Newsletter - April 23, 2021
After four years of the Trump administration’s dismantling the United States’ environment programmes, climate has evidently returned as a central plank of American policy. And the White House has pulled out all stops to make sure the world takes notice. At the ongoing World Climate Leaders’ Summit, being hosted by the US to mark their return to the global climate fight, US President Joe Biden announced a doubling of their Paris Agreement commitments and cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) by 50-52% within the next decade. With current national commitments likely to amount to just a 1% reduction in emissions over the next decade, Biden’s enhanced ambition is good news. However, it fails to align with meeting the 1.5°C goal, which according to experts would require the US to cut emissions by 57-70% in the next decade.
But while Biden’s active diplomatic outreach to drum up support for the summit has garnered several announcements of raised ambitions, the US’ problematic past on climate commitments still hangs heavy over any proclamations of American leadership.
Climate returned as a top priority for the White House almost as soon as Biden assumed office. With the current administration seeking to create as much distance between itself and its predecessor as possible on policy matters, Biden’s first major moves in office included a slew of climate-centric executive orders. Over the past three months, pieces of Biden’s emission reduction plan have become clearer.
“Biden comes into this Summit with a mandate, he ran on an aggressive climate platform, he built his argument to the American people around 3 key goals – a net-zero economy by 2050, a 100% clean power sector by 2035, and he linked the climate crisis to the economic crisis and the racial justice crisis,” says John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff and currently the Chair of American think-tank Centre for American Progress.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration released its preliminary budget draft that included significant increases in climate action and research allocations. In the run up to the ongoing summit, the “skinny” budget proposed a 21.3% hike in allocations to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal also included increases in outlays for clean energy development and to support vulnerable communities from climate impacts.
The US’ low carbon push depends heavily on a rapid greening of the country’s energy supply and electricity grid. A study by the Environmental Defense Fund and Rhodium Group found that shifting electricity production to solar and wind, as well as closing coal power plants, could produce steep cuts by 2030, which will be faster that emission cuts from cars, trucks and industrial plants, like steel and cement.
On paper, Biden is making the right moves. The proposed budget would also increase the Energy Department’s (DOE) budget by 10.2% to $46 billion. Under this plan, the DOE will invest $1.9 billion to launch a clean energy and workforce initiative to meet the goal of decarbonising the electricity sector by 2035 through a clean electricity and energy efficiency standard. The state plans, however, only project a doubling of the US renewable capacity by 2050, with natural gas-fired generation remaining constant through 2050.
The Biden administration has already announced a target to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% by 2030 – a necessary step to achieve 100% clean electricity grid by 2035. That means the US will have to increase solar capacity five times faster than it is currently while scaling down the current cost of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030.
While past plans towards decarbonisation of energy have sparked fears in the US fossil fuel industry, this time things seem to be changing. America’s largest coal miners’ union, the United Mine Workers of America, said it backed a renewable energy future provided that miners get “good-paying jobs” in return. The union is asking for tax incentives for manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines in coalfield areas, with laid-off miners given hiring preference for those jobs.
Biden’s plans for decarbonisation also bets big on a transition in the transport sector. In March, the US surpassed the milestone of installing 100,000 public chargers. The country now aims to expand the charging network to 500,000 stations. Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes a transformational $15 billion investment to fund this.
Interestingly, the Biden administration also proposes to set aside $10 billion to expand climate action through a dedicated task force on the ground. This Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) is a part of the $2 trillion infrastructure package that promises 1.5 million outdoor jobs. The CCC will help install solar panels and wind turbines, maintain public transit systems, and retrofit buildings with energy efficient equipment. The package also includes a push to create climate and disaster resilient infrastructure that extends beyond just roads and bridges. The plan also includes $16 billion to plug abandoned oil wells, which have emerged as a major source of methane emissions.
Biden’s clear messaging on climate has reportedly also created a “gold rush” in the country’s carbon market. As the infrastructure plan gains traction, America’s farm country is busy building up their carbon credit inventory to cash in on pollution offsets in agriculture.
