A recipe for disaster: How climate change, mixed with oil prices, is stirring food insecurity

Rain shocks: Unseasonal rains have left vegetable prices soaring in several places across the country | Photo: Mint

Oil crisis aside, inclement weather has now become a near constant feature in the food price index Read more

Rain shocks: Unseasonal rains have left vegetable prices soaring in several places across the country | Photo: Mint

A recipe for disaster: How climate change, mixed with oil prices, is stirring food insecurity

Oil crisis aside, weather has now become a near constant feature in the food price index over the past year

The price of food is on a tear around the world. Global food prices are now 28% higher than they were at this time last year, and almost 40% higher than prices in November 2019. According to the latest update to the FAO’s Food Price Index (FFPI), released on December 2, the latest increase marks the fourth consecutive rise in the index and puts it at the highest level in over a decade.

The FFPI, however, doesn’t give the full story of how grievous the unraveling of food prices actually is. The FFPI has been formulated to convert actual price changes in a basket of food commodities, including cereals, vegetable oils, meats and sugars, into an index that is charted monthly. Effectively, this formulation generates a nominal price index, which can be used to track monthly changes in price, relative to baseline average of prices from 2014-16. While this is a convenient standard to track short-term trends, it does not reflect the double whammy of inflation or the real price of food.

When adjusted for inflation, the implications of the FFPI chart take on more daunting implications. According to independent analysis of real and nominal prices, the real price of food had shot past the 2011 peak back in August of this year, after which prices have continued to climb. In reality, prices are currently approaching levels not seen in almost 50 years.

Déjà vu in real time

Real prices this high were last seen in the early 1970s, when a rapid escalation in food prices finally climaxed with the 1973 oil crisis. Oil prices quadrupled practically overnight as the geopolitical turmoil caused by the Yom Kippur war spilled over into trade and global energy security. With oil prices remaining high for years, global food prices, too, retreated to pre-1972 levels only after 1976.

Incidentally, the parallels between the current situation and the one in the early 70s are hard to miss. While the primary trigger for the oil crisis (this time, the global pandemic driven supply shock), is vastly different, the effect on global markets has been markedly similar. Following the massive crash of crude oil after global lockdowns were enforced, economic recovery around the world comes with a shadow fraught with energy economics. As demand grew in 2021, crude oil supplies have remained tightly controlled amid continued uncertainties surrounding COVID. 

The supply shock was recently felt across the world as oil prices raced upward August through September of this year. Prices are only now receding tentatively following output increases from oil-producing countries and strategic reserve releases from several countries. However, prices remain around 30% higher than the beginning of the year, with looming fears of a spike in COVID cases caused by the Omicron variant bringing a fresh layer of uncertainty to the phased plan to increase oil outputs. 

As if things were not tenuous enough, there is also the simmering risk of military conflicts breaking out in the Middle East and the Russia-Ukraine border, which could have a protracted effect on global energy markets.

While disruptions in the global oil markets are strong indicators of spikes in food price, the two are not absolutely correlated. A testament to this is the oil crisis of 1979, during which food prices actually fell despite pressures on the global oil supply chain.

The compounding effect of climate

The food price spike in 1973 did not happen suddenly. In fact, prices were already on a steep incline for over a year before peaking with the energy crisis. According to FAO’s 1973 Status of Food and Agriculture report, drought was the primary cause for a decline in world food production for the first time since the Second World War in 1972, just as prices started creeping up. 

The current spike in global food prices is also embedded with deep imprints of extreme weather. Weather has become a near constant feature in FAO’s FFPI updates over the past year as inclement weather around the world has added to the supply side strains caused by the pandemic. 

