India’s COP-26 promise of Net Zero by 2070 overshadowed by coal use

By Vijay Jayaraj

On COP26’s first day, India’s Prime Minister Modi announced that the world’s second largest coal consumer would become Net Zero by 2070 — a commitment that means almost nothing given realities of the subcontinent’s dependence on fossil fuels to meet the energy needs of 1.3 billion people.

Though Modi’s efforts were praised by British PM Boris Johnson, the target of 2070 only reveals the country’s unwillingness to embrace any meaningful emission-reduction policy.  Contrary to media reports, India’s 2070 target is merely a tactic to enable its proliferation of fossil fuel use.

Even as Modi was speaking in Glasgow, back in Delhi on the very same day India’s Union Coal Minister called for industry to achieve historic output in the coming years. Speaking virtually at an event, Minister Pralhad Joshi asked state-run Coal India Limited — the world’s largest coal miner — to attain 1 billion tons production (of coal) by the end of 2024. He implored mining heads of to make revised targets and detailed strategy to reach the target, leaving no room for doubts of India’s commitment to coal.

A recent coal shortage threatened the country’s electricity supply, which depends on the fuel for 70% of its output. Coal India has been asked to ensure that there is at least 18 days worth of stock at every coal-fired generation plant in the country.

On October 28, Coal India recorded its highest-ever, single-day coal supply to power plants — 1.8 million tons. October witnessed a 23% rise in year-on-year coal supply from Coal India. Economic times noted that Coal India’s 7-month (April-October) supply of 364.4 million tonnes is the highest ever for this period in the company’s history.

India’s Finance Minister has asked the coal industry to ensure that on-going projects are completed on time. Twenty-eight coal plants are under construction in India, and the country seeks to add more. Some of these plants will be operational at least for the next three decades, supplying electricity to hundreds of millions.

Authorities in India are candid about the irreversible dominance of coal. India’s environment secretary told the Indian media, “We have coal, we have to depend on it.” One official from my home state’s electricity department said, “You can have the cake of coal (power) and the icing of solar (power),” explaining the baseload energy requirement can be met only by coal or nuclear.

Meanwhile, India is also looking to secure oil imports, including from newly emerging sources in South America and Africa, and to strengthen its own oil sector, approving construction of new refineries. Boosted by inventory gains, the largest state-run oil firm recorded a record profit during the second quarter in this fiscal year.

 India’s promise to become Net Zero by 2070 cannot be considered a serious commitment. Fifty years is a long time. It is unlikely that India’s current administrators will even be alive by then and doubtful that the Modi promise will remain unaltered by successive administrations.

Importantly, India’s Nationally Determined Contribution — the official emission reduction commitments made as a part of the Paris climate agreement — clearly states that the country’s emission-reduction promises do not override its domestic energy needs. In other words, the country is free from any binding clause that would limit its dependency on fossil fuels. Though India has always supported U.N. climate initiatives and even has installed massive amounts of solar technology, it has been increasing the simultaneous use of fossil fuels.

Moreover, India has practical problems preventing it from taking the decarbonization path. For example, India needs more capital and raw material to increase its supply of nuclear power — along with hydopower, one of  only two non-fossil fuel sources capable of providing baseload electricity. However, neither funds nor abundant supply is available for nuclear development. India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which would allow it to have a more reliable supply of nuclear raw material, has remained impossible due to China’s opposition.

Piyush Goyal, India’s Sherpa to the G20 Summit, said that under these circumstances it won’t be possible for India to achieve its climate targets. He suggested the burden of emission reduction must be on the developed countries to achieve “net-negative.”

So, for India, the promise of 2070 Net Zero appears shallow while the commitment to fossil fuels is clearly deep.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a Masters degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.

