A week after India launched the auction process for coal blocks for commercial mining, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said there is no reason for any country to include coal in their COVID-19 recovery plans and investments should instead be made in non-polluting energy sources.
Mr. Guterres on Thursday presented the United Nations Response on COVID-19 that documents not only the action taken by the world body over the last three months of the pandemic, but also offers a roadmap toward recovering better.
“We cannot go back to the way it was and simply recreate the systems that have aggravated the crisis. We need to build back better with more sustainable, inclusive, gender-equal societies and economies,” Mr. Guterres said in remarks during a virtual press conference.
“There is no good reason, for example, for any country to include coal in their COVID-19 recovery plans. This is the time to invest in energy sources that don’t pollute, don’t cause emissions, generate decent jobs and save money,” the UN Chief said, adding that the United Nations is strongly committed to leading the renewal.
While Mr. Guterres did not name any country, sources in the UN said the remark was in reference to the decision by India to launch the auction process for coal blocks for commercial mining.
India’s decision raises concern as other countries could also use coal to meet energy requirements as economies come out a COVID-19 lockdown, they said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week launched the auction process for 41 coal blocks for commercial mining, a move that opens India’s coal sector for private players, and termed it a major step in the direction of India achieving self-reliance.
Launching the auction of mines for commercial mining, that is expected to garner ₹33,000 crore of capital investment in the country over next five to seven years, the Prime Minister had said India will win the coronavirus war and turn the crisis into an opportunity, and that the pandemic will make India self-reliant.
Presently, despite being the world’s fourth largest producer, India is the second largest importer of the dry-fuel, PM Modi had said.
“Allowing private sector in commercial coal mining is unlocking resources of a nation with the world’s fourth-largest reserves,” he had pointed out.
He had said that the launch of the auction process not only marked the beginning of unlocking of the country’s coal sector from the lockdown of decades, but aimed at making India the largest exporter of coal.
The commencement of auction process of these blocks is part of the series of announcements made under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ or self-reliant India Mission to revive the Indian economy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Bangkok last November, Mr. Guterres had stressed on the need to stop the creation of new power plants based on coal in the future, adding that there are still several new coal power plants for electricity production foreseen in the future in East Asia, in Southeast Asia and in South Asia.
There is an addiction to coal that we need to overcome because it remains a major threat in relation to climate change, he had said.