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India’s coal addiction overshadows climate action: Experts

At a time when India has embarked on a commendable path to delink its economic growth with carbon emissions, it is counter intuitive to expand coal power capacity.

IANS | New Delhi |

With the 100 GW installed renewable energy capacity announcement, India has crossed two important milestones. It has crossed the 100 GW mark for the first time, and it has achieved 40 per cent installed non-fossil capacity by 2030 as stated in its Paris agreement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Yet, India’s coal addiction and increasing air pollution are negating its climate action, said experts.

“It’s good to see India moving towards achieving its Paris goals. However, what’s worrying is that the way the government is doubling down on coal power. It’s no longer enough to just expand renewable energy and claim it as climate action.

“India’s coal consumption should peak in the next few years and there needs to be a clear phase out plan for coal power, which includes rehabilitation affected communities and restoration of degraded land,” Nandikesh Shivalingam, Director, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said on Saturday.

While India is expanding its renewable energy capacity, it is s also expanding its coal power plant fleet. After China, India has the second largest coal power plant pipeline representing 15 per cent of global pipeline.

At a time when India has embarked on a commendable path to delink its economic growth with carbon emissions, it is counter intuitive to expand coal power capacity.

Achieving 40 per cent of non-fossil fuel installed capacity nine years ahead of the NDC target is an incredible achievement. It is a testament to visionary policies and business dynamism.

“Going forward, as international financing for coal power projects is drying up, India should avoid the risk of creating stranded assets. Renewable energy that powers green hydrogen will be the key to decarbonizing difficult sectors like industrial processes,” said Ulka Kelkar, Director (Climate Programme), WRI India.

The recent IPCC report serves as a red alert for the planet. It highlights how the planet could see 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise within the next 20 years.

Unless carbon emissions are reduced immediately, preventing two-degree rise in global temperature would be beyond reach and the world would see catastrophic consequences.

“India’s efforts to meet its demand through addition of renewal energy are commendable and should be an inspiration for rest of the world. However, the gains from this effort will become meaningless given present roadmap of expansion and addition of new coal-based power plants.

“The new IPCC report is a clarion call for exiting fossil fuels including coal. India’s leadership in renewables will only shine when it fully moves away from fossil fuels that harms the climate and public health,” said Shweta Narayan, Advisor, Healthy Energy Initiative India.