Interview: Prakash Javadekar on India’s coal tax and climate change

April 20, 2016

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar will travel this week to New York, where the United States, China and other leading economies will formally accede to the Paris climate change accord forged in December.

India's Environment Minister Javadekar speaks on his phone before an interview with Reuters inside his office in New DelhiIn an interview with Reuters, Javadekar called on developed countries like the United States to raise a green tax on their coal production to help create a $100 billion-a-year fund to help poorer countries tackle climate change.

Javadekar, who was in Paris when 200 countries forged the landmark agreement, is citing the example of India, which has raised the coal production tax to $6 a tonne from $1 in a bid to make it more expensive to consume the dirty fuel. (For main story, click here)

Below are edited excerpts from the interview:

ON THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
As far as Paris is concerned, the essential issue was that the differentiation should remain as far as responsibility is concerned. And in the Paris agreement, it is very clearly mentioned that the developed world will take absolute emission cuts and developing world will reduce emission as well as energy intensity.

ON INDIA’S COAL TAX
This is one great idea that India has brought on the table even before we sign the Paris agreement. Our tax was $1 a tonne when we assumed office in May 2014. Within two years, we’ve jumped from $1 to $6 a tonne. That’s the highest taxation on coal production. This means a lot. It’s 15 percent of the cost of production.

Most countries are levying only $1 a tonne. If they (developed world) follow India and levy $5-6 per tonne on coal production, $100 billion can be easily mobilized. That is important. Because the developed world is taking a plea that $100 billion is not possible. Today, on the table, is only $10 billion. Even a country like the U.S. is promising only $3 billion.

India's Environment Minister Javadekar speaks on his phone before an interview with Reuters inside his office in New DelhiON INDIA’S PLANS TO CUT DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUEL
We have a very ambitious energy mix plan. We’ve planned 40 percent of our energy mix capacity from non-fossil fuel by 2030. That’s the highest. Even the United States is not doing this.

We’re doing the world’s largest renewable programme of 175 gigawatt. Our coal consumption is less than the U.S. and China. We’re the world’s fourth-largest coal consumer but we’ve 17 percent of the world’s population. Our per capita use is much less that China, Europe and America.

We’ve taxed our polluting vehicles. We’re incentivising hybrid and electric vehicles, giving them subsidy.

ON TWO STRAIGHT DROUGHTS
Drought is a reality. It’s a natural cycle. For the last 30 years, we’re experiencing droughts in different parts of the country. The permanent remedy is — the emphasis on water conservation through water shed development, connecting rivers. India has 17 percent of the world’s population, but only 4 percent of fresh rain water resources. We’re tapping our full potential.

ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
We’re allowing trials. The scientific and safe trials will take at least 7-8 years to complete. Only one proposal we’ve received and that is on mustard. It’s just been there for four months. Three meetings have happened. We’re considering it but the safety of food is a very important aspect of India’s ethos. So we’ve asked for more information and they’re supplying.

Europe is not using GM. Every country takes decisions as per its national policy. We’re not stopping science from progressing. That’s our policy.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Mayank on Twitter @MayankBhardwaj9 and Tony @tonytharakan | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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