This commentary was first published by Reactionary Times, November 6, 2021

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Tom Halla
November 10, 2021 6:13 pm

I have no memory of The Nuclear Suppliers Group in any of my reading on the subject.
As Modi and Trump struck a civilian nuclear deal, somehow this group never came up.
Someone who follows this site would know.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 11, 2021 4:01 am


22 reactors already running, new ones planned, India is to construct a fleet of domestically-designed reactors, along with VVERs imported from Russia and EPRs from France, Saurav Jha reports

November 10, 2021 6:39 pm

The most cost effective reliable generator to secure baseload and peak demand electricity is coal fired, steam turbine driven power stations.

Most often the accountable for tax purposes working life is fifty years but with maintenance generator units could remain efficiently generating for eighty years or more which developing nations now understand and want.

If wind and solar with storage and back up could compete without government support on a working life basis the owners might obtain 20 years before removal and replacement is needed. So to reach sixty years the original installations plus two more are required and therefore for eighty years three replacements are required. Removal, dumping/recycling and new replacements add up to a lot of money that effectively reduces shareholder’s return on investment. In many instances replacement is not financially viable.

The nuclear option is very expensive even for small modular generators, but there is no other choice if coal and gas fuelled generators are not considered.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dennis
Reply to  Dennis
November 10, 2021 7:13 pm

There are is another issue aside from the multiples of wind and solar plants required in the life of just one coal fired plant. And also aside from the need for backup, in addition, the wind or solar projects need to be duplicated well before the end of life of the renewables for continuous supply of power.

Of course none of this is sustainable anyway. Hopefully the crash comes soon.

Reply to  Megs
November 10, 2021 7:51 pm

And land for transmission lines to feed into the main grid from wind or solar installations, power stations are located along the grid. And consider the enormous areas of land required for wind and solar “farms”, suitable land not any land.

It will be most interesting to watch the business decisions relating to replacement of assets starting in the not too distant future as shareholders are briefed about the costs.

Reply to  Dennis
November 10, 2021 9:06 pm

Unfortunately we are in a Renewable Energy Zone. They are building an 180 km transmission line starting from near to where we live. Wind and Solar ‘farms’ will straddle either side of it. Our town is up to 150 sq km of wind and solar, existing, approved and in negotiation.

Sadly they’re not putting it in the middle of nowhere. Our countryside is rural, crop/grazing, with a smattering of vineyards. Tourism is one of our most important industries. Stunning vistas.

Australia’s land mass is 7.692 million sq km, our arable land is only 6% of that. There’s plenty of middle of nowhere to choose from.

Last edited 10 months ago by Megs
Reply to  Megs
November 11, 2021 1:56 pm

Megs, are the land tracts assigned for wind & solar farms in your area freehold title or 99-year leases from the government?

I suspect that wind & solar farm developers try to use the same long-term property investment strategies that Japanese investors used in Northern NSW and Qld in the 1980 s – they bought up large tracts of “vacant” (but eminently useful) land, and turned them into golf courses.

Then when urban / industrial / recreational / agricultural activities inevitably spread to envelop the golf course developments, they were converted to residential usage, at very healthy profit margins.

Maybe the wind & solar developers are figuring that in ~ 20 years time these ‘farms’ will be unserviceable, and the (by then) “prime” lands can be sold for more valuable purposes?

Vineyards, for example.

Reply to  Mr.
November 11, 2021 3:14 pm

The land is all privately owned land, much of it generational. The land for the existing 87MW solar on 310 hectares was bought outright. The farmer was offered a lot more money than he could have made otherwise. The land that has been negotiated so far for the approved and those in the application process is, I believe, predominantly leased. They are now paying neighbours incentives to keep quiet, not to object. It’s causing terrible division with the community, generational neighbours are in conflict.

Just one of these projects, wind and solar, will utilise 89 sq km of arable land. There will be 70 to 80 truck movements per day, 130 during the peak build, every day for nearly 3 years. There will also be up to 300 light vehicles per day. At peak build there will be 750 workers at the site, which starts 8 km from town. Almost all of the workers will be backpackers, our population is just 2,500. There will be 63 7MW wind turbines each at 280m high and more than a million solar panels. There are three additional large scale solar plants in the pipeline too, one of them at 750MW! Also another combined wind and solar project is rumoured but we don’t have the details yet.

