State-Funded Coal Industries: India NEEDS Climate Justice

Living in the age of social media, news coverage and television, it is difficult to ignore the fact that over the past month climate strikes have been held in the Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, where the people of this democratic nation have demanded climate action. We want to declare a climate emergency, NOW. Tens of thousands of people have subscribed to the Fridays for Future Movement (FFF), and taken to the streets, chanting slogans like ‘What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now’, ‘How dare you’, ‘There is no planet B’ and ‘Eco not ego’.

While students protest and little girls of a mere 16 sail across the ocean on a zero-emissions boat to save the planet, India continues to be, at a rapidly growing rate, the country that produces the third largest amount of emissions in the world (as of 2018). It is preceded by the United States of America and China. However, the rate of production of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States is reducing at the rate of 4.5%, and the rate of growth of emissions in China is 1%. India continues to produce emissions, growing at the rate of 5%. India could soon surpass America and China. The reason for this, rather foreseen, rise in the growth rate of emissions is largely due to a rise in the coal consumption in India.

Coal India, a state-controlled coal mining and refinery company headquartered in Kolkata and West Bengal, is one of the top 20 firms in the world that contribute to a third of all emissions of the world. Coal India has a revenue of $14.8 billion (FY18-19), and it contributes to 1.71% of all global emissions.

Coal India’s CHG emissions in 2016 were to the tune of 2076.2 million tonnes. Coal India’s GHG emissions in 2016 were just 17 per cent lower than the country’s total CO2 output, 2431 million tonnes.

Some key points from the Coal India FY 2018-19 financials:

  • For Coal India, Profit after Tax for FY 2018-19 increased to Rs. 17,462.18 crore against Rs. 7,038.44 crore the previous year registering a 148% growth.
  • Coal India and its subsidiaries had also paid/adjusted Rs. 44,826.43 crore in Royalty, GST, Cess, District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) and other levies.
  • To meet the increased coal demand of the country, 9 Mining projects with capacity of 69.88 MTY having a Sanctioned Capital of Rs. 9093.07 crore were approved by CIL Board. In addition, 2 Non Mining Rail Projects with a sanctioned capital of Rs. 6656.33 crore have been approved by CIL Board.

Now that we have established how much profit the company earns, how much tax etc. it pays and its future plans for the environment, we can look into how the state could be doing things differently.

The thing about Coal India, is that it is 100 per cent state owned. All the profits from the company go to the government of India, i.e. Rs 17,462.18 crore (after tax) for FY 2018-19. If the rate of growth of profits is considered to be constant, in 4 years the total profit accumulated would be Rs 69,848.72 crore.

India has, as for 2018, 248.8 million households. The average number of solar panels required per household is 12. The cost of a solar panel is Rs 30 to Rs 50 per watt of power generated, that is, around Rs 20,000. Thus, the total cost of solar panels to power every house in India is 597,120 crore.

If through the constant filing of petitions and strikes, the people of India can convince the government to use the profits generated from Coal India to produce renewable energy, in 4 years, almost every household in India can have electricity generated from a renewable source of energy. Even if we use 50% of the profits of the company every year, this can be achieved in 8 years.

India has got the ability to generate over 1,900 billion units of solar power annually, which is equal to the entire annual power demand till 2030. We just need to utilise our resources better.

The programmes that received funding from the profits of the company can be compensated as the funds that the government kept aside for Coal India can be used for this purpose. As the activities of the company reduce, its need for a constant inflow of money from the government will also subsequently decrease. 

The supply of constant electricity to every house will even compensate for the loss in revenue due to the much needed fall of the Coal Industry in India. The provision of electricity even in remote areas means opportunities for people. Solar power companies will be built, jobs will be provided, electricity will ensure opportunities to study for children in remote areas.

Coal companies may claim that they care for the environment by saying things like they plant saplings for every tree they cut, but what they do not understand is that by the time those saplings grow to become trees that actually take in carbon dioxide, it will be too late. India must not be deceived. 

Achieving climatic normalcy is not impossible, especially with a country that has resources like India. We need climate action, and we need it now.