A year of drought, flood and frost in Brazil, along with increasing pressures to increase ethanol supplies, has seen prices of coffee and sugar, most prominently, shoot up. Elsewhere in South and Latin America, too, food prices have been climbing rapidly as crop losses due to poor weather compounds disruptions in food supply chains. China’s monsoon rains brought historic levels of flooding to the central province of Henan and affected crop production and livestock in the. The summer was marked by a protracted heatwave and dry spell in North America, which has had an adverse effect on the output of farms in the agricultural belts of Canada and the US. Huge crop losses were reported from Europe, too, where a hot summer was accompanied by spells of heavy rains in Germany, Belgium and UK. A long-protracted drought in Eastern Africa has sparked fears of severe malnutrition in the region, while massive hikes in food prices have sparked riots in several parts of North Africa and the Middle East. India’s monsoon, which swung between extreme rain and extreme dryness between June and October, saw crops affected in over 5 million hectares.


The imprint of extreme weather and climate change in the current price trend is clearly analogous to the price spike of the early 1970s, except unlike before, extreme weather is now increasingly becoming an ‘all the time, everywhere’ kind of phenomenon. The real price of food has been on a prolonged upward trend since 2000, in lock-step with the increases in incidence of climate- and weather-related disasters as recorded by the FAO.

Unfortunately, the upward trend with respect to extreme weather is not surprising or startling. Several reports, including the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, have already foretold the story of how climate change is likely to create both short-term and long-term pressures on food availability. While increasing frequency of extreme weather creates upward pressures on food prices, sustained yield losses are projected in major cereal crops, particularly maize and wheat, even as demand keeps ticking up. Global stocks of cereals could be offering the first signs of such an eventuality. The global cereal stock looks set to record its fifth straight year of reductions after several successive years of growth since the early 2000s.

TOPping out: India’s food inflation problem looks set to worsen

Weeks before India’s Union minister of agriculture and farmers’ welfare Narendra Singh Tomar apprised the Lok Sabha of the crop damage during the 2021 monsoon, the Ministry of statistics revealed that India had recorded its highest ever Consumer Food Price Index in October 2021, marking the end to a three-month stagnation in food prices. According to the CFPI, food prices in India are 20% more expensive than they were in October 2018.

The short-term trend reversal came primarily as a reflection of the escalation in global prices of edible oils and fats, which in October 2021 was 56% more expensive than three years ago. Interestingly, after two successive years of high inflation in vegetables in September and October, the prices of vegetables saw a net reduction this year compared to the same period in 2020, effectively bringing average prices to 2019 levels. 

The respite in vegetable prices, however, is likely to be temporary. Vegetable prices, according to the RBI, are correlated the closest with weather in the basket of commodities used to determine food inflation. The year-on-year reduction in vegetable prices in India, although, does not fully capture the effect of heavy rainfall in September, the extension of monsoon rains in October or the spells of heavy rainfall that have hit several parts of the country in November. As per the RBI’s assessment, the impacts of weather on vegetable prices are often seen in the food price index with a lag and can stretch on for months. A large majority of the double-digit inflation instances since 1956 have had clear imprints of extreme weather and climate affecting the supplies of food and driving up prices.

From October to December 2021, close to 70% of the country saw rainfall excesses of over 20%. Even as October inflation figures were being published by the government, extreme rain and crop damages drove prices of tomatoes over Rs100/kg in several key tomato-producing regions in the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, reflecting a nearly 2,000% increase in just a couple of months. India’s two other vegetable staples—onions and potatoes— while more stable than tomatoes, also saw prices increasing in October before coming down again in November, in part due to the deployment of buffers. The prices of both, however, still remain about 20% above September rates in India’s major agricultural markets. 

The effects of the unusually wet spells in November and early December in several parts of the country, analysts believe, will likely keep vegetable prices high for a few more months. While tomato prices are expected to come down to under Rs50/kg by January 2022, an upswing in the prices of predominantly winter crops onions and potatoes could be in the offing as heavy rainfall and reported waterlogging from around the country could translate to upward pressures on price in the coming months.

The spikes in food and vegetable prices, particularly over the past three years hold a pertinent warning. While price rise due to extreme weather events are often termed transitory, the effects could drive prices to multi-decade cumulative levels. The costs of climate change are likely to be staggered and incremental rather than momentous. Food price trends, however, show the world is already on the path to steep but sustained hikes. It is only a matter of time before the effects on food security become hard to ignore.

