Coal may continue to reign in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed to skip a carbon tax on this dangerous fossil fuel, according to documents Reuters reviewed. Given how urgent the climate crisis is becoming, the world simply cannot afford any more handouts to the coal industry.
That’s especially true for India. The country deals with some of the worst air pollution on Earth. New Delhi, the Indian capital, is constantly choked by smog, forcing officials to close schools, shut down airports, and cut the number of cars on the road. Crop burning is mostly to blame, but so are the coal-fired power plants that fail to comply with emissions standards and spew illegal amounts pollutants into the air. Now, instead of having cleaner sources of energy compete fairly with coal, the Indian government is considering giving it a leg up so that it may wind up being the same price as—if not cheaper than— wind and solar.
The government currently taxes coal production and imports at 400 rupees ($5.61) per metric ton. According to Reuters, the government wants to waive this carbon tax because “the savings would improve the financial health of utilities and distribution companies and help the power producers to install pollution-curbing equipment.” Another concern is that the tax would cause electricity prices to rise, as well.
The Modi administration instead wants plants to install equipment that would cut pollution. However, a new and improved coal plant is still a coal plant. And coal will keep heating the world up to dangerous levels.
The Energy Information Administration warned in October that energy-related emissions may continue to rise until 2050 largely because of coal-loving countries such as India, China, and Indonesia. These countries turn to dirty fuels because it’s cheaper and people need access to power. Countries in Europe and the U.S. have done very little to help poor and vulnerable nations turn away from coal despite pioneering its use and causing most of the historical emissions fueling the climate crisis.
Recent international climate talks were another low point in this seemingly eternal gridlock, with wealthier nations led by the U.S. blocking any progress on helping poor countries. That puts leaders in rapidly developing countries like Modi in a place where they are forced to choose between what’s good for the planet and what’s good for the economic viability of his country, at least under our current economic system.