Air Pollution

The need to curb Black Carbon Emissions | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COP26 , PMUY

Mains level: Why is black carbon relevant?, Significance of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

Why in the News? 

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India had installed a renewable energy capacity of over 180 GW by 2023 and is expected to meet its target of 500 GW by 2030.


At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021, India pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, positioning itself as a frontrunner in the race to carbon neutrality.

Why is black carbon relevant?

  • Cause of global warming : lack carbon is the dark, sooty material emitted alongside other pollutants when biomass and fossil fuels are not fully combusted. It contributes to global warming
  • Poses severe risks: Studies have found a direct link between exposure to black carbon and a higher risk of heart disease, birth complications, and premature death. Most black carbon emissions in India arise from burning biomass, such as cow dung or straw, in traditional cookstoves.

Status of Black Carbon

  • According to a 2016 study, the residential sector contributes 47% of India’s total black carbon emissions. Industries contribute a further 22%, diesel vehicles 17%, open burning 12%, and other sources 2%.
  • Decarbonisation efforts in the industry and transport sectors in the past decade have yielded reductions in black carbon emissions, but the residential sector remains a challenge.

Has PMUY helped?

  • Objective of PMUY: The primary objective of PMUY, launched by the Government of India in May 2016, is to provide free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections to households below the poverty line. This aims to offer a cleaner cooking fuel alternative to traditional biomass fuels, particularly in rural and poor households, thereby reducing their dependence on such polluting fuels.
  • Infrastructure Establishment: PMUY has established necessary infrastructure to support LPG connections, including provision of free gas stoves, deposits for LPG cylinders, and a distribution network. This infrastructure is crucial for enabling the adoption of clean cooking practices.
  • Role in Reducing Black Carbon Emissions: By providing cleaner LPG alternatives to traditional biomass fuels, PMUY has played a vital role in reducing black carbon emissions. This initiative contributes to mitigating environmental pollution and improving air quality, particularly in households previously reliant on polluting cooking fuels.

Challenges and Shortcomings:

Despite its objectives and infrastructure, challenges persist in fully transitioning beneficiaries to LPG usage.

  • High gap between LPG connections and actual adoption:  In 2022-2023, a significant portion of PMUY beneficiaries, representing 25%, continued to rely entirely on traditional biomass fuels for cooking. This indicates a gap between the provision of LPG connections and actual adoption of clean cooking practices.
  • Low Refill Rates and Energy Consumption: RTI data revealed that a substantial number of PMUY beneficiaries availed either zero or only one LPG refill, indicating low usage of LPG cylinders. Additionally, the average PMUY beneficiary household consumes significantly fewer LPG cylinders per year compared to non-PMUY households. This suggests that traditional fuels still meet a significant portion of energy needs in PMUY beneficiary households.
  • Health Impacts: The continued reliance on traditional fuels has detrimental health effects, particularly on women and children who are disproportionately affected by indoor air pollution. This leads to various health issues and premature deaths, highlighting the urgent need for increased adoption of clean cooking practices.
  • Affordability: Despite subsidies and recent increases(subsidy to ₹300 from ₹200. ), the cost of LPG cylinders remains high for many PMUY beneficiaries. This affordability challenge discourages households from consistently purchasing and using LPG cylinders, especially when traditional biomass alternatives are perceived as “free.”
  • Temporary Subsidies: While the government has announced temporary price reductions to address affordability concerns, the sustainability of such subsidies remains uncertain. Temporary measures may not provide long-term solutions to ensure consistent access to clean cooking fuel for beneficiaries.
  • Low Refill Rates: Low refill rates persist among PMUY beneficiaries, indicating a gap between initial LPG connections provided and sustained usage. This issue stems from both affordability concerns and challenges in availability and distribution of LPG cylinders.
  • Last-Mile Connectivity: Remote rural areas face challenges in accessing LPG due to inadequate last-mile connectivity in the distribution network. This results in continued reliance on traditional biomass fuels, perpetuating indoor air pollution and health risks.
  • Alternative Fuel Solutions: Local production of coal-bed methane (CBM) gas presents a potential solution to address the lack of last-mile connectivity and provide cleaner cooking fuel alternatives. Composting biomass to produce CBM gas could offer a sustainable and accessible solution at the village level, reducing dependence on traditional biomass fuels.
  • Investment and Infrastructure: Implementing alternative fuel solutions such as CBM gas production requires investment and infrastructure development. Panchayats and local authorities may need support and resources to establish and maintain CBM gas production facilities effectively.
  • Rural Empowerment: Empowering local communities, such as Panchayats, to take initiatives in clean cooking fuel production and distribution can promote self-sufficiency and sustainability while addressing rural energy needs.

To resolve the challenges associated with the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and ensure effective adoption of clean cooking practices, several measures can be implemented:

  • Awareness and Education Campaigns: Launch comprehensive awareness campaigns to educate PMUY beneficiaries about the health and environmental benefits of using LPG over traditional biomass fuels. Emphasize the importance of consistent LPG usage and the risks associated with indoor air pollution.
  • Subsidy Reforms: Implement sustainable subsidy structures that ensure long-term affordability of LPG cylinders for PMUY beneficiaries. Explore innovative subsidy mechanisms, such as targeted subsidies based on income levels or usage patterns, to address affordability concerns effectively.
  • Incentives for Refills: Introduce incentives or rewards for PMUY beneficiaries who consistently use and refill their LPG cylinders. This could include discounts on future refills or loyalty programs to encourage regular usage and reduce the gap between LPG connections and actual adoption.
  • Improved Distribution Networks: Invest in improving last-mile connectivity and distribution networks in remote rural areas to ensure seamless access to LPG cylinders for all PMUY beneficiaries. This could involve expanding the reach of LPG distribution centers and leveraging technology for efficient logistics management.
  • Promotion of Alternative Fuel Solutions: Encourage the adoption of alternative fuel solutions such as Bio gas production through community-based initiatives. Provide support and incentives for the establishment of Bio gas production facilities at the village level, empowering local communities to produce and access clean cooking fuel.
  • Partnerships and Collaboration: Foster partnerships between government agencies, private sector stakeholders, and non-profit organizations to address the multifaceted challenges associated with clean cooking fuel adoption. Collaborative efforts can leverage expertise, resources, and networks to achieve sustainable solutions.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track the progress of PMUY implementation and measure the impact of interventions. Regular assessment of refill rates, usage patterns, and health outcomes can inform evidence-based policy decisions and program adjustments.


To curb black carbon emissions, India must address gaps in LPG adoption by PMUY beneficiaries through subsidy reforms, awareness campaigns, improved distribution networks, and promotion of alternative fuel solutions, fostering partnerships for sustainable impact.

Mains PYQ

Q-Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC IAS/2022) 

Q- Should the pursuit of carbon credits and clean development mechanisms set up under UNFCCC be maintained even though there has been a massive slide in the value of a carbon credit? Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth.(UPSC IAS/2014)


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