This has implications on project cost and food security.
    • A 180 degree shift to renewables will render thermal plants idle, leading to unemployment and further aggravation of the NPA & twin balance sheet problem.
    • Wind and solar power are nondispatchable, i.e. energy can be generated only when there is wind blowing or there is appropriate sunshine. This imposes additional cost of storage and backup system.

Therefore, Government of India aims for 175GW renewable energy by 2022 on one hand, while simultenously carrying out coal block auctions, and providing financial support to thermal power based electricity companies under Deendayal Gram Jyoti Yojana and UJJWAL DISCOMM Assurance Yojana.
Even NITI Ayog’s 3 Year Action Plan makes recommendations to increase coal production.

Conclusion (Summary | Finding)

Question asked you to “substantiate”, so in a way it’s a ‘discuss’ type question, therefore conclusion should be ‘summary’ type. But let’s just end by linking with SDG/HDI. Because again ‘summarizing’ the body will make the answer excessively long.

  • Adoption of renewable energy is a prerequisite in the fight against global warming.
  • But energy access to all, is also a prerequisite in the fight against poverty and low human development.
  • While India understand the significance of both, but disagrees with developed nations priority that the former (Renewables) should take precedence over the latter (HDI).

~800 words. But in real exam you can’t recollect all the points, so automatically this should come down to 200 words.

Q2: Coal is Necessary Evil

“Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can become supplement but not substitutes for coal based power in India.” Analyze


“Despite its social costs and negative externalities, coal is a necessary evil in India’s quest for Human Development”. Elaborate.

Introduction (DATA)

Observe the words given in the question: ‘supplement’, ‘substitute’. Therefore, better to open the answer with some quantitative dimension of big vs small.

  • In India’s present energy mix consists of 55% coal, 30% oil, 9% natural gas and only 2% is renewable energy sources (OR)
  • In the electricity generation in India, thermal power dominates with 60% of total installed capacity, and within that 3/4th comes from coal based thermal power plants.
  • While, India aim to increase in the overall renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by 2022, still at Paris Agreement, we’ve committed to increase the share of non-fossil power generation to 40% of our installed capacity in proportionate terms. It shows that Indian policymakers give preference of coal over renewables. The reasons are as following:

Note: you can make up any numbers as long as you can show coal is majority. Because even within economic survey vs. niti ayog 3 years document there is inconsistency in the data about energy mix.

Cost: Benefit of Coal Vs Renewable

Source → Coal based Power plants Renewable Energy
  • Coal miners are at a higher risk of chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases.
  • Open pit coal mining aggravates the problems of deforestation, land and water contamination.
  • Thermal plants generate carbon dioxide and other pollutants. This  increases chances of acid rain, the concentration of greenhouse gases and has negative impact living organisms.
  • They’re are harmless to the health of individuals and mother nature.
Coal based power plants are dispatchable i.e. they can be turned on/off and they adjust output to electrical grid on demand.
  • Wind and solar power are nondispatchable, meaning electricity can be generated only when there is fast wind blowing or there is appropriate sunshine.
  • So, we’ve to store renewable energy in special batteries and upgrade the entire electricity system to adjust to the supply (of wind and sunshine) vs energy demands of households and industries vs the backup system of coal/gas/diesel based powerplant during rain, cloudy weather and other contingencies.
  • This imposes addition hidden cost of research and integration.
  • A shift to renewables will render thermal plants idle OR working at a lower capacity level.
  • This may result into unemployment and loss of investment- which will further aggravate the non-performing assets (NPA) and twin balance sheet (TBS) problems.
  • Land requirement for solar based powerplant is 10 times that of thermal power plant. Hence, widespread adoption of solar plants is not feasible given the land cost to developer, vs food security to the nation.
  • If Government gives more subsidies, tax breaks and Incentives to fund clean energy research- there will be opportunity cost of using the same amount of public money in other social sector indictors such as health, education and skilling.

Conclusion (Summary | Finding)

‘Elaborate’ is akin to ‘discuss’. So in the conclusion, let’s just summarize above things / link it with SDG.

