The work must go on: Construction activity at thermal, hydro power plants outside municipal limits can continue in India despite a lockdown | Photo: ET Energyworld

Allow construction activities at thermal, hydro power plants outside municipal limits, Indian power ministry tells states

Amidst the coronavirus lockdown, India’s power ministry has asked states to allow construction of thermal and hydro power plants that fall outside of municipal corporation limits. In a directive issued on April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also asked states to allow intra- and interstate movement of construction materials and equipment in order to complete these projects.

Dialogue on climate ends with calls to align climate action with COVID-19 recovery

The first inter-governmental climate meeting of the year, the 11th Petersberg Dialogue, was live-streamed amidst travel restrictions on April 27 and 28. The conclusion of the two-day conference, attended by 30 nations, was marked by UN Secretary General António Guterres’s closing remarks, which once again called for ambitious ramping up of climate action by governments, especially those of G20 nations. “The key to tackling the climate crisis is the big emitters. Let us not forget that the G20 countries collectively account for more than 80% of global emissions and over 85% of the global economy. All of them must also commit to carbon neutrality by 2050.” Guterres also zeroed-in on China and the US as the biggest and most influential players in determining the success of climate change mitigation efforts. “The Paris agreement was largely made possible by the engagement of the United States and China. Without the contribution of the big emitters, all efforts risk to be doomed,” he said.

The UN Secretary general also outlined six-climate related actions to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while also combating climate change. A day earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as head of state of the host country, had highlighted the importance of large-scale financing for climate-friendly projects and the need for internationally agreed CO2 pricing. She also warned nations against the temptation to push climate action to the back-burner in favor of short-term economic stimulus measures.

New Zealand is sticking to its current 2030 climate goal, for now

In some disappointing news for environmentalists, New Zealand has reaffirmed its previously set 2030 climate target even as the United Nations (UN) expects countries to toughen up their goals by the end of this year. The country’s current target is to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 and a net zero goal for all greenhouse gas emissions (except biogenic methane) in 2050.

The country said it has set up a Climate Change Commission that would make recommendations in early 2021 on how New Zealand’s climate plan can become more consistent with the 1.5°C temperature goal. Its current plan, according to Climate Action Tracker, is insufficient to hold warming to 2°C – the minimum level agreed under the Paris Agreement.

South Korea on track to set 2050 net zero emissions goal after Democratic Party’s landslide win

The Democratic Party’s recent landslide victory in South Korea means the country is on track to set a 2050 net zero emissions goal as well as put an end to coal financing, which was part of the ‘Green New Deal’ mentioned in the party’s poll manifesto. Voting took place amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with voters turning out in record numbers wearing masks and gloves. President Moon Jae-in’s party won 180 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. South Korea has become the first country in East Asia to pledge the 2050 net zero emissions goal.

US flying near-empty flights leading to ‘huge environment waste’

Near-empty flights in the US on account of the coronavirus lockdown has led to a ‘huge environment waste’, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation. In the US, for example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported a 96% fall in passenger volume, but this has not been matched by a cut in flights.

Speaking of the impact on big industries, a new report analysed corporate lobbying on climate policy globally and found that it was the oil and gas sector and the airlines sector, which were actively seeking aid from the government in response to Covid-19, especially in the US, Canada and Australia.

Trump rolls back Obama-era mercury rule for coal plants

The Trump administration, this past fortnight, withdrew the legal justification for an Obama-era rule that compelled coal power plants to cut their mercury emissions. According to the current administration, the cost of compliance was far greater than the benefits to public health. While the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards still remain in place, this latest move could mean companies opposed to these guidelines can file lawsuits and also prevent the implementation of similar regulations in the future.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court rejected arguments put forth by the Trump administration to limit the reach of a water pollution law in Hawaii. Environmentalists had moved court seeking to sue Hawaii’s Maui County for letting discharge from a sewage facility reach the Pacific Ocean without obtaining the necessary permit under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration had sided with the county in the case.

The waste was not directly pumped into the Pacific. It was discharged into groundwater that ended up in the ocean. The Supreme Court held that a permit was required when ‘the discharge into groundwater is the “functional equivalent” of the discharge from a pipe or other point source’. This interpretation will help environmentalists move court in other cases where wastewater is discharged into groundwater.

ICE unveils global carbon price tracker

The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) has now launched an index that tracks and benchmarks the global price of emitting carbon dioxide. The index includes pricing from the world’s three most actively traded carbon markets – Europe’s Emissions Trading System, California’s Cap and Trade Program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The price will be calculated in US dollars based on the volume weighted average price of all three markets.