India’s sulfur dioxide emissions dropped in 2019, the first decline in four years for the world’s largest spewer of the pollutant responsible for human health risks and acid rain.
Emissions from India dropped 6% last year as the country consumed less coal, mirroring a similar decline in global emissions of the toxic gas, according to a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, and Greenpeace. All three of the world’s top emitters — India, Russia and China — saw reductions in sulfur dioxide, according to the report which analyzed NASA satellite data.
The reduction in sulfur dioxide, which increases the risks of heart and lung diseases, is good news for Indian cities that have some of the world’s dirtiest air. Still, dangers remain as coal is set to dominate the nation’s energy mix for years to come.
“In India we’re getting a glimpse of what reduced coal use means for air quality and health,” Avinash Chanchal, campaigner at Greenpeace India, said in a press release. “But our air is still far, far from safe. We must speed up the energy transition away from coal and toward renewables, for our health and the economy.”
India accounted for 21% of global SO2, mostly from coal-fired power plants that lack pollution-curbing equipment, the report said.