My point for all that background is that if it takes three years to install just one project, and the developers are receiving huge subsidies, who pays for decommissioning? We think the landowners are being hoodwinked into believing that all the ‘valuable’ recyclable material will not only pay for it but leave them with additional profit. There are so many lies in this industry!

One other thing, we moved here not only for the stunning scenery and tranquillity, but also the fact that the area is teeming with birds and native wildlife. Almost every Australian native animal you could think of lives here, in abundance. The destruction is criminal.

Reply to  Megs
November 13, 2021 10:11 am

The power produced in the middle of no where needs transmission. Then there are services required to keep the remote solar panels clean and the windmills functioning.

Reply to  Dennis
November 11, 2021 1:42 am

India installs solar panels along (over) irrigation canals and floating in reservoirs (a side effect is reduced evaporation). (Irrigation pumping is a major use for electricity in rural areas).

they also, like the rest of the world, have rooftops and desert…

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 11:34 am

This is a pathetically weak cheerleading session, even by your standards, griff. Do you not understand that the minister’s goal is to double coal production by 2024? Were you born an idiot or did someone hit you in the head with a heavy, blunt object recently?

Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 8:22 pm

Griff…. India, Russia and China will be smiling right at us and laughing under their breath at the West all the while they stall for time while building coal fired plants. India makes a commitment for the year 2070 as they increase their use of coal. China is full speed ahead on coal fired power plants. Anybody who believes India, China and Russia will use Wind Mills and Solar Panels is in some kind of dream world. The focus of India, China and Russia is to get their people hooked up to some economical power source that will help their people have a basic life. Griff, you might have the economic reserve to pay for higher energy costs but they don’t, they just want to get to a point where they have an affordable energy source to keep them above the poverty line. India just had record high food crop production. They know CO2 is plant food and their record crop production is helping feed their people. Do you think they give a crap about the eco-freakism of the West? They have bigger issues to deal with. You come up with Solar Panels over irrigation canals? You must be joking.

November 10, 2021 7:26 pm

India’s and China’s use of coal is strategically shrouded behind the great Green curtain and therefore is of no interest or concern to the Eco Loons running COP-26 in Glasgow. What counts for the Eco Loons is the scale of promises whether or not they are real.

November 10, 2021 7:28 pm

They will just sic the Gretamonster on India to get them back in line.

I think Modi read these two books:

The moral case for fossil fuels

Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom

November 10, 2021 7:42 pm

I’ll stop doing anything to harm the planet by 2070 as well. Does that make me acceptable? Where/when do I get my money and will you stop bothering me now?

Reply to  markl
November 10, 2021 7:44 pm

Why don’t they make it June 1st, 2069?

Reply to  Scissor
November 10, 2021 7:54 pm

Long before that year the climate hoax crony capitalism ventures will be frowned upon.

Reply to  Scissor
November 11, 2021 1:57 am

The morning of 1st. April might be more appropriate.

November 10, 2021 7:51 pm

Net Positive effect in the wild, today. The rest is characterization in isolation, models as evidence, inferential logic, and a handmade tale.

November 10, 2021 7:54 pm

The French are going to build more Nuclear Power stations.
The great renewable dream is dying because really very few when pushed actually believe it.

Last edited 10 months ago by LdB
Bill Toland
Reply to  LdB
November 11, 2021 12:22 am

I see that Greenpeace France is opposed to any new nuclear power in France. France currently gets 71% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Just to maintain this figure will require the construction of a large number of nuclear power plants in the future. Demand for electricity in France will also grow significantly over the next few decades if fossil fuel use is curtailed. Where does Greenpeace France think all of this power is going to come from if there is no new nuclear? It certainly won’t be intermittent wind and solar power.

