Right way forward? India’s FM Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s decision to privatise the power distribution sector in the country’s Union Territories as part of the economic stimulus| Photo: New Indian Express

India announces plan to privatise power distribution in UTs; experts express doubts

As part of the ₹20 lakh-crore economic package, India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s decision to privatise the power distribution sector in the country’s Union Territories (UTs). The government hopes this will become a model for other states to follow suit.

According to experts, however, the lack of a concrete strategy to implement such reforms, which are not new and have been announced before, would mean failure, much like in the case of the Modi government’s first bailout and reform programme for DISCOMs, Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY).

Moody’s Investor Service has changed its outlook of the Indian power sector from stable to negative citing payment delays, decline in power demand, and adverse impact from government measures that favour consumers more than utilities as some of the factors for the downgrade.   

Decide on pending claims before making policy changes, Niti Aayog tells mining ministry

The mines ministry has received a stern warning from government think-tank Niti Aayog not to go ahead with any policy changes until pending mining applications are resolved completely. The think-tank believes not taking a decision on pending claims could adversely impact investor confidence.

Niti Aayog’s warning was in response to reports that the Centre is considering major mining reforms, including the deletion of a provision in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2015 that guarantees a successful explorer the right to move ahead –from a reconnaissance permit to a prospecting licence, or from a prospecting licence to a mining lease. The mining ministry hopes this move would free up at least 500 mineral areas that can then be put up for auction.

Don’t envisage any damage to environment, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park while drilling: OIL

Oil India Limited (OIL) has publicly stated there will be no damage to the environment and the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam when the company begins drilling for hydrocarbon resources up to 3.5km underneath the surface of the national park.

OIL, which has stated it has received environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) for extension drilling & testing of Hydrocarbons at seven locations under the park, cited the use of latest technology called Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) technology to ensure no environmental damage.   

EU’s green COVID-19 recovery plan includes clean power, hydrogen fuel

The EU’s recovery plan from the Coronavirus pandemic promises to be environment friendly. The package will focus on building renovation, renewable energy and clean hydrogen fuel. The European Commission will set aside 91 billion euros each year for renovations including rooftop solar panels, insulation and renewable heating systems. The EU also plans to tender 15GW of renewable energy capacity in the next two years, with expected investments of €25 billion. A €10 billion fund, to be overseen by the European Investment Bank, will offer loans to renewable energy and clean hydrogen projects. 

UK proposes a full year delay for COP26

The UK government has proposed delaying the COP26 climate negotiations by a full year to November 1-12, 2021. Co-hosts, UK and Italy, had jointly on April 1 decided to postpone the meeting, which was originally to be held in November 2020 in Glasgow due to disruptions from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The delay in the upcoming round of negotiations comes as the enforcement of the Paris Agreement enters a crucial phase, and is likely to cause further delays in future meetings.

EU aims to halve use of chemical pesticides by 2030

The European Commission unveiled ambitious plans this past fortnight in a bid to align the European Union’s (EU) agriculture sector, which accounts for 10% of its greenhouse gas emissions, with its climate policy aims. The commission said it would halve the use of chemical pesticides by 2030, and aim to ensure at least 25% of agricultural land is reserved for organic farming. This stands at 8% currently. The EU also plans to reduce the use of antibiotics for fish and animal farming by 50%.  

China’s carbon-intensive economic recovery plans a concern, say experts

China’s post-COVID-19 recovery plan has worried experts, who say the country is relying majorly on heavy industry and carbon-intensive projects to boost its economy. China had pledged to cut the amount of CO2 emissions it produces per unit of GDP – by 40%-45% from 2005-2020 as per the Paris Agreement. But the COVID-19 crisis has caused much damage to the country’s economy, especially its less carbon-intensive sector, making the target difficult to meet.

China’s state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has already announced plans to focus on traditional infrastructure projects such as railways and water treatment and new high-tech infrastructure such as more efficient ultra-high voltage (UHV) power transmission lines. It also approved five coal power plants in March to provide power to two UHV lines.

This won’t be the first time China has relied on carbon-intensive growth, according to the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), while citing SARS and the global financial crisis as previous instances.

Brazil defers vote on controversial land bill

Brazil’s lower house of Congress last week delayed voting on a land bill that critics claim will lead to deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest. The legislation, which seeks to provide land deeds to illegal settlers in the rainforest has led to several European companies threatening to boycott Brazilian exports. Environmentalists have opposed the bill stating that it will serve to reward illegal land grabbing and deforestation, mainly for agriculture. The current version of the bill is a watered down version of a 2018 draft that sought to open up the rainforest to farming activity.

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