This week the World Bank approved partial financing for a $4.2 billion coal-fired power station in India.
The 4,000 MW plant is said to provide crucial power for millions of Indians, a supposedly much-needed boost for industry and use “super-critical” technology that will make it India’s most-efficient coal-fired plant.
The Bank’s board approved $450 million in loans through its International Finance Corp for the Tata Mundra project and the IFC said it looked at many alternative ideas, including wind and solar, but found the giant coal power station was the best solution because of cost.
The volume of emissions from the plant will be about 40 percent less than existing coal-fired plants in India but it will still produce up to 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Not surprisingly, that’s angered environmental groups who say the World Bank is failing to help fight global warming by backing polluting projects. The Bank said using solar or wind for the project instead of coal would have been just too expensive to meet India’s vast appetite for electricity.
Environmentalists say much more investment and willingness needs to go into clean energy to help poor nations prevent the polluting mistakes of richer nations. Otherwise we’re all doomed to face a warmer world with rising seas and more chaotic weather.
No one disputes India’s right to develop. But should lenders such as the World Bank impose a ban on involvement in future coal plants as a way to focus global investment on clean energy? For the Tata Mundra project, the IFC said coal was the least expensive option and that using solar or wind would have required billions in subsidies.
It seems a lose/lose game. It seems impossible to win the sustainability argument in a world totally obsessed with materialism and money, and consequently we are all moving closer to a situation where we won’t be able to enjoy either in the long run because of the consequences of that obsession.