Losing livelihoods: Extreme rain and flooding damaged infrastructure and crops in peninsular India. Photo: Hindustan Times

Peninsular India records 143% excess rainfall; farmers demand compensation for crop loss

A fortnight later, the northeast monsoon continues to inundate peninsular India. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the region recorded 143.4% excess rain between November 1 and November 25. Flooding continued in Chennai and parts of Andhra Pradesh. 

The extreme rain and flooding has led to major damage to crops. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapuramu district began a month-long protest march, which will cover 780km and 170 villages, to demand compensation for their losses from crop damage, especially the banana crop. 

Mumbai recorded its second-highest-ever 24-hour December rain on December 1. The unseasonal rainfall also led to a drop in the city’s temperature by 9 degrees, its second-lowest for December in 10 years. Grape, onion and vegetable farmers from Nashik district expressed concern about the adverse impact of the unseasonal rain on their crops.   

In the north, apple farmers in Kashmir said they have lost up to half their harvest this year to early snow. This is the third consecutive year that untimely snow has wiped out apple orchards in the region. The region’s weather patterns have been gradually shifting in the past 20 years, but the trend has intensified in the past five years.

According to experts, the climate crisis will increasingly hit production, and the orchards are likely to become unsustainable in a few years. Cyclone Jawad, currently battering the east coast, is likely to add to the country’s weather woes.

Study links melting Arctic sea ice to intensifying fires in western US 

Melting Arctic sea ice is fuelling “fire-favourable” weather across western US, a new study found. The low sea ice levels in the Arctic are pushing the jet stream northwards. This, in turn, is causing hotter and drier weather in western US, which is leading to more intense and frequent fires, the study published in the journal Nature stated. As Arctic sea ice levels continue to deplete, the US will become even more susceptible to intense fires, the study added. 

First post-monsoon cyclone likely to hit Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coast this week

A cyclone is currently forming in the Bay of Bengal and is likely to hit the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coast on December 4, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. The IMD warned of a low-pressure system that had developed off the Thailand coast and was likely to enter the Andaman Sea on Wednesday. The Met predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Odisha till Friday.

This will be the first cyclone post monsoon. October and November are usually peak cyclone seasons. This will be the first time in three decades that both months did not report any cyclones. According to experts, a possible cause of this could be the delayed withdrawal of the southwest monsoon and the improper formation of the southeast monsoon, among other likely reasons.     

Quarter of world’s protected areas to see high rates of climate change, land use change by 2050: Study

A new study warned almost one-quarter of the earth’s protected area networks are likely to see high rates of land use change and climate change by 2050. The study predicted that the most vulnerable impact areas are likely to be tropical moist and grassland biomes, which are home to several tetrapods and vascular plants that don’t require very stringent management. The researchers arrived at the conclusion using high and low future warming scenarios. 

Climate change endangering two flycatcher species found in Western Ghats: Study 

The future of the Black-and-orange Flycatcher (BOF) and the Nilgiri Flycatcher (NIF), two species endemic to the Western Ghats, is under threat because of climate change. According to a study published in the journal Current Science, the BOF and NIF are likely to suffer a 31% and 46% loss of their range respectively by 2050. The study also found around 75% of the current suitable areas for both species—​​Anamalai and Nilgiri Hills—lie outside protected area networks. 

Toxic waste: A road-widening project in J&K has led to the dumping of construction waste in the nearby Tawi and Chenab rivers. Photo: Money-control

J&K highway widening project: Set aside ₹129 cr to restore environmental damage, NGT tells NHAI

India’s green court directed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to set aside ₹129 crore to restore the damage done to the environment during the expansion of the highway in between Udhampur and Banihal town in Jammu and Kashmir. There have been several reports of dumping of construction waste in the nearby Tawi and Chenab rivers. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked NHAI to reverse the damage based on the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.   

