Sweet justice: Tribals will get to stay in the Aravalli forests after India’s Supreme Court chastised the state government for trying to evict them | Image credit: SanjayPhotoWorld

India’s top court stays controversial tribal eviction order

The last day of February brought some much-needed relief for over a million tribals and forest-dwellers in India. The Supreme Court ordered a stay on its February 13 order asking states to evict tribals and forest-dwellers, whose claim on forest land had been rejected. The stay was ordered after the Centre stepped in seeking a modification and told the court that it was difficult to ascertain if the states had rejected the claims only after following due process and if all other appeal mechanisms had been exhausted. In some other cases, the Centre argued, the claimants had been unable to appeal the rejection as they had not been informed of the same by the state government concerned.

The states now have to submit all details related to the rejection of the claims made by the tribals and forest-dwellers to the Supreme Court in the next four months.

Haryana’s move to open up Aravallis to ‘development’ may turn Delhi into a desert

The Supreme Court of India came down heavily on the northern state of Haryana for flouting its orders and diluting the law to allow construction in the Aravalli hills. “Do you think you are supreme?” the judges rapped the state saying, “It is really shocking. You are destroying the forest… it is not permissible,” the attempt to bring in the changes was “sheer contempt”.

The Haryana government is facing angry protests led by citizens, climate campaigners, and the Opposition over the new law opening up the Aravallis, one of Earth’s oldest mountain ranges, to construction and mining. Environmentalists warn that allowing construction in the 25,000 hectares of forest areas under the guise of providing “jobs to locals” would be a disaster. While the fragile region continues to battle rampant illegal mining, “the revival of the Aravallis’ remaining forested areas is the last change to prevent Delhi and its neighbourhood from turning into a desert”, wrote Down to Earth.

Teens in the West fight against fossil fuel money

Thousands of teenagers participated in climate strikes across the western hemisphere, with a plan to stage a global strike on March 15, “on every continent”. Excluded from the decision-making process, the young protesters say they are now rising “to demand justice for all past, current and future victims of the climate crisis.” A video of teen climate activist Isha Clarke’s clash with US Senator Dianne Feinstein over climate action went viral. In Europe, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the students’ climate strike, held rallies in four countries in eight days, and appeared at the European parliament in Brussels, shaming politicians and urging them to take climate action.

Campaigners move EU court, claim wood, biomass is not renewable energy

Campaigners from Europe and the US have moved the European Court of Justice seeking a ban on treating biomass and wood as a renewable energy source, Climate Home reported. According to them, burning wood or biomass to generate electricity or heat is harmful and not a solution to tackle climate change. The case challenges the legal directive on renewables, as part of the EU’s plans to achieve 32% energy from renewable sources by 2030. Climate Home reported that nearly two-thirds of EU renewables comprise various forms of bioenergy. Scientists say trees should not be burned and harvested, but allowed to age and act as a carbon sink. Burning wood releases more CO2 than coal, but EU considers it to be burning wood as carbon neutral because trees grow back and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

EU wavers on Paris commitment, to open US trade talks

The European Union (EU) has backtracked on its pledge to only strike deals with countries committed to the Paris Agreement. With the US threatening to slap import tariffs on European cars, a committee of the European Parliament, just about passed a resolution (21 votes to 17) allowing the European Commission (EC) to discuss two trade deals with the US, which effectively lift any tariffs and diminish bureaucratic hurdles between the two parties concerned.

EU’s shelving of climate concerns comes exactly a year after the EC backed France’s appeal to make trade deals with the US contingent on membership of the Paris climate agreement. “This point is a priority for the EU and it would be difficult to imagine concluding an important trade deal without an ambitious chapter on trade and sustainable development attached to it,” a commission trade spokesperson had told Climate Home News at the time.

French experts propose trillion-euro EU climate finance pact

French experts and architects of the Paris agreement, including the country’s former prime minister Laurent Fabius, have drafted a plan for a sweeping trillion-Euro EU climate finance pact, Climate Home reported. The draft treaty, backed by 600 politicians, has plans for a new bank and a fund to mobilise cash on a large scale. The report said, “Proponents hope to put it on the agenda of a summit on the future of Europe this month and European Parliament elections in May.”

UN’s flagship fund GCF gets new boss

French UN official Yannick Glemarec was named the new chief of the UN’s flagship climate fund: The Green Climate Fund (GCF). Glemarec’s job will be to lead the fundraising drive at the GCF. He will coordinate with economist Johannes Linn, facilitator of the replenishment process. Climate Home drew attention to the missing women at the helm of GCF: “You have to ask how an institution drawing from an international pool landed on two white men. Particularly when the highly qualified Mafalda Duarte was in the running. Maybe the 7:1 male to female ratio on the selection panel goes some way to explain it…”

GCF, which started with $10.2 billion of pledges from developed countries, is facing a huge fund crunch after the US declined to contribute $2 billion of a $3-billion pledge.

Switzerland to push for geoengineering governance at UN meet in Kenya

With no signs of a dip in greenhouse gas emissions, geoengineering research is quickly gaining more prominence than ever before and this is worrying Switzerland. The country is concerned about the rise of geoengineering, which refers to techniques used to modify climate – like tampering with clouds – to tackle the climate change menace without an international system to govern the use of such technology, which is often untested. Switzerland now plans to introduce a resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Kenya, in a bid to kick-start a conversation on the topic.

Geoengineering is being increasingly looked at as a possible solution to slow down climate change, for example, creating technology to control solar radiation. While wealthier countries are experimenting increasingly, a new fund was also recently launched to help poorer countries explore geoengineering as a possible solution to their climate problems.

China’s CO2 emissions rose by 3% in 2018, despite growth in renewables

China may be making strides in drawing power from renewables (grew 29% in 2018), but at the same time, its CO2 emissions grew by approximately 3% last year – this is what an analysis of official data conducted by Greenpeace UK’s Unearthed found. The study says that thanks to China, the “coal-to-chemicals – the dirtiest industry you never heard of – is back in vogue” and that coal demand, which rose by 5%, was mainly driven by the power sector. Meanwhile, China’s wind power generation increased 20% and solar PV 50% in 2018, reported Unearthed.

Australia’s minister caught lying about his country’s rising emissions

Australia’s energy minister made some shockingly fake claims on TV about his country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Angus Taylor falsely claimed that Australia’s emissions fell by 1%, but his government’s own data says the opposite. In an interview with the ABC programme Insiders, Angus Taylor said, “Yes, they’re coming down and the department rightly believes they’re going to continue to go down and the result of this is we will reach not just our Kyoto targets and still in the Kyoto period, we will reach our Paris targets.”

On climate science Taylor said: “Linking every weather event to climate change is just not good science.” While on renewable energy he said: “Our energy system needs significant reform and investment, particularly non-renewable and non-intermittent.”

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