The Guardian reports: In 2013, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that in order to restrict the increase of world average temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial times, the world must adopt a strict “carbon budget” for emissions. According to the IPCC, the current rate of fossil fuel burning will exhaust this within 25 years, after which fuels must either be left unexploited, or have their emissions kept from the atmosphere by carbon capture and storage.
India has the world’s fifth-largest coal reserves – and very few cleaner fossil fuels, such as natural gas. Its leaders are also determined to spread the benefits of economic development more widely among its population of almost 1.3bn people – one third of whom still have no access to electricity.
Anil Swarup, the permanent secretary at the coal ministry in Delhi, said in an interview that last year Indian production from both private and state-owned mines was 620m tonnes, more than 85% of it from open-cast workings. A further 400m tonnes were imported. At Singrauli [a coalfield which spans parts of two districts in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh] and elsewhere, he added, production is set to increase rapidly, with strong encouragement from the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which swept to power last year. Modi is determined to restore the sustained GDP growth rate of 8-10% that India enjoyed for a decade until 2011.
“We are looking to double Indian coal production by 2020,” Swarup said, “and to reduce reliance on imports.” Beyond that date, he said production would continue to rise to 1.5bn tonnes a year, with most of this being burnt in coal-fired power plants. In the past six months, the government has given environmental clearance to 41 new mining projects. The consequence, Swarup said, is that from now until 2020, “a new mine will be opened every month. You have to work on the assumption of requirement, and in India, there is a need for power.” [Continue reading…]