India is on track to open a coal mine per month and double its coal output by 2020, “putting the world’s third-largest polluter at the forefront of a pan-Asian dash to burn more of the dirty fossil fuel that environmentalists fear will upend international efforts to contain global warming,” Reuters reported this week.
Although India has committed to producing 40% of its electricity from renewable or nuclear energy by 2030, and coal demand has temporarily fallen, “we are well short of [the] coal required in the country,” said Anil Swarup, the top official in the country’s coal ministry. “Environment is non-negotiable, but we can’t live without coal. You can’t wish away coal.”
Reuters reports that China, India, and Indonesia now burn 71% of the world’s newly-mined coal, and countries like Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam could soon push the Asia-Pacific’s share of the total to 80%. Japan is also planning 41 new coal plants over the next decade, after scaling back its nuclear industry in the wake of the Fukushima reactor disaster.
“Coal is still the most cost-competitive power generation fuel, and in the end that’s what matters most for emerging markets,” said HSBC analyst Frederic Neumann. But “if these coal targets are met, there could be a turn (in India’s emissions), with a steep increase,” said Glen Peters at the Oslo-based Center for International Climate and Environmental Research. The country’s carbon emissions could double to 5.2 billion tonnes per year by 2020, and India could replace the United States as the world’s second-largest emitter by 2025.