India now has 100 GW of renewable energy, so reaching the 50% renewable target by 2030 is doable

Phase out coal or phase down coal? Seldom has the world been so focused on a single word as it was following the conclusion of the COP26 climate conference at Glasgow. Global media, for the most part, was quick to blame India for watering down the language of the Glasgow Climate Pact on coal — ignoring the equally consequential role played by China and the US, and the fact that India had pointed out in vain that all fossil fuels, not just coal, need to be phased out, with the countries that have burned the most leading the way.

Contrary to most media coverage, the difference at this point in time is insignificant, especially as the Glasgow pact makes no mention of timelines for phase down/out of coal. What is significant though, is the direction of travel that India has committed to — net zero — which implies first a phase down, followed by a phase out of coal. (Despite the investment of billions over the last two decades, carbon capture and storage remains unproven at scale, so we should not be counting on CCS to save us from coal’s carbon problem.)

The 2070 net zero timeline is distant enough to be little more than a signalling intention; the key is what short/medium term implications follow from the other targets India announced: 500 GW non-fossil capacity and 50 per cent renewables generation by 2030.