Led by cuts in coal-based power plants and thrust on renewable energy by India and China, the construction of such plants globally has witnessed a decline, indicating that global climate goals are within “feasible” reach, a new survey today said.
The survey revealed that India and China have seen a significant slowdown in expansion of coal, which is a major cause of pollution and causes approximately 12 lakh deaths in India annually.
“For the first time since the beginning of the global coal boom a decade ago, developments in East and South Asia in particular China’s wide-reaching restrictions on new coal plants and India’s indication that no new coal power is needed appear to have brought global climate goals within feasible reach, raising the prospect that the worst levels of climate change might be avoided,” the survey said.
It however said that while “more progress” is needed and the margin for error is tight, results of the past year provide “good reason for optimism”.
The survey authored jointly by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Coalswarm found that globally, there has been a 48 per cent decline in the overall pre-construction activity, a 62 per cent drop in new construction starts and an 85 per cent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits.
“This global slowdown in the coal power sector is a great opportunity for keeping global warming below 2 degree Celsius as per the Paris Agreement. Thus the commitment of achieving the 1.5 degree target looks more feasible,” it said.
Noting that 68 GW of construction of such plants in India and China is now frozen at over 100 project sites, the survey however pointed out that ongoing over-investment in coal-fired power in India is potentially wasting vast amounts of capital.
“In India, 31 coal plant units at 13 sites totalling 12,725 MW of capacity have been stalled, mainly due to frozen financing. Power demand in India has not kept pace with expanding capacity. Besides this, the declining cost of renewables has caused many financial backers of coal projects to withdraw support, leading to a further freeze in construction activity,” the survey said.
Coal is a primary source for causing air pollution that leads to approximately 12 lakh deaths in India annually, Greenpeace said.
While China has been cutting down on its coal consumption for the past three years and has vowed to cut 150 million tonnes of coal output capacity this year, India has gone a step “backward” with the recent news of postponing the implementation of emission norms for coal-fired thermal power plants, it said.
“Despite slowdown in construction of new plants and Plant Load Factors dipping to an all-time low, there are more than 170 GW of power plants under various stages of approval.
India’s Environment Ministry continues to clear further coal power projects and the government continues to stress upon its target of mining 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020,” said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.
It is estimated close to 25 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution is contributed by the secondary particles produced by thermal power plants and diluting the emission rules would be a step backwards in the fight against the health crisis due to air pollution in India.