Amid growing green pressure from developed countries, India has expressed willingness to cut down on the usage of coal in return for climate finance. India is expected to become the world’s largest importer of coal by 2020 as it seeks to expand electrification.
Ajay Mathur, who is a senior negotiator in the Indian delegation in Paris at the COP21 said, coal would be restricted if there was help to pay for “more expensive” green energy. Welcoming Mr Mathur’s statement, the other countries said that it enhanced the chances of a new agreement. India’s climate plan which was submitted on October 1 ahead of this meeting, stated a significant role for coal in the future.
According to the document, coal will continue to dominate power generation in future. India is looking towards expanding its production of coal to 1.5 billion tonnes of the fuel by 2020. To meet that demand, it would require the equivalent of opening one new coal mine every month until the end of this decade.
India’s demand for coal is driven by the huge numbers who do not have electricity, which is estimated to be around 300 million people. The Indian government aims to provide electricity to these people within the next two years.
At the COP21 negotiations, India has adopted a hard line, saying that the need to develop using fossil fuels trumps the needs of the climate. India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has been vocal about India’s need to use coal and has stated that India had every right to continue using as much coal as it needed. “We are increasing our renewable targets tenfold in the next 15 years but we will require coal because it is the need of the hour for my people to grow,” Mr Javadekar said. But on December 2, Mr Mathur adopted a much more conciliatory line. He said that the cost of solar, which has declined by 75 percent in 4 years, is still double the cost of coal.
Mr Mathur emphasised that if cash was provided to make the capital investments in renewables cheaper, India would use more sun and wind, and less coal. “We look forward to an agreement that enables financial support from the countries that have developed on the backs of cheap energy, to those who have to meet their energy with more expensive but low carbon energy,” Mr Mathur said. On being asked if the amount of coal that India consumed would reduce if more money was available from a Paris deal, he replied: “Absolutely.”
“We are very clear that solar and wind is our first commitment, hydro and nuclear all of these non-carbon sources are what we will develop to the largest extent we can. What cannot be met by these will be met by coal,” Mr Mathur said.
Stressing on the fact that development was still the main aim for India, Mr Mathur stated that the country had to find a different way of doing it, even compared to the greenest European countries. “What I am truly fearful about is say if India moves onto a path of Denmark, and even has two cars for 10 people, we will be swamped. Even the Denmark paradigm does not work for us,” Mr Mathur said.
Appreciating the latest intention of India, US lead negotiator Todd Stern said the Indian statement was encouraging. “We support the notion of India greatly increasing (renewables). Prime Minister Modi has made pledges that are quite enormously impressive actually with respect to the development of renewable energy, the total of what he has pledged is 175 gigawatts in a very short period,” Mr Stern said.
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