The Big Story: Hazardous power

When the United States President Donald Trump shocked the world by pulling his country out of the Paris climate change agreement earlier this year, India reacted by asserting its commitment to the deal that has set clear carbon emission targets to be achieved over the coming decades. Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, speaking at the United Nations in June, poured scorn on Trump’s suggestion that India and other developing countries were using the deal to gain strategic economic advantage.

But this display of resolve has not been transformed into action on the ground. Kumar Sambhav Shrivatsava’s report in on Monday on the violations of pollution standards by Indian coal-based power plants capture the contradiction between the Central government’s words and actions. Sixteen new power plants that began operating after January have failed to adhere to pollution standards set by the Paris agreement of December 2015. Just as confounding is the news that the Central Electricity Authority has put in place a plan that could help 300 existing power plants dodge their commitment to curb emissions, some of which could pose serious health hazards.

India’s Nationally Determined Contribution to climate justice, which acts as a road map on climate change mitigation filed with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in October 2015, said that coal-based power plants would continue to dominate India’s energy sector in the coming decades. After all, coal plants produce over 60% of India’s energy. But New Delhi promised to ensure that all these plants would adopt super-critical technology to adhere to strict pollution and energy efficiency standards. Two years later, it is clear from a status report of the Central Pollution Control Board that India has not kept this key promise. Power plants have been compromising on efficiency to reduce the cost of production. Worse, India has also diverted some Rs 56,700 crores from climate change funds to the implementation of the goods and services tax.

Apart from being an important factor in increasing ambient air pollution, inefficient coal plants undermine India’s stature in the climate change debate. If it expects the world to respect its position on economic justice in asking for concessions in cutting down carbon emissions, India should ensure that its domestic standards on fossil-fuel based industries and pollution levels are scrupulously met. Failing to do so would only strengthen the case of leaders like Trump, who seek to shift the burden of fighting climate change from the developed world to the developing world.

The Big Scroll

  • India diverts Rs 56,700 crore from the fight against climate change to Goods and Service Tax regime.  
  • India’s new energy policy draft projects coal-fired capacity will double by 2040. Is that feasible?  


  1. Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express says that the move by the Lingayat community to attain a minority status is also an attempt to construct a more rigid identity. 
  2. Pulapre Balakrishnan in The Hindu writes that public investment should now flow into repair and reconstruction of infrastructure to tackle slow economic growth. 
  3. Writing in the Times of India, Sushant Sareen says the security interests in keeping the Rohingyas away should be given a careful look.


Don’t miss

Denial of burial rights to a Manipur woman reflects the hyper-normalisation of intolerance in India, writes Nandita Haksar.

“The first question that must be addressed: can a village in India pass a resolution stating it will be ‘a Baptist village’ and not allow people to practise other religions? Can the village authority throw out villagers, damage their property and not allow them to till their land if they convert to another religion?”