Failing on fairness?
Touted as an “aggressive plan” to fight climate change, there are still questions on whether even this raised ambition can be called fair. A newly published civil society model document, which examines ‘fair share’ contributions for the US, states that considering the historic responsibility of the US, a fair cut in GHG emissions by 2030 amounts to a whopping 195%. This implies going beyond just a 100% decarbonisation that is currently being considered broadly as a mid-century target. While advocacy groups behind the calculations admit that this is an impractical proposition to be taken up fully through emission cuts. Instead, they argue for the country to reduce its carbon footprint by 70% and contribute the remaining 125% through finance toward developing countries’ emissions reductions.
To arrive at this conclusion, the authors looked at cumulative national emissions since 1950 and national capacities for climate change mitigation. According to the report, the US would need to provide $570 billion by 2030 in assistance to other countries’ emission reduction efforts. The authors further state that if the costs of damages of climate impacts are incorporated into calculations, this amount rises almost threefold to around $1.6 trillion.
By comparison Biden’s budget proposal calls for a $1.2 billion outlay toward the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as a part of Obama’s promised $3 billion. The budget proposal also includes additional sums of $485 million allocated to support other multilateral climate initiatives and $691 million for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change impacts. These, however, come nowhere close to what is required to accelerate low carbon development in the developing countries.
“The US must make a bold commitment to climate finance, both to make up for lost ground under the previous administration as well as ramp up its ambition, as required right now. The Biden administration’s initial budget proposal of $1.2 billion for the GCF falls far short of what’s needed,” says Rachel Cleetus, policy director with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This disparity came to the fore earlier this month during US Climate Envoy John Kerry’s visit to India – a prominent stop on Kerry’s itinerary to drum up support for Biden’s climate summit. Following the meeting with the special envoy, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s office tweeted, “ (The FM) stressed on the need for assessment of the $100 billion commitment per year from developed countries to developing countries. FM underscored the need to enhance financial flows to developing countries beyond $100bn to strengthen climate action.”
To put the inadequacy of the financial commitments in perspective, new estimates suggest that India alone needs around $6 trillion to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 in just the power sector.
“Ultimately, the world needs $90 trillion of investment in both climate mitigation and climate resilience over the course of the next decade. That’s not going to come from governments alone. We need to stimulate private finance and ensure that it is not just going to the developed world, but is reaching the transformation of societies across the globe,” says Podesta.
The trust deficit
Analysts agree that without meeting commitments to increase public climate finance, the US can’t build trust with developing countries. In addition to the questions surrounding America’s fair share of responsibility, the US also carries the baggage of an obstructionist and fickle past when it comes to its climate commitments. Biden’s enthusiasm to be at the helm of the international cooperation for climate action and his active diplomatic outreach have started to repair some of the damage done by the previous administration. While the decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement has been welcomed across the board, there is also stark recognition of the country’s poor record when it comes to climate commitments, especially under Republican governments. The US withdrew from international agreements on climate under both Donald Trump in 2016 and George W Bush in 2001.
“The US’s ability – indeed its credibility – to unlock ambition from others is crucially dependent on what the Biden administration commits to via its NDC and climate finance. And just to be clear, our bold contribution to global climate goals is also deeply connected to our national interest in this moment….,” says Cleetus.
While Kerry’s visit to China earlier this month resulted in pronouncements of cooperation between the world’s two biggest emitters on climate action, the Asian economic powerhouse still has one eye on the US’ spotty past on climate. “Its return is by no means a glorious comeback but rather the student playing truant getting back to class,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on US’ return to the Paris Agreement. China did not raise ambition beyond its 2060 carbon neutrality goal, but President Xi did say the country will peak coal consumption by 2025, linking for the first time coal with his climate policy.
