Air Pollution ‘THE NEW TOBACCO’

Newsletter - November 1, 2018

Killer smoke: 600,000 children under the age of 15 died around the world in 2016 due to air pollution. | Image brief:

Air pollution ‘the new tobacco’, over 90% of world’s children breathing killer air: WHO

Air pollution is the new tobacco and the simple act of breathing is killing seven million people a year, says World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom. The latest WHO report says 600,000 children under the age of 15 died because of air pollution in 2016. The study finds over 90% of world’s children are breathing toxic air. The findings coincide with the start of the first global conference on air pollution and health in Geneva, where nations and cities are expected to make new commitments to cut air pollution.

According to the report, at least 100,000 children below five years dies in India in 2016 due to health complications resulting from outdoor and indoor PM2.5 pollutants.

Climate Science

Spreading fast: Rising emissions could further worsen climate change’s role in driving global hunger | Image credit:

Climate change increased world hunger for 3 straight years: UN Report

A recent UN study says climate change is responsible for three consecutive years of world hunger . According to the United Nations’ annual food security report, average global temperatures touched record highs in 2014, 2015 and in 2016, while 15 million more people have been facing chronic food deprivation since 2016. Some 821 million people now face food insecurity — the same level as almost a decade ago.

IEA: Carbon emissions to reach record high in 2018

Carbon emissions will reach a record high in 2018 and weaken the Paris target to keep temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, says International Energy Agency (IEA) chief Fatih Birol. While renewables have been growing strongly, their growth isn’t large enough to reverse CO2 emissions trends, Birol said.

WWF study: Humans have destroyed 60% of earth’s wild animal populations since 1970

A new study by WWF finds that humanity has destroyed 60% of earth’s wild animal populations since 1970 alone. The breakneck annihilation of wild mammals, birds, reptiles and fish is the result of destroying wild habitats to bring more land under agricultural use, over-fishing and killing of wild animals for human consumption.

WWF says the human equivalent of the tragedy would be to “empty North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania” – and that the destruction ultimately perils the very survival of human civilisation itself.

Climate Policy

He’s in: Jair Bolsonaro’s climate policies will be keenly watched, despite the slight softening of his stance. | Image credit:

Brazil elects ‘Trump of the Tropics’ for prez , sparks fears for Amazon rainforest, global climate efforts

Brazil has elected right-wing former army captain Jair Bolsonaro as the new president, sparking fears for Amazon rainforest, which he has vowed to open to agribusiness and industry. During his election campaign, he had threatened to withdraw Brazil from the Paris accord, but retracted his stand last week after a huge media uproar internationally.

Experts doubt if Brazil’s plans to host the 2019 UN climate summit will materialize. Campaigners want the EU to use its trade clout to safeguard the Amazon forest.

Merkel’s exit from politics seen as a blow to climate action

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will step down as the leader of her political party in early December. Merkel currently heads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and is in her fourth term as the German Chancellor. Although Merkel said that she would like to stay on as the Chancellor until the end of her term in 2021, it is likely that she will be replaced in December by the new leader of CDU. Climate activist see Merkel’s exit as a serious blow to the global climate negotiations and hope that Emmanuel Macron is able to fill the gap.

Favorite candidates for the top position are CDU’s current General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the current Minister of Health, Jens Spahn.

 Green Climate Fund revived, gives nod to $1 bn climate change projects

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has been revived after its July board meeting meltdown, to approve $1 billion worth of projects to help developing countries tackle climate change. However, the US-China trade war spilled into the GCF meeting, as US vetoed the $100 million GCF loan to China. India received $43 million to boost climate resilience for coastal communities.

Trump appoints coal & nuclear energy supporter as head of US energy regulatory commission

US President Donald Trump has appointed Neil Chatterjee – a supporter of subsidizing ageing coal and nuclear power plants – as chief of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Chatterjee had backed US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s directive to bail out coal and nuclear plants – that the FERC itself had rejected.

Canada to impose carbon tax on provinces lagging on climate action

Canada’s federal govt. will impose up to $50 a tonne carbon tax by 2022 on provinces that do not have a tax of their own or don’t comply with the national climate plan. The tax will likely be imposed on Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

Air Pollution

Misplaced priorities? India’s Union minister praises "green crackers" while giving WHO’s air pollution and health conference a miss. | Image credit:

Top court in India allows only ‘green crackers’ this Diwali

The Indian Supreme Court has allowed only green firecrackers this Diwali, banning the sale of old crackers in Delhi-NCR. No e-commerce website is allowed to sell firecrackers. According to Down to Earth: “Green crackers are safe water and air sprinklers that emit less sound and light. They also ensure a PM reduction of 30-35% and reduction in NOx and SO2 due to in-situ water generation acting as dust suppressant.”

