Interview | India warns country’s coal consumption to double in coming years

ABC News

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

Rahul Tongia, Fellow, Energy and Environment in an interview with James Bennett, AM, ABC News, Friday December 18, on India’s coal consumption in the coming years.

KIM LANDERS: As celebrations subside following the Paris climate accord, the world’s third-biggest emitter India is warning its coal consumption will still double in coming years.

India is committed to developing renewable energy but says its reliance on coal won’t be changing.

South Asia correspondent James Bennett reports.

JAMES BENNETT: In Article Two of the deal struck several days ago, lies a clause which like many others in the document uses 17 words to say what could be achieved in five or six.

It directs that the parties, i.e. countries of the world, quote:

“Make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards such low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

Environmental groups have trumpeted that mouthful as significant, essentially translating into ‘stop investing in coal’.

Irrespective of a secondary debate amongst Indians about whether the clause is aimed at them, the sub continental view is “it won’t work”.

Among Indian observers in Paris was deputy of Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, Chandra Bhushan.

CHANDRA BHUSHAN: So I think the whole focus only on coal by environmental groups is going to backfire, so let me say that first of all.

Secondly, as far as financing coal is concerned, I don’t think it is going to impact India much, simply because India’s coal financing is done much more from domestic resources.

JAMES BENNETT: The Brookings Institute’s Indian climate and sustainable energy expert, Rahul Tongia, agrees.

RAHUL TONGIA: And the reaction to that domestically in India was, that’s okay. At this point, domestic funding and cash flows are sufficient to manage the projected growth at least in the foreseeable future, so I don’t think that financing will diminish the coal sector.

JAMES BENNETT: India is in the process of building an impressive 170 gigawatts of wind and solar power, aiming for 40 per cent non-fossil generation in 15 years, and coal’s share of India’s electricity generation will fall.

But 300 million still don’t have any electricity to begin with.

To meet their needs and power an economy still growing at close to 8 per cent a year, state-owned coal miner, Coal India has this week confirmed that it remains on track to double its output over the next decade.

India has been hectored internationally over the plans, but economist Rathin Roy, director of India’s National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, argues people should instead consider the several hundred million still living in the dark.

RATHIN ROY: This has become a theological issue for the environmental lobby, who do not seem to understand that the alternative is horrendous.

I don’t think any country or any Australian would want any Indian child to not have access to a light bulb.

JAMES BENNETT: After the weekend deal was struck, India’s Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal posted on Twitter that while the country was “contributing to the growth of renewable energy, it would simultaneously make sure our development process does not get hampered”.

And Chandra Bhushan from Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment argues that the text itself mean India won’t be alone.

CHANDRA BHUSHAN: Paris gives a 10 years of moratorium to countries frankly not to do anything, and therefore until 2025 I do not expect countries to change their climate policies significantly.

JAMES BENNETT: This is James Bennett in New Delhi reporting for AM.