Centre seeks to allow exploratory oil & natural gas drilling in inter-tidal areas of CRZs

The Centre is seeking to allow exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in the inter-tidal areas of coastal regulation zones (CRZ). It is also proposing letting gas-based power plants work in similar such areas on islands. These proposals were part of three draft notifications that the Union government is now seeking public responses on. The public has 60 days to respond. According to experts, these proposals are likely to negatively impact these fragile areas. They said the wording of these amendments relegates local communities to just respondents rather than partners in coastal development.  

IMO meeting: Countries urge ship operators to switch to cleaner fuels in the Arctic
At the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting held this past fortnight, countries urged ship operators to transition to cleaner fuels in the Arctic. This was part of a larger resolution to cut black carbon emissions from ships, which has increased substantially in the Arctic. While campaigners were happy with the move, they said it was still a voluntary measure and that governments must set supportive policies. Countries were expected to strengthen their maritime climate goal at the IMO meeting, but instead deferred a decision until 2023 when the UN shipping body is set to review its long-term strategy.

Unclear future: Despite an order from India’s Supreme Court, industries and power plants in Delhi’s National Capital Region are not monitoring their emission levels. Photo: Hindustan Times

Pave streets, enforce stubble burning ban to reduce air pollution: House panel

According to a Parliamentary panel report tabled in Rajya Sabha, air pollution mitigation efforts in the National Capital Region (NCR) will not yield desired results without paving streets. A Parliamentary standing committee chaired by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the environment ministry should monitor and furnish actions by all NCR states on paving roads and also furnish a response from the civil aviation ministry on sharing funds to control air pollution in the region.

The panel also said the Centre’s enforcement of a statutory ban on stubble burning by state governments (Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh) was allegedly weak. The panel said “coupled with laxity towards the sensitivity and gravity of the matter has also adversely affected the ongoing efforts to tackle the issue of air pollution in Delhi and NCR.”

Delhi-NCR power plants not monitoring pollution effectively: CSE report

Despite an order from India’s Supreme Court, industries and power plants in Delhi’s National Capital Region are not monitoring their emission levels. All this while the air quality in NCR is hovering over the “severe” category of over 400.

An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found discrepancies in emissions data. In 2014, industries and power plants in Delhi-NCR were ordered to install continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) and share data online. Among NCR states, Uttar Pradesh does not even have a portal to put out CEMS data. Punjab shares data from only two among its four thermal power stations that are included in NCR. Haryana also shares data from two power stations although five of its stations are included in NCR.

The data of four of the 11 thermal power plants in NCR remain questionable, the analysis found, pointing out that Rajiv Gandhi and Guru Hargobind plants shut down recently. But they are reporting sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide data currently, despite there being no operations.

The CEMS data shared online is also instantaneous. The historical emissions data is not available. 

Peak stubble burning shifted by a month this year leading to most polluted November in 6 years

According to Central Pollution Control Board data, the average air quality index for November in 2021 has been the worst in six years at 376, the figure for November 2020 was 327, while the air in November 2019 was also cleaner with an average AQI of 312. The November average In 2018 was 334, in 2017 it was 360, in 2016 it was 374 and in 2015 it was 358. 

November 2021 recorded 11 ‘severe’ air days, which were 9 in 2020, 7 in 2019, and 5 in 2018, Indian Express reported. Gufran Beig, founder project director, SAFAR, told the newspaper that the air quality in November 2021 can be attributed to the peak stubble burning season having been delayed by about a week due to the late withdrawal of the monsoon this year. Usually, the air quality gets bad in October and November, but this year, the worst was shifted to November, he said.

US space agency NASA’s satellite images showed smoke gushing towards Delhi. The images depicted a massive ‘river of smoke’ originating from fires in Punjab and Haryana stretching towards Delhi. Some smoke coming towards Delhi is linked to crop-burning activities in northern Pakistan, the weather channel reported. Since November 11, the fire activities have gained pace. The VIIRS has recorded more than 74,000 fire hotspots in Punjab till November 16.

