The 2% growth in India’s CO2 emissions expected in 2019 is lower than the annual increase since 2001

In the first eight months of 2019, growth in India’s CO2 emissions slowed down sharply, putting the country on track to its lowest annual increase in nearly 20 years.

Our analysis, based on data from various ministries responsible for electricity, coal, oil, gas and foreign trade, shows that emissions increased by 2% in the first eight months of the year, a lower rate than any annual increase since 2001.

The main reason was a slowdown in the expansion of coal-fired electricity generation, the analysis shows, with renewable output surging and demand growth slowing.

Oil demand growth has also slowed this year, helping keep the increase in India’s emissions to just 2%, against an average of 5% per year over the past decade.

The trend in India’s CO2 emissions is of global importance. Since 2013, the country has accounted for more than half of the increase in global CO2 output. Slower growth in coal-based power generation will also benefit the country’s air quality efforts, as essentially all coal-fired power plants in India lack pollution controls commonly required in, say, the EU and China.

Slowest growth

India’s CO2 emissions have doubled since 2005, driven by a rapid expansion in coal use. The growth is poised to slow down in 2019, however, as the chart below shows.

Electricity generation from coal slowed markedly in the first eight months of 2019, putting the country on track to its slowest power-sector emissions increase in three decades. This was due to a surge in renewable power generation and a slowdown in demand growth, which means the share of fossil fuels in meeting power demand growth will be the lowest in the past 30 years

As a result, India’s coal use (black area in the chart) increased relatively slowly in the first part of 2019. Oil demand growth moderated, too (blue), meaning CO2 emissions in the first eight months of the year increased by an estimated 2.0% (red line).

Sources: Coal consumption estimated based on production data from Ministry of Coal and trade data from the Directorate General on Foreign Trade; oil and gas consumption from Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

The 2% growth in India’s CO2 emissions expected in 2019 is lower than the annual increase seen in any year since 2001.

Renewable expansion

Some 75% of India’s electricity is still generated from fossil fuels, meaning the country has one of the world’s dirtiest electricity systems. The power sector is also responsible for half of India’s CO2 emissions.

Since 2000, electricity demand has grown at an increasingly rapid pace – as shown in the chart below bottom right – and most of this increase has been met by rising coal generation (top left).

In recent years, however, rapid growth in renewable generation has seen coal meet a shrinking share of the increase in overall demand. In the first six months of 2019, wind (top right), solar (bottom left) and hydro (top centre) met a record 70% of the increase in electricity demand, according to our analysis of data compiled from Central Electricity Authority monthly reports.