India's reliance on coal means the country is heading for an energy crisis unless it diversifies its sources of power, the chairman of the UN's top climate change panel predicted on Wednesday.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said India had to curb its high-polluting coal consumption in the near future or risk burning through its reserves.
"There's going to be a major constraint in supply of coal and if we don't bring about a shift to a more sustainable pattern of energy consumption and supply India is going to face a major crisis," he told reporters in New Delhi.
He added that India was projected to import 750 million tonnes of oil and 1.4 billion tonnes of coal a year by 2031 and 2032.
"We have already become major coal importers and it is a myth to believe that India has unlimited mineable quantities of coal and that we can use as much as we want," Indian-born Pachauri said.
According to the International Energy Agency, more than half of the world's energy demands by 2030 will come from India and its fellow emerging economic powerhouse China.
Already among the world's top 10 oil importers, India is expected to become the world's fourth-largest by 2025, according to US government data.
The Ministry of Coal projected India's coal imports for 2008-2009 to be around 58 million tonnes.
Coal currently provides just under 55 percent of the country's massive electricity needs, resulting in a huge carbon footprint on account of the country's 1.2 billion population.
Pachauri urged India to improve energy efficiency and make "a very rapid move" to use more renewable sources of energy.
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