With India facing deadly air pollution, high healthcare costs and growing disaster threats from global warming, the head of the United Nations warned the country’s leaders Friday that investing more in coal was “bad economics”. India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has been ramping up its use of renewable energy – but coal remains its dominant fuel for power production. He urged India to instead invest in solar power, which he said could tackle poverty by generating jobs at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed livelihoods and also boost access to energy for 64 million Indians who live without power.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to push many people back into poverty, such job creation is an opportunity that can’t be missed,” he said, adding that investment in renewable energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels. Guterres called for a halt on commitments to new coal power after 2020, saying “the coal business is going up in smoke” as growing numbers of large investors abandon its use. Neither the environment ministry nor the power ministry responded to repeated requests for comment.
India is the world’s biggest consumer of coal for power after China. The coal ministry said on Tuesday that it plans to significantly reduce its coal imports in “the next few years” and boost local production to improve the economies of states in central India, where most coal mines are located. The country’s coal demand this year has fallen after strict lockdowns hit the economy. New Delhi was named in February as the capital with the dirtiest air. India’s toxic air claimed an estimated 1.24 million lives in 2017, according to a study published by scientific journal The Lancet Planetary Health.