Not a priority: Schemes such as the National Adaptation Fund face drastic cuts in India’s budget for the next financial year | Photo: India Climate Dialogue

Budget 2021-22: Centre shrinks environment budget, cools off on coal

The Centre slashed the environment ministry’s budget for 2021-2022 to Rs2,869.93 crore, much less than the previously allocated ₹3,100 crore. Schemes such as the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), National Adaptation Fund (NAF) and Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) suffered major cuts. The budgetary allocation for ‘Control of pollution’ and the National Coastal mission, however, has been increased.

While finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman made announcements about the government’s push for green hydrogen and increased investments in the renewable sector, there was little mention of how the government plans to strategise public spending on conventional energy sources – coal, petroleum and gas. The new budget did, however, reflect the government’s intentions to decrease the presence of public sector enterprises in the mining arena, to give way to more commercial players. An indicator of this is the decreasing amount this government has been allocating to its exploration of coal and lignite the past couple of years. 

The finance minister’s announcement to extend the Centre’s flagship LPG distribution scheme – Ujwala, to an additional 1 crore beneficiaries received applause from her party colleagues. But the numbers are not adding up. Under LPG subsidies, the new budget slashed the allocation for Direct Bank Transfers (DBT)of subsidies to a third of what it had allocated last year – from ₹35,605 crore in 2020-21 to ₹12,480 crore in 2021-22. 

Budget 2021-22: No cuts in excise duty on petrol, diesel

Despite calls for cuts in excise duty on petrol and diesel prices, which have skyrocketed in recent months, the Centre stuck to its guns and did not announce any cuts. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, instead, tweaked the excise duty structure to accommodate an agriculture infrastructure development cess. The FM also batted for monetisation of oil and gas pipelines owned by GAIL, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL).

Climate change advisory bodies play key role in climate governance: Study

Are climate change advisory bodies really effective in influencing policy debates on the issue? A new study concluded that such bodies were not only doing what was asked of them, their influence has only grown over the years. The study, published in Taylor & Francis, used the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) as a case study. 

It found the CCC had a growing influence not only on political debates on carbon budgets, but also on broader topics such as energy and flood defence spending. The CCC, without being ‘politicised’ offered trusted information to policymakers and worked as a knowledge broker, the study concluded.   

France not doing enough to combat climate change, rules French court

This past fortnight, a French court ruled the country had to do more to combat climate change. Environmentalists called it a landmark ruling that could put pressure on other EU countries to battle climate change. The court was hearing a case filed by NGOs that accused the government of failing to fulfil its commitments, including those set in the Paris accord. A government spokesperson, while reacting to the ruling, agreed the state had not done much in the past to combat the issue, but that the current administration was working on it.  

China reinstates expert Xie Zhenhua as climate envoy

China reinstated climate expert and broker Xie Zhenhua as its climate envoy, a move seen as a response to the US’ appointment of John Kerry as its special climate envoy. The decision was also seen as China’s willingness to partake in climate talks with the Biden administration, which is significant because China and the US are among the major emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. Xie is known to have first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the Chinese government and has a strong personal relationship with Kerry, whom he worked with on the failed 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen and the 2014 US-China deal, which was pivotal in the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement. After the announcement, Kerry called Xie a “leader” and a “capable advocate” for China on global warming issues.

Companies may soon have to follow rules for climate disclosures

Companies may soon have to follow guidelines about their disclosures of climate change risks. An international accounting body, the IFRS Foundation, announced plans to draw out a blueprint by September for global rules that will govern such disclosures. The foundation stated that this would be followed by the announcement of the creation of a global sustainability standards board during COP26 in November this year. 

The move comes amidst growing calls for such rules to avoid ‘greenwashing’, where companies exaggerate their environment credentials in order to gain consumers. A study by the European Commission looked into such ‘green claims’ and found them, mostly from online stores selling clothing and textiles, to be dubious. EU watchdog European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said it had written to the European Commission, urging it to set new rules to avoid investors being duped by such ‘greenwashing’ claims.

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