Fair deal? Experts have said the EU’s economic recovery package is a mixed bag when it comes to climate action | Photo: CNN

Green conditions attached to EU’s €750 billion post-COVID recovery plan

The European Union, this week, concluded a prolonged round of negotiations to decide the budget of the bloc for the next seven years running up to 2027, including €750 billion for post-COVID recovery stimulus. The mammoth stimulus and the €1.82 trillion in total expenses approved by EU heads of states and governments until 2027 shall come attached with riders ensuring the reservation of 25% of spending for climate-friendly expenditure. While the move has been seen as aiding international efforts towards limiting climate change and its impacts, environmentalists have noted that specific allocations have been diluted in order to reach an agreement. Prominently, the Just Transition Fund, which has been created to facilitate a shift to cleaner energy sources was slashed to just €10 billion over the next seven years from the initial proposal of €40 billion.

Publicise EIA 2020 in local languages, give time for feedback to avoid stay on law: K’taka HC to Centre

In a major boost for environmentalists, the Karnataka high court has warned the central government that if it does not widely publicise the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 in local languages and give affected parties time to offer their feedback, the court will consider staying the proposed law.  The court gave the warning in response to a petition filed by an environment non-profit seeking an extension in deadline for feedback to December 31, 2020.

The Modi government, meanwhile, blocked a website that criticized the EIA 2020. LetIndiabreathe.in was blocked by the National Internet Exchange of India (NiXi) just weeks after the critical sample letter was emailed over a thousand times to the Union environment ministry.  The NiXi also blocked the website for the India chapter of Greta Thunberg’s international movement, FridaysforFuture.in, along with ThereisnoEarthB.com.

Globally, economic recovery packages aiming to save businesses, ignoring climate change: Studies

Studies have shown that despite enormous pressure on governments to include climate change initiatives in their economic recovery packages, most have chosen to save business over our planet. According to an Energy Policy Tracker database launched this week by a group of research institutes and campaigners, G20 countries have pledged $151 billion to support sectors that rely on fossil fuels, such as airlines, oil and gas, roadbuilding and coal. In contrast, these governments have committed just $89 billion on green energy, according to the data.

Another study by consultancy Vivid Economics found that the recovery packages of 17 significant countries will spend around $3.5 trillion on sectors that will have a significant environmental impact and will largely ignore the green sector.

A third study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that Europe has been a leader as far as green recovery policies are concerned, committing 0.31% of its GDP to green spending, which is much more than the average of 0.01% pledged by North America and Asia.

Saudi Arabia seeks to censor discussion on fossil fuel subsidies at G20 summit

The host of this year’s G20, Saudi Arabia, is moving to remove the words ‘fossil fuel subsidies’ from expert briefings and replacing it with ‘fossil fuel incentives’, angering environmental activists. This change comes despite the fact the G20 countries made a commitment in 2009 to phase out fossil fuels. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter because it has been able to sell its oil much below the international price benchmarks as a result of low production costs.

Half a million FRA claims rejected by states in suo motu review

Over half a million (543,432) claims under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, in suo motu reviews have been rejected by 14 states till February 24 of this year – this information was shared by state governments with the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) in a meeting held on February 24. West Bengal rejected around 92% of all reviewed claims. Not all the claims that have been rejected will lead to the eviction of the claimants because several were rejected because of double entries.

Climate laws are effective, but lot more needs to be done: Study

A new study published in the journal Nature has observed the impact that climate laws in 133 countries between 1996 and 2016 have had on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The results are encouraging, in that legislative activity – in the form of parliamentary acts, executive orders and policies, have had an impact – both short term and long term. But there is room for much more initiative.  

According to the study, each new law reduces annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 0.78% nationally in the short term (during the first three years). In the long term (more than three years), the percentage goes up to 1.79%.

Australia set for net-zero emissions target by 2050

Australia’s Northern Territory became the last jurisdiction in the country to commit to net-zero by 2050. This means that the country now has a de facto national net-zero target.

Meanwhile, the country’s Great Barrier Reef, which has become a cause for concern after regular bleaching events were observed in the past few years, is now getting the help it needs. A government-backed research programme is set to spend $4.7 million to develop technologies that could shade the corals and make clouds more reflective during marine heatwaves.

In boost to US infra projects, Trump weakens environmental law

US President Donald Trump announced plans to alter the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA), to make things easier for infrastructure projects. The original law, established in 1970, required federal agencies to remain transparent and take feedback from the public before starting work on infrastructure projects that could have an impact on the environment. The Trump administration, however, wants the time limit for the review process to be shortened – a move that could have a direct impact on the approval for projects related to coal mines, power plants, pipelines and roads.