Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man – and coal tycoon – is looking toward green energy?

Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man – and coal tycoon – is looking toward green energy?
Source: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Over the course of the pandemic, while most people experienced an intense recession, some billionaires saw their wealth multiply. By, like, a lot. For example, India suffered intensely, with millions of people pushed into poverty. In fact, India’s economic struggles made up more than half of the global poverty increase in 2020. Meanwhile, India’s wealthiest saw their combined fortunes skyrocket by tens of billions of dollars. This division represents the growing wealth gap in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Now, newly-crowned the world’s third-richest person, India’s Gautam Adani is trailing right behind the second-richest, Jeff Bezos, and the world’s richest, Elon Musk. Adani is listed on the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index with a net worth of around US$143 billion. As the founder of Adani Group, his primary industry is coal, which accounts for around 62% of his conglomerates’ revenue. But, he’s branched out into other fields like media and digital services, airports, data centers and telecommunications. Now, this coal tycoon is trying to reinvent his image, pledging to invest US$70 billion by 2030 into green energy. Activist organization SumOfUs says Adani’s mining operations are responsible for at least 3% of global carbon emissions from coal, so we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Key comments:

“India is on the cusp of decades of growth that the world will want to tap into. Therefore, there can be no better defense of our interests at this time than atmanirbhar,” Adani said at an address in Mumbai, using the Hindi term for self-reliance. “For India, the combination of solar and wind power coupled with green hydrogen opens up unprecedented possibilities.”

“The country has now reached a stage where the top 15 business houses account for 90% of the country’s profits,"  said Saurabh Mukherjea, founder of Marcellus Investment Managers.

“It’s hard not to see Adani’s green investments as anything but cover for his company’s coal expansion,” said Nick Haines, a SumOfUs campaign manager in Melbourne, “or at best having his cake and eating it too.”