Delhi breathes season’s worst air yet; Gurugram, Ghaziabad in ‘severe’ zone

Delhi witnessed the season’s worst air quality yet on Sunday (Air Quality Index: 366 µg/m3). The Central Pollution Control Board has asked people to not run and jog between November 1-10, predicting very high pollution during the period. The government’s air pollution research body, SAFAR, found stubble-burning contributing to 36% of Delhi’s pollution. Delhi state agencies are in ‘war mode’, as its air quality dropped from moderate (100-200 µg/m3)  to severe (401-500 µg/m3) within ten days beginning October 12, which is the start of crop residue burning season.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) chief, Bhure Lal, found open waste and plastic burning at hundreds of locations in Delhi-NCR.

 15-yr-old petrol, 10-yr-old diesel vehicles banned in Delhi, April 2020 deadline set for BSVI norms

India’s Supreme Court has banned 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles in Delhi NCR – as their on-road emissions are far higher than those of newer vehicles. The court has also ruled that automakers will only be allowed to sell Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission standards-compliant vehicles in the country from April 1, 2020.

The Apex court rejected the government’s and automakers’ submissions to allow the latter grace periods beyond the date – despite automakers legally being allowed to manufacture BSIV-compliant vehicles till March 31, 2020.

India’s Delhi, Odisha, UP, MP in global toxic NO2 hotspots list

New satellite data analysed by international environmental watchdog Greenpeace says Delhi, Odisha and the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh region are among the top 50 global hotspots for NO2 emissions (coal and vehicular emissions are the main sources of toxic NO2).

State in southern Indian to install air quality stations every 10km

Telangana will set up air quality monitoring stations every 10km to measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, suspended particulate matter (SPM) and ozone in the atmosphere round-the-clock.

Indian city may stop two- and four- wheeler registrations for 2 years

Karnataka plans to stop the registration of new two- and four-wheelers in Bengaluru for two years to curb congestion and retire vehicles that are 20 years old or more. The number of vehicles in the city are estimated to touch one crore or more in the next two years.

NTPC to use biomass to cut emissions

India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) will start biomass co-firing at all its coal-plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.The objective is to reduce air pollution caused because of  burning of surplus agricultural residue by creating an alternate market for its large-scale use in power plants.


Just isn’t working: The Centre’s tariff ceiling on solar-wind hybrid projects is yet to convince India’s renewable power developers. | Image credit:

Developers skip solar-wind hybrid auction for fifth time, ‘tariff ceiling’ the main issue

The Centre’s solar-wind hybrid power auction has failed to attract bids for the fifth time, as investors stayed away mainly over the issue of tariff ceiling (set at a maximum of Rs2.60 per unit). The government says the tariff limit is feasible for the 1,200 MW project (halved from 2,500 MW). The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) extended the date to November 14.

Over 10.8 GW of aggregate capacity has been annulled till date. This could deal a blow to the Centre’s target (175 GW renewable energy by 2022). The government has blamed
“cartelisation by bidders” to jack up tariffs. Investors say capping of tariff turns investments unviable, and that “competition, wind density and solar irradiance” should instead determine tariffs.

ReNew Power wins 3 MW floating solar project in South India

Solar firm ReNew Power has won 3 MW floating solar photovoltaic (PV) project to be set up in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, to generate around 4.2 million units of power annually.
Meanwhile, real estate firm Ajmera Group will invest $10 million in solar and e-commerce start-ups.

Haryana waives off taxes for solar power developers

Haryana has waived off state levies for solar power developers. This includes wheeling charges, cross-subsidy charges, transmission and distribution charges along with additional surcharges. The waivers are expected to enable faster solar capacity expansion in the state.

Solar developers win project delay cases in South India’s Telangana

In a rare win, Telangana has ruled in favor of solar project developers in four  cases of commissioning delays. The grid-connected solar projects, totaling 55 MW, were running on late schedules. 

Maharashtra approves 200 MW of bagasse-based projects

Meanwhile, Maharashtra will procure 200 MW bagasse-based (sugarcane pulp) power as a non-solar renewable energy project. The upper tariff ceiling was fixed at ₹4.00 ($0.054)/kWh.

Electric Vehicles

Putting up competition: BASF’s deal with Nornickel could see Europe taking on China’s growing lead in manufacturing EV batteries. | Image credit:

German chemical firm, Russian mining company join forces in European EV battery push

Germany’s BASF and Russian miner Nornickel have struck a nickel and cobalt supply deal to meet the EV battery demand. This provides fresh impetus to European efforts to create a battery cell manufacturing capacity in a market dominated by Chinese and Korean producers.

