Boris Johnson Meets Coal Baron on India Tour Despite Calling For End to Dirtiest Fossil Fuel

Boris Johnson and Gautam Adani also met last year ahead of the COP26 climate summit, at which the UK pushed for a global phase-out of coal-fired power.
Boris Johnson Meets Coal Baron on India Tour Despite Calling For End to Dirtiest Fossil Fuel
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Boris Johnson Adani
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Adani Group HQ in Gujarat, India. Credit: Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Boris Johnson has met with the head of an Indian multinational conglomerate building Australia’s largest coal mine, despite having called on the world to phase out the fuel as part of the UK’s COP26 presidency.  

The UK prime minister met with billionaire Gautam Adani this week on a trip to India to strengthen relations between the two countries and promote “jobs, growth and opportunity”. 

Adani tweeted a photo of the meeting with Johnson today, writing: “Honoured to host @BorisJohnson, the first UK PM to visit Gujarat, at Adani HQ. Delighted to support climate & sustainability agenda with focus on renewables, green H2 & new energy. Will also work with UK companies to co-create defence & aerospace technologies.”

Adani Group has pledged to be carbon neutral and embrace renewable energy, but at the same time is expanding its coal production, with plans to double its coal-fired power capacity to 24GW, according to analysis last year by campaign group Market Forces.

Campaigners said Adani is trying to brand himself as a “climate leader” despite his “appalling” record of coal extraction, and accused Johnson of going along with the “charade”.

Adani also met Johnson at the UK government’s “global investment summit” in October ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit hosted in Glasgow, Scotland. 

‘Consigning Coal to History’

The UK has used its presidency of COP26 to call for a global phase-out of coal-fired power. 

During the negotiations, Johnson hailed “significant steps made to consign coal to the history books” and praised the resulting Glasgow Agreement for being the “first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees”. 

The UK is also a leading member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of governments and businesses supporting a transition away from the fuel. 

The Adani Group has faced opposition in India for its coal extraction and pollution, and protests in Australia over its Carmichael coal mine. 

Jess Worth, co-director at Culture Unstained, which campaigns against fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts, told DeSmog: “Gautam Adani’s record on coal extraction is appalling. 

“His company is planning on quadrupling its coal output in India by 2024, despite massive resistance from Indigenous Adivasi communities whose lands and livelihoods are being destroyed. Meanwhile in Australia Adani is building the country’s biggest coal mine. 

“Despite this, Gautam Adani is trying to brand himself as a climate leader – and it seems Boris Johnson is happy to go along with this charade.”

Culture Unstained has criticised Adani Group’s solar and wind business for funding a new gallery at the Science Museum in central London on “energy revolution”. 

The gallery will reportedly “explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.

“Our leaders, in both politics and the museums sector, must stop cosying up to this coal baron and instead call him out on his highly destructive business activities,” Worth said.

Adani Group did not respond when contacted for comment.

When asked, the government did not address the Prime Minister’s meeting with Adani.

A government spokesperson said: “We continue to work proactively with industry across a range of technologies to decarbonise our energy and industry systems.

“Our record on renewable energy speaks for itself. In recent months alone, we’ve secured record investment in wind power, published a world-leading hydrogen strategy, launched a new UK Emissions Trading Scheme, committed to end coal power by 2024, pledged £1 billion in funding to support the development of carbon capture and invested £2 billion to support the decarbonisation of transport.”

Updated on 22/4/22 with government comment.

Boris Johnson Meets Coal Baron on India Tour Despite Calling For End to Dirtiest Fossil Fuel
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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