India, largest producer of sulfur dioxide, experiences first drop in 4 years

India’s sulfur dioxide emissions fell in 2019, the first drop in four years for the world’s largest emitter of the pollutant responsible for human health risks and acid rain.

India’s emissions fell 6% last year as the country consumed less coal, reflecting a similar drop in global toxic gas emissions, according to a report by the Energy and Clean Air Research Center and Greenpeace. The world’s three largest emitters – India, Russia and China – have recorded reductions in sulfur dioxide, according to the report which analyzed NASA satellite data.

Reducing sulfur dioxide, which increases the risk of heart and lung disease, is good news for India’s dirtiest-looking cities in the world. Still, dangers remain, as coal is expected to dominate the country’s energy mix for years to come.

“In India, we have a glimpse of what reducing the use of coal means for air quality and health,” Avinash Chanchal, activist at Greenpeace India, said in a press release. “But our air is still far, far from sure. We must accelerate the energy transition from coal to renewable energies, for our health and the economy. “

India accounted for 21% of the world’s SO2, mostly coal-fired power plants that lack pollution abatement equipment, according to the report. In contrast, China, the world’s largest coal burner, has seen its SO2 emissions drop 5% last year and 87% since 2011, thanks to higher emissions standards and increased use. scrubbers in power plants.

India’s environment ministry set new standards for SO2, nitrogen oxides and mercury emissions in 2015, requiring power plants to comply within two years. Instead, producers have successfully pushed for the deadline to be pushed back to 2022 and are now asking for a further extension, citing a lack of clarity on how the costs will be offset.

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