Observers have also questioned the US government’s continued support of overseas fossil fuel developments despite domestic moves towards decarbonisation of energy systems. US public finance for overseas fossil fuel projects is estimated to average more than $4 billion annually over the past decade, according to Oil Change International – at times exceeding $10 billion in a single year. Currently, several big players in the American oil and gas sector, including ExxonMobil, AES Corporation, and GE are involved in US gas projects, particularly in Asia and Africa. ExxonMobil’s Mozambique gas project has even managed to secure billions in political risk insurance and financial support from the US Export-Import Bank and the US Development Finance Corporation. Major natural gas expansions to feed an export-oriented strategy has sparked fears of the US exporting its emissions and delaying the adoption of renewable energy in developing countries.
Worsening the existing trust deficit, vulnerable communities, both in the US and abroad, have expressed the biggest objections to oil and coal companies seeking bail outs to push various unproven carbon capture and sequestration technologies claiming to speedily remove emissions. Latest is ExxonMobil’s $100 billion carbon project pitch to Biden. The oil giant wants Washington to give tax breaks and other assistance for its carbon-capture project near Houston where most frontline communities live. They also want the US to establish a price on carbon that will help create a market for the company’s new business of capturing emissions.
Even as the world is expected to rebound in CO2 emissions in 2021, Biden’s legacy will depend on progressive action. Looking to the future, diplomacy and showmanship can only set the stage. The show will very much still depend on political skill and will – not just from Biden, but from the entire American political apparatus.
The India Meteorological Department last week released its long-range forecast for this year’s monsoon. According to the IMD’s projections, the 2021 southwest monsoon season that begins in June and extends to the end of September is likely to be normal at 98% of the Long Period Average (LPA) of 88 cm. In terms of spatial distribution, while most regions in the country are expected to receive “normal” amounts of rain, the northeast and eastern regions could be in store for below-normal rainfall in the season. This is the third year “normal” monsoon year in a row, however recent years have also seen an increasing trend of extreme rain events concentrated over short time periods.
Global warming dominating monsoon dynamics in India, monsoons to be more chaotic
A new research paper has warned that summer monsoons in India will become stronger and more erratic unless tight reins are put on global warming. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research-led study analysed long-term trends of the Indian summer monsoon and its variability based on 32 models of the latest climate model generation(CMIP6). CMIP6 comprises the results from around 100 different climate models being produced across 49 different modelling groups. A majority of the climate models (28 out of 32) estimated that the increase in precipitation will be more prominent in the Himalayan region, northeast of the Bay of Bengal and in the Western Ghats. However individual models suggest decreasing rainfall along the southwest coast of India and around Myanmar.
Oceans locked-in to a fourfold increase in oxygen loss
The rise in temperatures is causing oxygen loss in the world’s oceans. Over the past half century, around 2% of the total oxygen inventory is estimated to have been lost due to the effects of global warming on the solubility of gases, ocean circulation and vertical mixing in oceans. New modelling from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, published in Nature Communications, shows that a fourfold increase ocean deoxygenation may be locked-in even if all CO2 emissions were stopped immediately. According to the model results, the deep ocean is currently committed to lose more than 10% of its pre-industrial oxygen content over centuries. At the surface though, ongoing deoxygenation will largely stop once CO2 emissions are stopped, the model shows. The projections are especially worrying since the availability of dissolved oxygen is a critical factor in maintaining life in the oceans, and continued oxygen loss is likely to have protracted implications on ocean biodiversity.
New research shines light on accelerating permafrost collapse in the Tibetan Plateau
New research assessing the changes in the extent of permafrost cover across the Eastern Tibetan Plateau has flagged rapidly increasing area of permafrost collapse. According to the analysis, conducted with combined data from in situ measurements, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), manned aerial photographs, and satellite images, the area of collapsed permafrost across the Eastern Tibetan Plateau increased by a factor of 40 between 1969 and 2017. Further, around 70% of the total collapsed area identified by the authors have formed post-2004. “These widespread perturbations to the Tibetan Plateau permafrost could trigger changes in local ecosystem state and amplify large-scale permafrost climate feedbacks”, warned the authors. Although the Tibetan Plateau is a major part of the third-largest repository of fresh water in the world, it is also one of the least studied regions in the world.
