IPCC calls for "end of coal"; this will hurt India the most

Deepna Chauhan
08 Apr 2022
IPCC calls for "end of coal"; this will hurt India the most

New Delhi (India): If the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report on climate mitigation is to be taken into consideration, India’s coal-fired power plants do not have a long life. 

The IPCC in its report said that pathways likely limiting global warming to 2°C or 1.5° C involve substantial reductions in fossil fuel consumption and a near elimination of coal use without CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration).

The CCS is a high-cost technology to prevent carbon emissions from plants going into the atmosphere. It was said to be a technology that could allow the running of coal-fired power plants without harming the environment. Despite being there for more than 20 years, there are only 26 operational CCS plants in the power sector and most of them are in the oil and gas sector.

According to IPCC, the CCS technology for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants remain stagnant and costly and there is also a mismatch between available geological formation for storage and water availability further constrains the availability of CCS as a solution for existing fossil fuel assets.

In absence of CCS, which is a viable option to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants, the IPCC said countries will require substantial energy system changes over the next 23-30 years in order to limit warming to 2°C or 1.5°C. And, it would mean wiping out the coal consumption and replacing it with very less emitting substitutes of renewables, the IPCC said.

“Net-zero energy systems will share common characteristics, but the approach in every country will depend on national circumstances,” the IPCC report said.

“Common characteristics of net-zero energy systems will include electricity systems that produce no net CO 2 or remove CO 2 from the atmosphere; widespread electrification of end uses, including light-duty transport, space heating, and cooking; substantially lower use of fossil fuels than today; use of alternative energy carriers such as hydrogen, bioenergy, and ammonia to substitute for fossil fuels in sectors less amenable to electrification; more efficient use of energy than today; greater energy system integration across regions and across components of the energy system; and use of CO2 removal to offset residual emissions.”

In a way, the IPCC has clearly said that coal has no place in net-zero energy systems, which the world aims to introduce from 2030 so that the globe achieves the net-zero target by 2050. India has set 2070 as the net-zero target without specifying a year for phasing out coal.

Of the total coal plans in the world, about 10% are in India and of the new plants being set across the globe, 20% are in India. India also plans to commission close to 100 new coal-fired power plants in the next few years to harvest huge coal reserves in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and parts of Madhya Pradesh.

Although India has commissioned renewable energy power plants with a capacity of over 50,000 MW, experts believe that renewable energy will not be able to meet the increasing energy demand without coal being a major source. By 2050, the share of coal in the country’s total energy needs will reduce to around 20% from around 60% in 2021. Also, by 2050, the energy demand is likely to triple.

Although environment minister Bhupendra Yadav welcomed the report saying the historical responsibility of developed countries for consuming the carbon budget has been scientifically established, the government has been silent on the biggest message from the report --- ending coal usage.

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