One nation, two faces: China’s energy investments in the Belt and Road projects across Central Asia remain coal-heavy, despite pledges to cut emissions | Image:

Greenpeace reports surge in China’s Belt and Road power investments from 2014-2019

Bittersweet news from coal superpower China. Environmental group Greenpeace said Chinese equity investment in solar and wind power projects in Belt and Road countries has surged between 2014 and 2019. According to the report, China’s wind and solar power investments in Belt and Road countries amounted to 12.6 gigawatts (GW) since the initiative was launched in 2014. It had invested in just 0.45 GW of solar prior to 2014.

Worryingly though, the lion’s share of the investments have gone towards coal. Greenpeace reports that China has invested in 67.9 gigawatts of new coal-fired power in Belt and Road countries since 2014, with coal still out-financing renewables by 6:1. Worldwide, China has been found to support more than a quarter of all new coal-fired plants worldwide, with its capacity expected to peak at around 1,300 GW this year, up from around 1,140 GW at the end of last year.

Climate battle’s success or failure depends on what happens in Asia: UN

Ahead of its key climate summit in September, the UN proclaimed that the battle to combat climate change will “succeed or fail” based on what happens in Asia. Officials pointed to the region because of its increasing dependence on fossil fuels to meet the demands of its growing energy needs. One of the main goals the summit aims to meet is to secure zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Showing the big guns at the summit how it’s done will be teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who is teaming up with the Monaco royal family and sailing to the New York summit in a ‘zero-carbon’ racing yacht.

India’s small hydro power projects getting by with a little help from the govt

Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects are being set up in both the public and private sector with assistance from government schemes, the Union Minister of State for New & Renewable Energy and Power, RK Singh told the Lok Sabha on July 25. As of June 30, 2019, the aggregate capacity of SHPs was 4604.81 MW, with 116 other projects, with the potential capacity of 589.99 MW, were under construction, the minister said. Apart from financial assistance, the government has also been providing support to carry out detailed surveys and investigations, renovating and modernizing existing government projects, apart from other assistance.

Population of tigers in India rises; forest reserves in danger of being railroaded  

The population of tigers has more than doubled in India over 12 years to 2,967 in 2018, official figures released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed last week. This data was collected as part of a government survey over 381,400 km of forested habitats across 20 states that are home to India’s tiger population. Meanwhile, another study valued India’s 10 biggest tiger reserves at over Rs5.96 lakh crore by the Centre for Ecological Services Management (CESM). Palamau, which is in Jharkhand, has not recorded the presence of a single tiger, but was valued the highest at Rs20,700 crore.  

While the tiger population may have risen, forest reserves, including tiger reserves, have not received the same care and attention. According to official documents accessed by IndiaSpend under the RTI Act, India’s environment ministry exempted 13 railway projects worth Rs19,400 crore from obtaining forest clearances. The projects are spread over 800 acres of land, which includes a national park, a tiger reserve, wildlife sanctuaries in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. Faster environmental clearances seem to have in fact become a point of pride for the government as Union Minister for MOEF&CC Prakash Javadekar claimed this week that waiting time for clearances will be cut to just 70-80 days. Although, the minister also attempted to distance the government from the controversial zero draft amendment of Indian Forest  Act (1927) which has raised concerns over the rights and wellbeing of forest-dwelling communities.

Maharashtra, Gujarat have most non-compliant polluting industries 

 According to the data released by the government in the Parliament, Maharashtra and Gujarat have the most number of polluting industries that have still not complied with the pollution control norms. Together, the two states account for over 53% of all non-compliant industries in the country. Maharashtra has 179 non-compliant factories, while Gujarat has 97. Tamil Nadu is the cleanest with zero non-compliant industries. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) figures revealed here were a total of 4,264 highly polluting industries in India. Out of these, 518 industries are still non-compliant. MoS for environment, Babul Supriyo also informed the Parliament that the CPCB had currently classified 2,743 industries as Grossly Polluting Industries (GPI). Of the 2,497 operational units, only 2,222 were reported as complying to environmental norms. 

Smoke-free by 2021? Maharashtra govt clears LPG subsidy scheme

With an aim to make Maharashtra smoke-free by 2021, the state cabinet cleared a scheme to provide a subsidy on LPG connections, similar to the Prime Minister Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). This will take care of those Below Poverty Line (BPL) families that have been left out of the central government scheme, which covers only a limited number of BPL families.

Indian govt announces ‘grand goals’ to achieve ‘green railways’ in 10 years

India’s railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced ambitious steps last week to help the country achieve the world’s first green railways in 10 years. These steps include setting up solar energy installations on unutilised land, electrification of tracks and moving away from coal and towards biodiesel. Goyal said the railways plans to 100% electrify all tracks by 2022.  

One environment activist dies every month on average in India: Report

India is the third-deadliest country for environment activists. According to a report by non-profit Global Witness, almost one person was killed in India every month in 2018 while trying to protect the land or the environment.

Globally, this number stood at 164 in 2018, with Philippines (30 deaths) replacing Brazil (20) as the deadliest country for environment defenders. Colombia (24) came in second on the list followed by India (23). Thirteen of the 23 deaths in India were reported when the police opened fire on people protesting the shutdown of Sterlite Copper’s melting plant in Tamil Nadu. 

Google aims to achieve carbon-neutral shipping, using recycled plastic for all its devices Carbon-neutral shipping of its electronic devices by next year and including recycled plastic in each of its products by 2022 – these are the two commitments Google announced this fortnight. Currently, Google has said its transport-related carbon emissions per unit fell 40% last year compared to 2017 after it began relying on ships instead of planes to deliver electronic devices from the factories to customers globally. Also, the company claims three out of nine Google products, such as Google Home speakers and Chromecast streaming dongles, currently contain some recycled plastic.