Biden’s climate summit partly managed to galvanise some developed countries to deepen climate action. Japan and Canada strengthened their targets to reduce emissions. Japan upped the target from 26% to 46%. Canada increased the emission reduction to 40-45% by 2030 from the previous 30%. Both still short of the expected 50% mark. South Korea announced a big decision to stop funding international coal projects. Among developing countries China pledged to cut down on coal consumption starting 2025 and peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to become carbon-neutral by 2060.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro set himself the most ambitious target yet, claiming Brazil would reach emissions neutrality by 2050, 10 years earlier than the previous goal. Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, told Reuters that targets won’t lead to emissions cuts, real policy and money will. “And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”, she added.
EU agrees in principle to vital ‘European Climate Law’
One day before the climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, EU member nations reached an agreement in principle on a ‘European Climate Law’. The law aims for a 55% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and net-zero emissions target by 2050. The climate law is seen as the foundation for an array of new rules and standards required for decarbonisation in the EU.
Following the climate law agreement, the European Commission has also set out standards for the classification of “green investments”— also known as taxonomy. The new set of rules is expected to bring much needed clarity on what constitutes a “green” investment. Under the new proposed classification, investments are considered climate friendly only if they reduce or prevent adverse climate change impacts on itself, on people, nature or assets; or if they contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The classification will now be discussed with EU member states and lawmakers before becoming law.
UK announces “world’s most ambitious” emissions reduction target ahead of climate summit
The UK has set into law a new emission reduction target that will see a 78% reduction in GHG emissions by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. The sixth Carbon Budget approved by the UK government, publicised as the “world’s most ambitious” emissions reduction target, is likely to take the country three-quarters of the way to its 2050 net-zero emissions target. The announcement comes ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address at the opening session of the US-led Climate Leaders’ Summit on April 22. “We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action,” stated Johnson.
India: Environment ministry makes fresh moves to amend Forest Act
Few years after a failed attempt at amending the Indian Forest Act 1927, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is evidently launching a fresh attempt. According to the April 8 call for Expression on Interest (EOI), the ministry is looking for consultancy organisations that could prepare a draft comprehensive amendment to the IFA 1927. According to the note released by MoEFCC on the EOI, the exercise will focus on “decriminalising relatively minor violations of law, expeditious resolution through compounding relatively small offences, reducing compliance burden on citizens, rationalisation of penalties, preventing harassment of citizens, de-clogging criminal justice system, expanding and improving of the use efficiently of resources, and promoting people participation and ease of doing business.”
“The last such exercise on IFA started in 2017 and the first draft was placed in public domain. Based on comments received, it has been considered that a more comprehensive and pragmatic amendment of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 may be examined,” it further stated.
BASIC nations slam EU’s proposed carbon border tax as “discriminatory and against the principles of equity”
The European Union’s proposed carbon border tax has stirred discontent in the developing world. In a joint statement, the governments of Brazil, South Africa, India and China— known together as BASIC, “expressed grave concern regarding the proposal for introducing trade barriers such as unilateral carbon border adjustment”. EU’s proposed tax system seeks to introduce levies on carbon-intensive products imported into the EU from countries where an equivalent price on carbon does not exist. Supporters have deemed the move necessary to avoid carbon leakage through energy-intensive industries shifting base to countries with fewer or weaker regulations. However, critics of the move have flagged it as disguised protectionism that will hurt emerging economies.
To fix the issue of government accountability India’s green court, the national Green Tribunal, has constituted an eight-member National Task Force to monitor remedial steps to improve air quality. The court said authorities at higher levels must function as trustees for discharge of constitutional and statutory obligation to the citizens. The court added that there was no other magic wand to protect people against an acknowledged sorry state of affairs. India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases.
