India's proposed coal plants could imperil global climate goals - The Statesman

India’s proposed coal plants could imperil global climate goals

The world is unlikely to meet global climate goals if India carries through with plans to construct nearly 370 coal-fired power plants, new research warns.

If all the proposed coal plants are run to their potential, India will not be able to meet its Paris climate agreement commitments in the coming years, said the study published in the the American Geophysical Union journal Earth's Future. 

The choices that India, or any country, makes with regard to its energy consumption may have global consequences, according to the reearchers.


"India is facing a dilemma of its own making," said study co-author Steven Davis, Associate Professor of Earth System Science at University of California, Irvin in the US.

"The country has vowed to curtail its use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, but it has also put itself on a path to building hundreds of coal-burning power plants to feed its growing industrial economy," Davis said.

Further, by developing all of the planned coal-fired capacity, India would boost the share of fossil fuels in its energy budget by 123 per cent. 

India has pledged to the international community to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released per unit of gross domestic product by as much as 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and to increase renewable energy in its power grids. 

The construction of 65 gigawatts' worth of coal-burning generation facilities with an additional 178 gigawatts in the planning stages would make it nearly impossible for India to fulfill those climate promises, the researchers said.

"We've done calculations to figure out that India's Paris pledges might be met if it built these plants and only ran them 40 percent of the time, but that'd be a colossal waste of money, and once built, there'd be huge incentives to run the plants more despite the nation's contrary climate goals," Davis said.

In addition to spewing harmful soot and other types of air pollution coal-burning power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide on Earth, accounting for 41 per cent of all CO2 emissions in 2015. 

The researchers pointed out that choices that individual countries make in regard to their energy mix have planetwide consequences.

"India's proposed coal plants will almost single-handedly jeopardise the internationally agreed-upon climate target of avoiding more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of mean global warming," Davis said.

Researchers from CoalSwarm – a project of US-based non-profit Earth Island Institute – also contributed to the study.