  • Sustainable Development Goals (#7) require all nations to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. While coal is neither sustainable nor modern form of energy, but it is cheap and reliable.
  • To change the present energy mix of India, we require greater technological advancements and deeper international cooperation.
  • While such efforts are underway via International Solar Alliance (ISA) and UNFCCC Paris Agreement respectively, but at least for the next few decades, coal is bound to remain the primary source of electricity in India given the aforementioned constrains.

Model Answer in Hindi

I’ll only sketch the outline in Hindi, rest you can translate on your own from the English descriptions given above.

Introductions / परिचय

  1. (Carbon Imperialism: व्याख्या) कार्बन साम्राज्यवाद एक आधुनिक प्रकार का साम्राज्यवाद है, जहां विकसित देश विकासशील देशों को स्वयम प्राथमिकताके अनुरूप उर्जास्त्रोतों का उपयोग करने की नसीहत देते है, ताकि:
    • वे अपने परमाणु ईंधन और प्रौद्योगिकी को बेच सके या तथा,
    • तीसरा विश्वमें कोयले व् जीवाश्म ईंधन का उपयोग ही भूमण्डलीय तापक्रम वृद्धि (ग्लोबल वोर्मींग) की प्रमुख वजह है ऐसा प्रचार कर आंतराष्ट्रीय शिखर सम्मेलनोंमें स्वयं की दोषीता कम कर सके.
  2. (Coal vs Renewable: डाटा) भारत के उर्जा सम्मिश्र (energy mix) में कुल प्राथमिक उर्जा की आधे से ज्यादा आपूर्ति कोयले से होती है, जब की नवीकरणीय उर्जा स्त्रोत से केवल २% उर्जा ही प्राप्त होती है. वेसे तो २०२२ तक भारत समग्र नवीकरणीय उर्जा को १७५ गीगावोट तक बढ़ाना चाहता है, किन्तु, जलवायु परिवर्तन सम्बन्धी पेरिस करारमें भी भारत का लक्ष्य है की २०३० तक गैर-जीवाश्म इंधन आधारित विधुत की क्षमता, संस्थापित विधुत क्षमता की ४०% तक पहुचाई जाएगी. यह दर्शाता है की भारत की उर्जा सुरक्षा के लिए, नीतिकारो का ज्यादा झुकाव कोयले के प्रति है.

सबूत: भारत कार्बन उत्सर्जन कम करने प्रति संवेदनशील है:

पेरिस सम्मेलनमें भारत ने राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर निधारित योगदानो (INDC) में निम्न लक्ष्योको २०३० तक हांसिल करने का वायदा किया है:

  1. २००५ की अपेक्षा सकल घरेलू उत्पाद की उत्सर्जन गहनता को ३३-३५% तक कम करेंगे.
  2. गैर-जीवाश्म इंधन आधारित विधुत की क्षमता, संस्थापित विधुत क्षमता की ४०% तक पहुंचाएंगे.
  3. वनों/पेड़ो का विस्तार इतना ओर बढ़ाया जाएगा ताकि अतिरिक्त २.५-३ गीगाटन कार्बन संचय हो सके.


  1. २०११: उत्पादीत/आयातित कोयले पर उपकर (सेस) का प्रारम्भ. इस राशि को स्वच्छ उर्जा विषयक संशोधनों के लिए उपयोग में लिया जाता है.
  2. २०१४-१६ में विश्व बाजार में कच्चे तेल की कीमतों में कमी आई थी तब अन्य देशोने पेट्रोल डीजल ग्राहकों के लिए सस्ता किया वही भारत सरकार इनपर उत्पाद शुल्क (excise duty) को बढ़ाना शुरू किया, ताकि कीमतों में कमी न आये, जीवाश्म इंधनों का उपयोग व् प्रदुषण में बढ़ोतरी न हो.
  3. २०१७: यद्यपि वस्तु एवं सेवा कर (जी.एस.टी.) लागू होने से कोयला सेस हटा दिया गया है किन्तु, पर्यावरण व् स्वास्थ्य के लिए हानिकारक चीजो की खपत कम करने के उनपर जी.एस.टी. का सबसे ऊँचा दर लगाया गया है, साथ ही साथ राज्यों की क्षतिपूर्ति हेतु उपकर भी लगाने के प्रावधान है.