The court observed that accountability in terms of adverse entries in the annual confidential reports and recovery of compensation for non-compliance were imperative for fixing accountability. Officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministries of Housing and Urban Affairs, Petroleum, Transport, Power, Agriculture, Health and the Central Pollution Control Board will be included in the national task force.
Indian businesses lose $95 billion annually to air pollution: Study
According to a new study by consulting firm Dalberg Advisors, Clean Air Fund and the Confederation of Indian Industry, air pollution costs Indian businesses $95 billion annually. The report stated that the loss is equal to 50% of all tax collected annually.
India’s workers take 1.3 billion days off work per year because of the health issues arising from air pollution— amounting to $6 billion in lost revenue. The research added that dirty air has huge ramifications on workers’ cognitive and physical performance, lowering their on-the-job productivity and thereby decreasing business revenues by up to $24 billion.
COVID-19 predominantly spreads through air: Lancet study
COVID-19 is predominantly transmitted through air and much less from large droplets, says a new study published in the Lancet. Public health measures that fail to treat the virus as predominantly airborne leave people unprotected and allow the virus to spread, according to the six experts who authored the study. Researchers identified 10 lines of evidence to show that the airborne theory was true. Experts say that makes people far more vulnerable to the spread of infection if they breathe polluted air.
Majority of European city-dwellers want petrol and diesel car sales banned by 2030
A survey commissioned by Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), has found that the majority of residents of European cities support a Europe-wide phaseout of combustion engine car sales from 2030. The poll said of 10,050 survey respondents, 63% said they supported the idea that after 2030, only emission-free cars should be sold in Europe.
The online survey was conducted in 15 cities including London, Warsaw and Budapest, with an average of 29% opposing the idea of ending petrol and diesel car sales, while 8% said they did not know. In all cities, a majority of respondents – ranging from 51% in Antwerp and Berlin, to 77% in Rome – supported a ban. “People in cities are the most exposed to toxic levels of air pollution, and they don’t want internal combustion engines to be sold for any longer than is necessary,” T&E’s senior vehicles director Julia Poliscanova said.
Disruptions in labour and supply chain caused by the deadly second wave of COVID-19 in India has forced the solar industry to seek four-month long extension on all ongoing projects. The National Solar Energy Federation said solar power projects continue to face implementation issues due to the absence of Government officials, lockdowns, under-staffed office being overly busy and preoccupied with pending work.
Delays have triggered fears of project cancellations and heavy liquidated damages to be paid by the developer if they do not get extension. Projects in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh have seen complete or partial lockdowns, disrupting the ongoing construction.
India launches dashboard that provides automated data on daily RE generation
India’s Central Electricity Authority in collaboration with CEEW launched the India Renewables Dashboard to provide detailed operational information about renewable energy projects in India. The dashboard provides free access for policymakers, developers, financiers, and the public as it captures daily generation data at the state, regional and national levels for the aggregate 93 GW of installed RE capacity in India. The daily RE generation data is automated at a plant level for a subset of projects. Earlier it had to be obtained manually and was difficult to access. Users can download the data and gain insights for improving project implementation, infrastructure planning and power generation forecasting in the renewables sector, the statement said.
According to the dashboard, the highest daily generation figures recorded in the past 12 months for solar and wind are 216.5 million kWh and 444.5 million kWh, respectively.
China raises clean energy target by 12% this year
China’s top energy planning authority the NEA announced its clean energy policy for 2021 raising its target for renewable and nuclear energy to meet emission goals.
The NEA set a preliminary target to raise the share of solar and wind-based power generation to 11% in this year’s overall power output, from 9.5% in 2020. The share will further increase to 16.5% by 2025, NEA said. The installed capacity for non-fossil fuel based electricity — hydro, wind, solar, biomass and nuclear — is expected to reach 1100GW in 2021, up by almost 12% from 984.53GW in 2020.
Amazon buys 9 utility scale RE projects
According to Bloomberg, Amazon has announced plans for nine new utility scale wind and solar projects in the US, UK, Canada, Spain and Sweden, making it world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power. The company declared it is on track to source 100 per cent renewable power for its global business by 2025.