Reply to  LdB
November 11, 2021 1:46 am

I am amazed at that – the one they have currently building, Flammanville, began building in 2007 and the deadline for completion was last year extended to 2023…

The whole industry has been beset by construction quality and safety issues, by low summer river levels causing shutdowns, by massive looming costs for decommissioning.

Richard Page
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 2:43 am

No, not the whole industry – Flammanville 3 has been highlighted as a matter of some embarrassment and shame for France, but cannot be seen as typical. One other thing you conveniently forgot to mention is the ever increasing regulations, both national and international that have been piling up on the nuclear industry alone for some peculiar reason.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Richard Page
November 11, 2021 8:43 am

France built dozens of nuclear plants in the 1970’s and 1980’s, thus developing substantial nuclear construction infrastructure and expertise. Having not built a new plant in almost 30 years, all that expertise was lost. The same is true in Britain and the U.S. These project management problems are well-known and the emerging Small Modular Reactor (SMR) designs are specifically intended to address them.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Paul Johnson
November 11, 2021 1:33 pm

Paul, repeating what I said to Leo Smith a month ago, I’m betting on NuScale’s 77 MWe unit to be the first western-nation SMR design to be installed in an operating commercial nuclear power plant.

A 462 MWe NuScale plant comprised of six 77 MWe modular units is scheduled to go online in eastern Idaho in late 2029. It will be owned by UAMPS, will be constructed by Fluor, and will be operated by Energy Northwest.

Here are the reasons why I think the NuScale design will be the first out of the gate:

— Their SMR design is a light water reactor derivative which uses half height conventional fuel rods and which integrates the reactor vessel and the steam generator into a single module which can be produced in a factory using a consistent and repeatable approach and under stringent nuclear-grade QA requirements.
— The NuScale design delivers nearly all of an SMR’s theoretical operational advantages but at the least overall technical and financial risk for the power plant’s constructors and owners.
— NuScale’s project team is taking the time and effort needed to create a fully NRC compliant industrial infrastructure which can cost effectively support the manufacture and installation of their 77 MWe SMR design.
— The project team works very closely with the NRC to ensure that no regulatory surprises or regulatory bottlenecks will occur while their SMR manufacturing industrial infrastructure is being developed and optimized.
— Their SMR design will not go into production until its design is reasonably complete and stable, and until the manufacturing infrastructure needed to produce their design cost effectively has been reasonably well optimized.
— UAMPS and the NuScale team are being completely realistic concerning the slim possibility that a centralized spent fuel repository will go into operation in the US during the operational life of their plant. Their Idaho plant site will have enough spent fuel capacity to handle 60 years worth of output stored in NRC-compliant dry casks.

As far as the technical and the financial risk of a new-build nuclear project are concerned, a nuclear power plant’s technical design, and the manufacturing and construction processes used to produce and install that technical design, are all One Thing — and must be managed as such.

Nuclear power demands a highly professional and disciplined approach to doing business in all phases of a new-build nuclear project — starting from the initial technical concept and then on through system design, regulatory approval, component manufacture, and site installation. The project management discipline needed to fulfill the NRC’s regulatory requirements is the same discipline needed to deliver every other component of the project as a whole.

If history is any guide, any weaknesses present anywhere along the line in any of those phases will result in significant cost overruns and project delays. Having been in the belly of the beast of a nuclear construction project myself, it is my opinion that the NuScale project team is taking every step necessary to keep their Idaho project on cost and on schedule.

Last edited 10 months ago by Beta Blocker
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 5:43 pm

Hey at least when they are built they work unlike unreliables.

Reply to  LdB
November 11, 2021 3:03 am

On the Eve of FLOP26, 2 more countries, Netherlands and Sweden, joined France’s club of 10 nuclear planners – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Estonia signaled interest.
Scandalously Germany is AWOL.

Give me nuclear signaling any day instead of virtue signaling.

Last edited 10 months ago by bonbon
Climate believer
Reply to  LdB
November 11, 2021 3:28 am

Don’t hold your breath, our politicians have a seemingly endless capacity for incompetence.

