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Why Greenpeace Is First On The Chopping Block

Sajai Jose,
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As Greenpeace India struggles to stay afloat, the real reason why the government wants to shut down the global environmental NGO hasn’t got much attention: Coal, the single biggest source of primary energy in India, is at the heart of the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious plans to ramp up industrial production in the country.


A total of 1,199 new coal-based thermal power plants with a total installed capacity of more than 1.4 million MW proposed worldwide, the lion’s share—455 plants—are in India, according to data from the World Resources Institute.


India is overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas—which meet more than three fourths of the country’s energy needs, despite Modi’s plans to promote alternative energy sources.


Of the fossil fuels, oil and gas account for just about 30% of India’s energy needs, the bulk imported (80% in the case of crude oil). India has abundant reserves of coal, the fourth-largest in the world.


2Source: PwC

Coal meets 54.5% of India’s energy needs, and 61.5% of the installed power generation capacity, and plays a key role in industries like steel and cement.


India is set to more than double its coal consumption by 2035 and become the world’s largest coal importer by around 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.


The cheapest of fossil fuels, coal is also the most polluting in terms of carbon emissions. Coal-burning power plants are the single biggest cause of climate change, way ahead of the burning of petroleum in transportation.


Greenpeace has been at the forefront of a global campaign against coal mining and burning, and its Indian wing has mounted several high-visibility campaigns against coal-burning thermal power plants and coal mining in forest areas.


Coal India and Adani in the spotlight
Especially irksome to the government must have been Greenpeace’s targeting of two domestic entities that are also major global players in coal—public-sector company Coal India, India’s 5th most valuable company by market capitalisation at $35.9 billion (Rs 2.3 lakh crore) and the Gujarat-based Adani Group, whose promoter Gautam Adani is known to have a close relationship with Modi.


Coal India is number one, and the Adani Group number three on the list of the top 200 coal companies globally ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves, according to Fossil Free Indexes, a financial services firm that provides benchmarks, research, and investment solutions that support carbon-responsible investing.


Greenpeace has campaigned against both companies, exposing their claims on reserves and financial health, and documenting environmental and other violations.  Greenpeace’s Australia chapter has opposed Adani’s plans to develop the world’s largest coal deposit, the Carmichael mine in Queensland, which it acquired for 16.5 billion dollars.


Breakneck industrialisation, Chinese style
Companies like Coal India and Adani are expected to play a vital role in the Modi government’s grand plan for India to take over from China as the new ‘factory of the world’.


With GDP growth dipping to 7% for the first quarter of 2015 (the lowest since 2009), China is clearly slowing down. India seems intent on capitalising on this slowdown and the new-found limits on growth imposed by environmental and health concerns in China.


The first signs that the Modi government is pushing for a Chinese-style industrialisation project came when it announced a clutch of mega projects under the Make-In-India initiative. Work is under way on the most ambitious of these projects, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, across six states, to be built at an estimated cost of $100 billion.


For the government, one of the chief obstacles in this path is land acquisition, which is being tackled through amendments to the existing legislation. The other big hurdle is energy, in which coal will continue to play the biggest part–and this is at the core of its grouse with organisations such as Greenpeace.


Coal and Climate Change–an existential threat


The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas, in that order—releases massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and has been proven to be the biggest culprit behind climate change.


4repSource: Nature

With carbon-dioxide levels at record highs—as IndiaSpend reported—only a fraction of the known extractable fossil fuel reserves, least of all, coal, can be burned without endangering the world’s future, the reason why campaigners like Greenpeace are dead set against the fuel.

But for the Modi government, and India’s elites and middle classes in general, this would amount to the big prize being snatched away from sniffing distance. That’s why the shots fired against Greenpeace may be only the first in the long, bruising battle ahead.


(Jose is a freelance media professional based in Bangalore)


Image Credit: Wikimedia/Akkida



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  1. Bill Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    “The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas, in that order—releases massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and has been proven to be the biggest culprit behind climate change.”

    Sorry to say… but there is no proof. It is a presumption. It might be true, it might not be, but it has not been proven

  2. Srinivas Bharadwaj Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    You miss the most important point here. China today produces 7 to 8 tons of CO2 per Capita. India produces close to 2 tons. A reader who does not understand this truth and reads your article will miss the big picture.

    Priya Pillai’s ticket and her meeting with all those MPs in the UK was not made by her through a cold call to the MP’s office. You should note that in 1930 the UK’s per Capita was 8 to 10s of CO2!!! Even today the UK pumps oil and gas and is even thinking of UnderSea coal!!!! This is a case of Rob Paul to Pay Peter, only thing is Paul is much poorer than Peter.

  3. varun reddy Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Very pedestrian and elementary analysis.
    No mention of Greenpeace’s funding pattern or the fact that it accepts directly and in some cases indirectly from some of the largest polluting industries in the West.
    Also,no mention of the India’s Climate change stand of Common but Differentiated responsibilities.
    Dont expect people to take this article seriously with these glaring deficiencies.

  4. Dharmesh Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    May be for India Coal is necessity and can do anything for that.
    western NGO are just spending money in other country to protect the business interest of their big business donor. Excellent example Animal farming in USA, it is biggest factor for pollution and carbon foot print then any other industry . for truth need to see documentary called COWSPIRACY . USA NGO are not talking about that in USA itself how you can you trust on NGO to work for good in other country ???

  5. jhanardan Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    But is anything incorrect in the article?
    The focus of the article was not Greenpeace’s funding streams.

  6. Paul Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    @varun reddy

    What is the source for your claims about GreenPeace funding? It you have evidence that GreenPeace takes funding from polluters and/or is influenced by it’s donors, I’d be very interested to see it.

    The GreenPeace donation page states quite clearly that this is not the case. At the moment I have no reason to doubt their declaration:

    “Greenpeace relies on donations from generous individuals to carry out our work. In order to remain independent, we do not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties.”

    From: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/contribute/greenpeace-generic/donate/

  7. Dr Torquil Ross-martin Reply

    May 14, 2015 at 3:52 am

    Actually it is a very accurate analysis. Trying to discredit Greenpeace is a pretty lame way to try to divert attention from the critical issue: that exploitation of the coal reserves will be catastrophic to the global climate. It illustrates the short sightedness greed and corruption of the Modi government – and that it is effectively controlled by the coal lobby. Which means that India will miss the biggest prize of all – that of becoming the world leader in renewable energy technology while simultaneously providing a permanent solution to its energy needs. Instead it will be left with nothing but dirt, sorrow and richer coal barons, while China strides ahead with the prize. Utterly self defeating.

  8. Jaya Bisht Reply

    May 14, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    This govt is in favour of polluting industries, black marketers,child labour, domestic violence and human rights violators. It doesn’t believe in Right to Information, exposes whistle blowers and is anti farmer and pro corporate. There should be a referendum against this govt.

  9. Akash Thele Reply

    May 15, 2015 at 10:34 am

    As per given data, it becomes clear that countries like India and China need more power because of their high population. India does not have adequate funding for unconventional power sources. If Greenpeace really want to stop global warming, it should work against hypocrite first world countries who does not provide technology they have but complain against use of coal.
    And what about funding violations? If they are true,then they should provide the details asked by government. Not only India but other countries as well are complaining against these NGOs.

  10. Samwise Reply

    December 11, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Greenpeace and similar so called “environmental” groups are nothing but US funded organizations to stop growth of developing countries in the name of climate change terrorism.

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