In addition to this Amazon will have 206 renewable energy projects globally, the outlet adds, with an electricity production capacity of 8.5 gigawatts (GW).
Corporate funding for solar sector goes up by 21%, battery storage funding rises 410%
Following a huge 410% jump, venture capital (VC) funding for battery storage, smart grid, and energy efficiency companies in Q1 2021 stood at $1.3 billion, compared to $252 million in Q1 2020, according to study by Mercom. The report pointed out that total corporate funding (including VC, debt, and public market financing) for battery storage companies in Q1 2021 stood at $4.7 billion in 17 deals against $3.1 billion in 19 deals in Q4 2020. The figures were up significantly compared to $244 million in nine deals in Q1 2020.
In the solar sector the global corporate funding including venture capital (VC) funding, public market, and debt financing, totalled $8.1 billion in 36 deals in Q1 2021, an increase of 21% compared to the $6.7 billion raised in 43 deals in Q4 2020, Mercom report said.
India to spend $200 million by 2025-27 to promote hydrogen use
Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the government planned to scale up use of hydrogen blended with compressed natural gas (H-CNG) as a transportation fuel.
India will spend $200 million till 2025-27 to promote the use of hydrogen, the top bureaucrat at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said at a virtual industry event on Thursday.
India’s oil secretary Tarun Kapoor also said that India has asked its state-run oil and gas companies to set up seven hydrogen pilot plants by the end of this financial year, New Delhi Dialogue event, Reuters reported.
WEF: India ranked 87th in global energy transition index
A report from the World Economic Forum ranked India 87th among 115 countries in the Energy Transition Index (ETI) that tracks nations on the current performance of their energy systems.
The report said China (68) and India (87) collectively account for a third of global energy demand. It added that both countries made strong improvements over the past decade, despite coal continuing to play a significant role in their energy mix.
As per the report, India has targeted improvements through subsidy reforms and rapidly scaling energy access, with a strong political commitment.
China: Internet firm Tencent tops Greenpeace clean energy rankings
Internet firm Tencent is the best of China’s energy-guzzling cloud services providers when it comes to tackling carbon emissions and procuring from renewable energy sources, Greenpeace study said. The environmental group has estimated that energy consumption by China’s data centre industry will rise by two-thirds between 2019 and 2023.
Alibaba ell from first place last year to fourth. Greenpeace said he company had performed poorly in disclosing energy data and switching to renewable energy sources.
The study noted that Internet firms now rank among the biggest corporate consumers of electricity, and in China they draw on carbon-intensive coal-fired power to keep their data centres running.
Researchers at the University of St. Petersburg (Russia) developed a Nickel-based battery that charges at 10 times the speed of traditional li-ion batteries, with high capacitance over a wide range of temperature. The polymer-based nickel salen (NiSalen) complex took three years to develop, but at the moment lags commonly-available li-ion batteries in charge capacity by about 30-40%. However, it charges within seconds and poses no combustion risk, while also using much less environmentally damaging metals.
Three-wheelers led India’s EV sales in FY21
Data compiled by CEEW’s electric mobility dashboard showed that three-wheelers accounted for 65% of all the electric vehicles registered in India in FY2020-21, while EV registrations themselves accounted for 0.88% of all auto registrations — the highest ever. The country sold nearly 135,000 EVs in FY2021, which takes India’s tally of EVs to around 638,000 since 2011. While Uttar Pradesh led overall sales with 23% of the share since April 2020, Tripura led the per capita adoption, selling 52 EVs for every 1,000 ICE vehicles.
The market for two-wheelers also jumped 160% and they accounted for 30% of the EV registrations for the period. However, the dashboard also revealed that only 4.5% of the Rs. 10,000 crores in subsidies under FAME-II have so far been disbursed.