Patna records rise in acute respiratory illness cases due to worsening air pollution 

In Bihar, Patna, people visiting hospitals with acute respiratory illness shot up due to worsening air pollution in November. The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city was recorded at 231 on November 17, 2021, according to the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB). 

A doctor at the chest department, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science, Patna, told Down to Earth that of the 20-25 patients who visit the outpatient department every day, at least five have falling oxygen levels similar to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and have to be admitted.

The burning of firecrackers around Diwali despite the ban was one of the major reasons for the rise in air pollution in Patna, said BSPCB chairman Ashok Ghosh. Construction activities and vehicular movement also contributed to air pollution. The shifting of river Ganga away from Patna and biomass burning were responsible for Patna’s deteriorating air quality, a BSPCB study had pointed out two years ago, DTE reported.

More pollution recorded this year during Diwali than 2020 in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai

According to central agency SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research), air pollution during the Diwali period (five days before and after Diwali on November 4) in 2021 was higher compared to 2020 in the cities of Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Delhi was the worst among the three as concentration of PM10 and PM2.5 was higher than 2020 and 2019 with air quality index racing “severe” category of over 400 µg / m3.  

Ahmedabad’s air quality was in the ‘poor’ category on November 5, with PM2.5 levels reaching 97 µg/m3, much more than that recorded in 2020 (93 µg/m3). Early morning hours of November 5 (from 1 am to 5 am) were the hot spot hours for PM2.5, with AQI levels ranging from ‘very poor’ to ‘severe’. The 2021 levels in Ahmedabad were also higher than 2018, when the air quality was in the ‘very poor’ category.

Air pollution levels increased during the 2021 Diwali period in Mumbai, compared to 2019 and 2020. However, the air quality was recorded in the ‘moderate’ category because of light rain in the city.

Paving the way: The share of renewable energy sources is estimated to be around 20% of the total power demand in India in 2021-22 and 24% by 2026-27, power minister RK Singh told the House. Photo: Hindustan Times

Over 107 GW solar projects installed or under implementation in India: Power minister

The government informed Parliament that solar energy generation projects totalling 107.46 GW are either installed or under various stages of implementation or tendering. India is chasing a solar energy target of 100 GW by 2022. 

Power minister RK Singh said 46.25 GW of grid-connected solar energy capacity has been installed as of October 2021, while 36.65 GW is under implementation and 24.56 GW has been tendered. The share of renewable energy sources is estimated to be around 20% of the total power demand in India in 2021-22 and 24% by 2026-27, the minister told the House. 

IEA: With 290 GW of RE global installations set for record year  

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world is set to add nearly 290 GW of renewable power capacity in 2021, setting an all-time record for new installations. By 2026, global renewable electricity capacity will cross 4,800 GW, an increase of over 60% compared with 2020 levels, IEA said. Renewable energy capacity by 2026 will equal the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined, the IEA added.

The report said China will lead the growth in renewable capacity followed by Europe, the US and India. The growth of renewables in India is outstanding, supporting the government’s new target of 500 GW by 2030, IEA’s Faith Birol said.

The report warned that renewables face a “range of policy uncertainties and implementation challenges,” including permissions, financing to grid integration and social acceptance. IEA pointed out that increases in commodity prices have put pressure on investment costs. should commodity prices remain high through the end of next year, the cost of wind investments would rise back to 2015 levels which will erase three years of cost reductions that for solar PV witnessed, IEA said.

To meet 450 GW by 2030 target, India needs to integrate 38 GW of 4-hr battery storage: Study  

A recent study stated that by 2030, India would need 38 GW of four-hour battery storage and 9 GW of thermal balancing power projects for the cost-efficient and reliable integration of 450 GW of renewables. More than 35 GW of wind and solar capacities would need to be consistently added annually between now and 2030. 