The industry is working to boost the nickel content at the expense of cobalt over the next two years in an effort to raise the energy storage capacity and save on more expensive cobalt, much of which comes from artisanal mines in Congo – where human rights abuses are rife.

EV adoption under FAME programme lagging in most Indian states

State data in India has shown inconsistent Electric Vehicle (EV) sales under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) programme. Experts say the EV sector is grappling with high battery prices, fund crunch and scarce testing facilities. Since the inception of FAME in 2015, Maharashtra has sold the maximum number of EVs (32,402), followed by Gujarat (30,686) and UP (25,531). Sales were the lowest in in Meghalaya (3 units).

North Indian state to buy 500 electric buses as trial run achieves success

The Uttrakhand govt will buy 500 electric buses in the next three years, after conducting a successful test run. The state will buy 51 buses in the first phase, and in the next three years, all the 500 buses will be procured. The new buses will run in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

Charge your electric car in 15 minutes

Sydney-based Chargefox is planning 21 ultra-rapid charging stations vowing to charge electric cars in just 15 minutes on long-distance road trips at a proposed national network of charging stations.

Fossil Fuels

Could fail miserably: Carbon Tracker has warned that coal plants worth $60bn in SE Asia could fail against cheaper renewables. Image credit:

Carbon Tracker: Solar and wind energy could strand coal power worth $60billion in SE Asia

Carbon Tracker has warned that tighter controls on carbon emissions – and cheaper solar and wind energy in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines – may turn up to $60 billion worth of coal power plants in the region into stranded assets.

The warning comes despite coal’s abundant availability in the region – since renewable energy is emerging as a safer financial bet in the three developing nations. Also, their cumulative RE capacity is expected to jump from 8GW now to 100GW in the next 20 years, while they have about 30GW of coal power plants currently under construction.

IEFFA questions Khurja coal plant’s economic viability, THDC calls analysis “baseless”

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has calculated that the proposed 1,320MW Khurja coal plant in Uttar Pradesh will only be able to retail power at about Rs.5.67/kWh – well above current renewable power tariffs of around Rs.3/kWh. With its two units slated to come online only by November 2022 and April 2023 (resp.) and tariffs for renewable power expected to decline further by then, IEEFA has warned that the plant’s expensive electricity could turn it into a stressed asset.

However, the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) – which is co-financing the plant –  termed IEEFA’s analysis “baseless”, and said the plant’s tariffs would be a “competitive and reasonable” Rs.3.90/kWh (for the first year) and Rs.3.61/kWh (levelised over its life term). But IEEFA has reiterated that THDC’s levelised tariff is not only inconsistent with the impacts of rising coal prices and railway transportation costs, but also against THDC’s own assessment published two years ago.

THDC meanwhile has also asserted that prevailing wind directions between Delhi and the plant site would mean that the plant would not impact the city’s air quality — as claimed by IEEFA.

New York sues Exxon for misleading on climate change risk

New York’s attorney general has sued Exxon Mobil, alleging that the largest oil company misled investors about the risks of climate change regulations on its business. The suit has been filed in the state’s Supreme Court.

Reducing ship speeds to lower CO2 emissions faces reservations at IMO meet

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s members, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Chile, have expressed reservations over reducing ships’ speeds (to reduce their CO2 emissions) – saying that amongst other impacts, it could jeopardize deliveries of fresh produce. They have instead proposed that efforts be focussed on curtailing emissions through more efficient vessel designs. France, Ireland and Solomon Islands have championed the speed restrictions after the IMO agreed to reduce emissions from shipping by 50% over 2008 levels by 2050.

The IMO’s meeting in London this week is reportedly also failing to arrive at the kind of emission reduction targets needed to honour the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning over climate change. Several major banks – including Citibank (US), KfW IPEX-Bank (Germany), DNB (Norway) and Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking (France) – have, however, come together to reduce the global shipping sector’s carbon footprint.

Spain to close 10 private coal mines

The Spanish government will close 10 privately-owned coal mines in the country by the end of 2018 as part of its upcoming National Climate Plan. The administration will also re-skill the mines’ workers for employment in green industries as part of “Just Transition” contracts, and invest in early retirement plans for workers aged 48 and above.

Norwegian pension fund calls for divestment from Germany’s RWE

Norway’s Storebrand – a pension fund with $85billion in assets – has called upon investors to divest their holdings in Germany’s coal power utility RWE, saying that the fuel had no future in the world’s efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C. RWE has been in the news for wanting to clear the last remaining strip of Germany’s ancient Hambach forest to mine more coal.