This should have been started many, many years ago.

If they manage to do it, and that’s a big “if”, it will be saving not only France, but many other EU countries from their energy suicides.

Rory Forbes
November 10, 2021 11:12 pm

Seriously? Is there anyone who seriously believes a promise 50 years into the future has any meaning? These people are children in a fantasy world.

Bill Toland
Reply to  Rory Forbes
November 11, 2021 12:04 am

Words are cheap but actions can be very expensive. After all, a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.

Reply to  Bill Toland
November 11, 2021 3:07 am

Extreme damage has already been done by Prince Charles’ green accounting backed by such as Marc Carney, BlackRock et al – the last year saw an absolute stranglehold on any credit for infrastructure, energy, that does not pass the gangrene test.

Bill Toland
Reply to  bonbon
November 11, 2021 3:27 am

I like your gangrene test which works really well if you’re Scottish. For American readers, this sounds like Scots dialect for going green.

Reply to  Bill Toland
November 11, 2021 3:36 am

I’ve been holding my nose for a week, going blue in the face!
Cutting off major credit like BlackRock et al are doing is cutting O2 out of the physical economy. Industry will go blue in the face, and then maybe gasp at what is going on!

Bill Toland
Reply to  bonbon
November 11, 2021 3:50 am

I’m a Glaswegian and I have been staying out of the city centre since COP26 started. Glasgow is currently flooded with loonies from all over the world with many streets closed. I hope that when COP26 finishes British politicians will dial down the green lunacy and quietly make some intelligent decisions. Maybe that is expecting too much from politicians.

Reply to  Bill Toland
November 11, 2021 5:30 am

I was surprised that LCM played the Schubert on the piano at the rail station. Not many have such anymore.

Bill Toland
Reply to  bonbon
November 11, 2021 5:47 am

The piano at Central Station was actually made in China. Isn’t everything these days?

Last edited 10 months ago by Bill Toland
M Courtney
Reply to  Rory Forbes
November 11, 2021 12:25 am

That’s right. They don’t believe it. If they did believe it they wouldn’t be repeating the same COP 26 times in a row.

If they thought the world was really in danger they would take meaningful action; Lehmann Brothers and Covid led to the world taking immediate measures.

AGW leads to waffle.

Pity the children who have been spoon-fed this nightmare and so do believe it.
But remember that the people in the Green Industry know it’s all folly.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  M Courtney
November 11, 2021 9:52 am

But remember that the people in the Green Industry know it’s all folly.

That has been apparent to anyone with even slight understanding of the subject. If only they would try to coordinate the hyperbole. With everyone trying to outdo each other with predictions of doom, ad nauseam, after 40 years of failed predictions, they need to just stop and reassess their narrative.

Peter Plail
November 11, 2021 12:26 am

They obviously didn’t get the “10 years to save the planet” message, or is it just that they realise that armageddon will always be 10 years off.

Last edited 10 months ago by Peter Plail
michael hart
November 11, 2021 1:11 am

I can’t really blame India, or China, stuck in the real world, for taking the approach of “OK, let’s throw these idiots a bone, if only to get them to shut up until the next party. And, hey, they just might be stupid enough to gives us some free money and stuff.”

Reply to  michael hart
November 11, 2021 1:47 am

In the real world China has this year seen two devastating flash flood events and India has seen extreme flooding.

They know that they are already seeing the impact of climate change and it will continue to get worse

Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 2:01 am

According to Indian weather records which go back for over 100 years, there is no trend of change in the weather during that period, so whatever caused the flooding it wasn’t climate change.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 10:49 am

It’s just weather, Griff. It happens all the time.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 11, 2021 2:13 pm

But Tom, the Griffs of the world vehemently believe that if the CO2 control knob can be super-glued at the 350ppm setting, this planet will have unchanging Goldilocks weather everywhere for ever and ever more.