 The study stated that India has a complex power system with more weather-dependent resource mix and decentralised energy sources and to manage such complexity integration of the energy and ancillary services market is more efficient than separate markets for energy and ancillary services. 

The latest government guidelines define ancillary services as “service necessary to support the grid operation in maintaining power quality, reliability and security of the grid”. The latest norms aim to provide power procurement from the spot market through power exchanges to pay for ancillary services and maintain the grid frequency close to 50 Hz.

CERC grants ReNew inter-state trading licence to trade across India

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) granted an inter-state trading licence to ReNew Energy Markets to trade power across India. The norms require the company applying for a Category IV trading licence to have a net worth of ₹100 million (~$1.33 million) and a liquidity ratio of 1:1. The volume of electricity proposed to be traded in a financial year will not be more than 2,000 million units.

As per CERC rules, the company must not engage in power transmission during the period of subsistence of the license. The trading margin should be charged strictly in line with Trading License Regulations as amended from time to time. The licensee should regularly pay the annual license fee as per the provision of the CERC Regulations, 2012.

By leaps and bounds: Global EV sales quadrupled in just one year to break 10% of the new sales market for the first time, and most units sold were 100% electric, not hybrids Photo: BNEF

EVs break 10% global auto sales, battery prices drop another 6% over 2020

New data from BNEF showed that passenger EVs had for the first time surpassed 10% of new auto sales across the world in Q1, 2021. The milestone sales figures come despite EVs having accounted for only 2.5% of the sales in Q1 2020, and most of the new cars sold this year have been fully-electric, not hybrids. In absolute figures, the number of EVs sold globally has now passed 2 million units. 

Additionally, the average cost of li-ion batteries (spanning multiple end uses) has dropped by another 6% over 2020, to come down to $132/kWh. BNEF calculated that that was an 89% drop since 2010, even though the growing demand for li-ion batteries has inflated their prices by a certain percentage in the last two years. 

FAME II supported 165,000 EVs & 2,877 charging stations, Himachal launches draft EV policy

India’s FAME II policy for the electrification of transport has supported the sales of 165,000 EVs between April 2019 – November 25 2021, India’s parliament was informed, and Rs. 528 crores of the subsidies available under the scheme were used to set up 2,877 charging stations across 25 states and 68 cities. The policy earmarked Rs. 10,000 crores as subsidies for EVs and has also made available 6,315 e-buses to a number of state/city transport fleets. 

Additionally, the state of Himachal Pradesh approved its draft EV policy. Apart from the usual incentives, the state will aim to convert at least 15% of its transport fleet to fully-electric by 2025. 

German coalition to phase out ICE cars before 2035, but keep sports cars and e-fuels

The coalition parties of the next German government decided to phase out the sales of new ICE cars well before the EU’s target of 2035, but with the caveat that high-end sports cars escape the ban. Also, the decision allows for the registration of vehicles that run on synthetic fuels outside of standard emissions rulebooks, as German engine manufacturers — a huge subsector of its automotive market — argue that it will help keep thousands of engine-related jobs alive. Synthetic fuels can also be dispensed from regular petrol and diesel stations, which fuel suppliers argue lends them well to be blended with existing fuels. 

Yet, synthetic fuels — also called e-fuels — would likely retail at higher prices than regular gasoline and make EVs the more attractive option, unless their production can be ramped up significantly. 

Nissan to double EV budget, to spend $13billion in developing new models 

Japanese carmaker Nissan announced that it would double what it spent on EVs in the last decade and would up its budget to $13billion to speed up its transition to building only electric vehicles. It plans to develop 15 new, fully-electric models by 2030 and according to the CEO, the decision is partly influenced by the carmaker’s desire to meet societal needs and be cognisant of climate change. Additionally, Nissan is aiming to lower the aim of li-ion battery packs by up to 65% in the next eight years and aims to go carbon-neutral by 2050. 
In contrast, the CEO of Toyota Motors was quoted in September as saying that the transition away from the IC engine would cost millions of jobs, and that “carbon dioxide was the enemy, not the internal combustion engine”. Yet, at the same time, the world’s largest automaker is aiming to produce mass-market, affordable EVs with a range between 250-300 miles per charge.