प्रमुख योजनाए:

  1. २००८: जलवायु परिवर्तन पर राष्ट्रीय कार्य योजना (NAPCC)- जिसमे सौर मिशन व् परिवर्धित उर्जा दक्षता मिशन भी शामिल है.
  2. २०१३: राष्ट्रीय हरित कोरिडोर कार्यक्रम: नवीकरणीय उर्जा आपूर्तिमें उतार-चढावो को दूर करने हेतु भारतीय पावर ग्रिड कोर्पोरेशन द्वारा शुरुआत.
  3. २०१५: भारी उद्योग विभाग द्वारा हाइब्रिड एवं इलेक्ट्रिक वाहनों को तेजी से अपनाने व् विनिर्मित करने हेतु ‘फेम-इण्डिया’ योजना.
  4. २०१५: रिजर्व बेंकने नवीकरणीय उर्जा परियोजना को दिए जाने वाले रुण को प्राथमिक क्षेत्र के रुण दायित्वों (Priority sector lending) की सूचि में शामिल किया.
  5. २०१७: सेबी ने हरीत बांड विषयक नियमो को प्रकाशित किया ताकि ऐसी कम्पनिया आसानी से आम निवेशको से  पूंजी हांसिल कर सके.

कोयला नवीकरणीय उर्जा से ज्यादा उपयुक्त क्योकि:

  1. पवन व् सौर विद्युत गैर प्रेषणीय है अर्थात कम गति की हवा और कम रौशनी के दौरान वे बिजली नही उत्पन्न कर सकते. इसलिए उन्हें बिजली की मुख्य ग्रिड से स्तरीकृत करने हेतु बहुत ज्यादा पूंजी व टेक्नोलॉजी की आवश्यकता होती है.
  2. प्रति मेगावोट सौर बिजली पैदा करने हेतु जमीन की आवश्कयता कोयला विद्युत संयंत्र से १० गुनी ज्यादा होती है. भूमि अवसर की ये लागत हमारी कृषि व् खाध्य सुरक्षा पर असर कर सकती है.
  3. यदि सरकारी नीतियों में नवीकरणीय उर्जा को अग्रसर किया गया तो संभव है कोयला विद्युत संयंत्रो में से कुछ भाग बेकार हो जाए/ बंध करना पड़े. इससे बेरोजगारी, अनउपार्जक/फंसी हुई अस्तियां व् दोहरे तुलनपत्र की चुनौती ओर गंभीर स्वरूप ले सकती है.

Conclusion / सार

  1. सतत विकास लक्ष्यों के अंतर्गत सभी देशोने अपने सभी लोगो के लिए किफायती, भरोसेमंद, सतत (sustainable) और आधुनिक उर्जा की उपलब्धि को सुनिश्चित करना है. ये सही है की कोयले से प्राप्त होनेवाली उर्जा न तो आधुनिक है न सतत, किन्तु वो सस्ती व् भरोसेमंद तो अवश्य है.
  2. नवीकरणीय उर्जा विषयक वैश्विक सहयोग और टेकनोलॉजी आविष्कारो के बाबत भारत गंभीर व् सकारात्मक है, किन्तु पूर्वकथित चुनौतिओं के चलते आनेवाले कुछ दशको तक भारत के पास कोयले के अलावा ऊर्जा का  कोई व्यवहार्य विकल्प  (practical option) नही है.
  3. अत: इस बाबत विकसित देशो के ‘काबर्न साम्राज्यवाद’ या पैरवी (lobbying) के सामने झुकना या नरम होना भारत के मानवविकास व् उर्जा सुरक्षा के हितो में नही है.