South Korea aims to spearhead global EV wireless charging technology
South Korea proposed a new, homegrown standard for wirelessly charging EVs that could be applicable globally and would re-charge vehicles to up to 80% of their capacity in about an hour. The technology would operate at 50kW, which is much higher than the 11kW alternative offered by Japan. The standard has been proposed to the International Electrotechnical Commission and if approved, could be a huge step forward for a market that is estimated to grow at 41.3% each year up to 2030.
Saskatchewan EV owners protest proposed tax that may stifle sales
Electric car owners in Saskatchewan, Canada protested against the proposed CAD 150 yearly tax on electric vehicles, saying that the tax, although meant to pay for maintaining highways, would only discourage EV sales. The tax is similar to the one levied in Australia and the car owners argued that so far the province only has chargers along Highway 1, which severely restricts the roads they can drive on.
Instead, they cited a University of California study that shows a drop of 10-24% in EV sales when burdened by taxes. Besides, California also offers rebates on EV sales, while the same is missing in Saskatchewan and EVs make up less than 1% of its registered vehicles. In contrast, the western-most Canadian province of British Columbia has 40,000 EVs but so far has not proposed any taxes.
India’s new draft National Electricity Plan (NEP) for 2021 may see it build even more coal plants, as the document suggests that “coal-based generation capacity continues to be the cheapest source of generation”. The draft would be an update to the previous NEP from 2018, and the suggestion to augment coal capacity comes despite several recent tenders that discovered sub-Rs.2/kWh prices for solar and wind power. Even when mated to battery energy storage, the systems’ baseload tariffs were cheaper than coal, while their average tariffs were at least as competitive as new coal power, if not cheaper.
The draft NEP, however, says that its emphasis remains on expanding clean power capacity, and all new coal plants would be of ultra supercritical technology.
France bans short domestic flights, passengers to take trains instead
The French government adopted a ban on short domestic flights and passengers would now have to travel the distances by train instead, if the travel time is under two and a half hours. The routes banned were initially proposed to be four hours long, but the ban was shortened after strong opposition from Air France KLM and certain regions. The development is a part of President Macron’s bid to lower the country’s carbon emissions — an aircraft emits ~77 times more CO2 than a train on the same route — and may be replicated by other climate-conscious European nations.
Austrian Airlines, for instance, adopted a similar ban on its flights between Vienna and Graz in November 2020, and passengers now travel the route by a three-hour train journey. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has so far failed in its efforts even though it has been trying for a similar ban since 2013.
US coal mining union ready to back renewable energy in exchange for jobs
The largest coal miners’ union in the US said that it would support President Joe Biden’s push for renewable energy, provided the affected coal miners were given jobs through the energy transition. The union has also demanded that the administration spend heavily on cleaning up coal power, invest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and expand the tax incentives for renewable energy, along with employing displaced coal miners first. The union’s move is highly significant as coal has lost half its market share in the country since 2010 to cheaper renewables and natural gas, and several utilities are moving away from the fuel for better profits.
Wyoming adopts law to sue US states hurting its coal economy
The coal-heavy US state of Wyoming adopted a law that sets aside $1.2 million as funds to sue states like Colorado, whose pursuit of renewable energy has endangered Wyoming’s ability to export coal and coal power. The adoption was justified by Republican senator Jeremy Haroldson, who said he didn’t believe renewable energy was reliable enough. Along with neighbouring state Montana, Wyoming has also previously petitioned the US Supreme Court against Washington state for its refusal to grant them a permit for a coal-export terminal.
However, Colorado has countered by saying that it was the first state to set up an office for just transition, and was willing to talk to Wyoming about the future of its coal workforce.
Seven EU nations resolve to stop export finance for fossil fuels
Seven member nations of the EU, including Germany, UK and France, decided to stop all public export guarantees for fossil fuel projects, which would take away the state-backed financing and insurance protection afforded to the countries’ fossil fuel exports. The other countries are Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, and the French minister for economy and finance, Mr. Bruno Lamaire, expressed hope that the US, too, would join the group — which would extend the ban to 40% of fossil fuel export finance amongst OECD countries.