That’s their Gospel, and they intend to keep singing it until Gaia forgives them for their climate sins, and transforms the Earth into one global Garden Of Eden.
(without serpents, apples or heterosexual couples of course)

November 11, 2021 1:40 am

Coal India is not the total of India’s coal supply: the record delivery represents issues in getting coal from abroad, coupled with years worth of effort into trying to get more coal domestically in India.

this also entirely ignores the increase of the target for solar power in India and the increased 2030 renewables target.

The rate of commissioning Indian coal power plants is slowing and the capacity factor of many of them is low…

coal is slowing to a stop in India.

Bill Toland
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 2:42 am

Griff, your posts increasingly demonstrate the triumph of wishful thinking over reality.

Richard Page
Reply to  griff
November 11, 2021 2:45 am

Rubbish. It’s only slowing because they can’t get enough supply. If they increase production and imports then the pace will increase rapidly.

November 11, 2021 1:55 am

A view from China :
“Modi’s Ambitious Climate Pledge Incompatible with India’s Starving Population,”

¨ According to the recently released Global Hunger Index 2021, India was ranked 101 out of 116 countries and regions, behind such economies as Sudan and Mali, and was one among the nations in which hunger was classified as “serious.” Although the Indian economy is estimated to be one of the fastest-growing in the world in 2022, many of its people still live in extreme poverty.¨

“It is an open question as to whether India’s economy can support its ambitious emissions-reduction target. The 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels is supposed to address climate change and its negative impacts. Yet, if emissions-reduction efforts fail to consider improving livelihoods, domestic pressure of hunger will likely derail environmental protection efforts,”

That was Nov 3 2021
Time for India to join the Belt and Road Initiative, and dump geopolitics.

Richard Page
Reply to  bonbon
November 11, 2021 2:49 am

I saw that, I think Griffy’s linked to it before. It needs careful reading – it conflates poverty with hunger throughout, completely ignores India’s bumper harvests and government schemes to supply households in poverty with basic food supplies. It’s more activism than research.

Last edited 10 months ago by Richard Page
Reply to  Richard Page
November 11, 2021 2:55 am

Bumper harvests, fine. But what happens when the infrastructure to distribute to a billion people is lacking? Infrastructure is the BRI key element.
And the Caste System still reigns, holding back modern industrial agriculture.
This is a huge domestic problem, and Modi has spoken in the past about it.
And that carbon based distribution infrastructure is precisely targeted by Prince Charles’s and cabal.
India suffered major famines under the British Raj, and I am sure not forgotten.

November 11, 2021 3:57 am

Has anyone checked :

The digital id system of Bill Gates rolled out all over India, called Aadhaar, has been denying poor people access to Government rice rations.
Talk about a digital nirvana, where people starve without an up-to-date biometric ID!

Gates fully intends to roll that out in the Global North. What happens if migrants at EU border fences have no ID?

Last edited 10 months ago by bonbon
Coeur de Lion
November 11, 2021 6:01 am

Jokingly I suggested on the professional blog I use that volunteers live for a week without quite enough to eat and no electricity. I don’t think anyone took it up, but there are many Indian people who do, involuntarily. COP26 should be doing something about it.

Bill Toland
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
November 11, 2021 8:07 am

Nothing beneficial to mankind will come out of COP26.

Jeffery P
November 11, 2021 6:49 am

Politicians making promises now to be kept by some other politician decades in the future? Good luck with that.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
November 11, 2021 8:27 am

One suspects India’s promise to be net-neutral by 2070 is just the opening gambit. Next will come the “but if we get $100 billion per year for the next 40 years we could achieve it by 2060” claim. But wait — there’s more! $200 billion per year for the next 30 years and we’ll be net neutral by 2050!

We should counter-offer: net neutral by 2040 or we start sending you 1,000 lawyers, 2,000 education PhDs and 4,000 woke activists per year.

November 11, 2021 9:37 am
Gerald Hanner
November 11, 2021 3:10 pm

India doesn’t mean it. They know that there is no one who takes that bilge seriously.

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