Stealthy emitters: 57% of Australia's methane emissions come from just six coal mines in the Bowen Basin, with Hail Creek emitting as much as 4 million US cars. Photo: Mining Magazine

Australia: Researchers find super-heavy methane emissions from a handful of coal mines

A group of Dutch researchers reported that just six coal mines in the Bowen Basin in Australia together emitted around 570,000 tonnes of methane every year, which was equivalent to 55% of Australia’s annual methane emissions even though the mines only account for 7% of the country’s coal output. The Hail Creek mine was the worst emitter — its yearly emissions rival that of 4 million cars in the US over a year — and is currently owned by Glencore, which took it over from Rio Tinto in 2018. Methane traps 80 times more atmospheric heat than CO2 in its first 20 years, but Australia has been strongly supportive of its coal mines and is one of the few large economies that has refused to join the global coalition to reduce methane by 30% by 2030. 

Russia: Deadly coal mine blast kills 51 over high methane concentrations

A deadly blast in a Russian coal mine killed 51 people, including 5 rescuers, when the high levels of accumulating methane gas in the mine shaft caused an explosion. Located in Kemerovo oblast in southern Siberia, the mine is called the Listvyazhnaya mine and is owned by SDS-Ugol, Russia’s third largest coal exporter. Some miners had reported back in November that they were given methane detection meters that had been tampered with and which regularly reported lower than actual concentrations. The mine was also inspected 127 times in 2021 and reported 914 violations. 

At the same time, the Russian government is expanding its coal output from 441 million tonnes in 2019 to an estimated 669 million tonnes by 2035. Coal jobs in the Russian interior also pay higher than average wages and are a lifeline for regions like Kuzbass, which is home to the Listvyazhnaya mine. 

German oil lobby to target net zero emissions by 2045

The German oil lobby group, en2x, announced that it would begin moving away from oil derived from fossil deposits and would aim for the industry to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2045. Fossil oil currently accounts for 32% of the country’s energy needs, 60% of which goes into transport. However, the group will get the industry to use green hydrogen for oil refineries’ internal processes, equip petrol stations with EV chargers and adopt hydrogen for heavy transport vehicles. The German oil industry has also been active in manufacturing synthetic fuels for aviation and shipping, and the shift comes at a time when the incoming German government gets ready to ban new ICE vehicle sales much sooner than 2035

US states threaten to pull $600bn from banks that refuse to support fossil fuels 

15 states in the US came together to write a letter to US banks that threatens that the states will pull out $600billion of their funds if the banks refused to finance fossil fuel projects. Texas is the largest partner of the coalition and also home to much of the oil-rich Permian basin. The letter insists that the threat is to protect their economies and assumes that the banks are financing renewables under pressure from the Biden government, and that Texas had proved that “renewable energy sources and fossil fuel based production can and must coexist to meet the needs of a growing and dynamic economy”. The state has already been acting on coercing the banks by requiring them to sign a written verification that they do not boycott fossil fuel projects. 

On the other hand, the mayor of Boston signed an ordinance that would divest the city’s funds from fossil fuels from December 6, 2021. In doing so Boston (Massachusetts) joins major cities like New York, Pittsburgh and New Orleans in the C40 ‘Divesting from Fossil Fuels, Investing in a Sustainable Future Declaration’ coalition. 

India: Miners to get 50% revenue discount for coal gasification 

The Indian government announced that it would up its revenue sharing discount from 20% to 50% for coal miners that earmark at least 10% of the output from newly-auctioned coal blocks for coal gasification and liquefaction. The hefty discount is being positioned as a means to encourage scaling up the production of methanol and syngas, with the former being more economically competitive than ethanol when used for blending with gasoline. Syngas — a mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen — is considered a building block of the chemicals industry and it can be turned into olefins (used widely in manufacturing plastics) as well as methanol.