China Promises, North America Threatens

Newsletter - May 1, 2019

Won’t let it happen: Despite China promising a greener BRI, the Trump administration and Canada could together wreck international climate action with their push for more fossil fuels | Image credit: TheRealDeal

Big Story: China promises, North America threatens

Chinese president Xi Jinping announced at the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF) that Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects “must be green and sustainable”. Strong statement of intent, but the country has earmarked nearly $36 billion for up to 102 GW of new coal power across 23 recipient nations. Despite a majority of BRI receiving countries favoring renewable energy, two new coal plants have also opened in Pakistan and Vietnam and there’s more in the pipeline.

Yet, it is developments in the west that could unravel international climate action, since Global Energy Monitor has warned that 51% of the world’s 302 new fossil fuel pipelines could come up in North America alone. If built, most of them would carry natural gas from Texas to America’s heartlands, and could release over 500 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every single year, for the next 40 to 50 years.

Climate Science

End of the road? The draft IPBES report that says one million species of animals and plants could go extinct could hit our iconic species first | Image credit: SpectrumChart

One million species close to extinction: IPBES’s upcoming report expected to conclude

One million species face the risk of extinction because of the increasing loss of clean air, forest cover and drinkable water, among other factors — that is the expected conclusion of a report to be released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report, which will be released on May 6, is the first-ever on human activity-related impact on earth’s biodiversity.

Prepared by 150 leading international experts from 50 countries, with additional contributions from a further 250 experts, the Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services will inform better policies and actions in the coming decade. The report will be discussed, finalised and considered for approval at the seventh session of the IPBES Plenary, to be held from April 29 – May 6, 2019.

Greenland is melting six times faster: Study

The ice-sheet of the world’s largest island, Greenland, is melting six times faster than in the 1980s, which has caused sea levels to rise by over half an inch since 1972, a new study has revealed. If all of Greenland’s glaciers melted, the sea level would rise about 20 feet, the study says. Greenland dumped about 51 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean between 1980 to 1990, compared to 286 billion tonnes between 2010 and 2018, the report says.

New Zealand’s biodiversity in dire straits: Report

New Zealand, a country that is known for its picturesque landscapes, is in deep trouble environmentally, according to a new report, Environment Aotearoa. Calling New Zealand ‘one of the most invaded countries in the world’, the report provides some shocking statistics such as 75 of its animal and plant species have gone extinct after human settlement. Not just that, the report states that 90% of its seabirds and 80% of its shorebirds are threatened with or were on the brink of extinction.

Climate Policy

Not helping the cause: Growing demand for oil – particularly in India, China and the US – is pushing the world further away from the all-important Paris targets | Image credit: USAToday

US, China, India halving emissions not enough to meet Paris goals

A study published in journal Earth’s Future says global temperature rise would “far exceed” the Paris targets even if the biggest emitters, the US, the EU, China and India halved their emissions “each decade” from 2020-2050. The study suggests that to meet the Paris goals, richer countries must commit to developing breakthrough, “zero to negative carbon emissions technologies” for use of developing countries.

A Carbon Brief animation showing cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of countries since 1750 showed that the US was “the baddest” greenhouse gas emitter of the world since the industrial revolution. Its Democratic presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke, has, however, detailed a climate action plan for the US that calls for $5 trillion in investments for clean energy and net zero emissions by 2050.

US owes world $1 trillion in failed climate commitments

Foreign Policy has argued that the United States owes the world $1 trillion for failing to meet its international climate change agreements. The US made four international commitments to cut emissions (Rio 1992, Kyoto 1997, Copenhagen 2009, and Paris 2015), yet in each case it failed to turn those commitments into policy, and steadily increased its emissions. The US has emitted around 20 billion tonnes of CO2 more than it committed since 1992.

By 2025, it will likely overshoot the target by another 5 billion tonnes. The 25-billion-tonne surplus “amounts to more than the total Chinese, Indian, and European Union emissions last year. It will cause more than $1 trillion in damage to the global economy over the coming years”.

In 2018, 30 football fields of forest lost per minute

A new study from Global Forest Watch reported 12 million hectares of loss of forest in 2018 — equivalent to losing 30 football fields per minute, reported the BBC. The destruction was lower than 2016 and 2017 when dry conditions resulted in larger forest fires, but 2018’s loss of forests was the worst since 2002.

Extinction Rebellion claims partial victory

Climate protesters will rally outside British Parliament on Wednesday as Labour launches a bid to declare “climate emergency” In a direct impact of Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) London roadblocks, demanding climate inaction. Protest groups Momentum and Extinction Rebellion will unite outside Parliament to push government to support Labour’s bid. Earlier, teen icon Sweden’s Greta Thunberg admonished British MPs over taking selfies with protesters. The Welsh government has already declared a “climate emergency” hoping it would trigger “a wave of (climate) action”.

The Welsh Government’s Lesley Griffiths said climate change threatens Wales’ health, economy, infrastructure and natural environment, reported the BBC.

New York, Washington announce sweeping green reforms

Glass buildings that have formed a part of the iconic New York skyline will now be banned if they don’t adhere to a city-wide ‘Green New Deal’ announced by NYC mayor Bill de Blasio this week. This plan, called OneNYC 2050, aims to cut the city’s greenhoe gas emissions by nearly 30% by 2030 and eventually achieve carbon neutrality and 100% clean energy by 2050.

Washington’s state senate passed a bill which stipulates 100% of Washington’s electricity will have to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and carbon-free by 2045 and state utilities will have to phase out coal power as early as 2025.

Bloomberg pumps in millions to bridge US funding gap towards Paris agreement

Billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will donate $5.5 million of his own money to the UN Climate Change body to make up for the lack of enthusiasm shown by the Donald Trump administration. The funds will be used to cover the costs of climate negotiations and related initiatives in the private sector. Under the Trump administration, the US is woefully behind as far as its monetary contribution to the UN climate body goes.

Air Pollution

Fingers crossed: The inclusion of experts from TERI and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) should help in the scientific implementation of the NCAP | Image credit: IndiaTVnews

Panel formed to implement India’s clean air programme

India’s government has formed a steering committee of chief secretaries from 20 states, including Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh to effectively implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The chief of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the head of TERI and an IIT professor will also be part of the panel. The panel will approve the budget and state action plans submitted by the states for the NCAP.

China provinces facing spillover air pollution from big cities

A new study published in Science Advances suggests China’s emission norms in big cities are causing air pollution in its provinces. The evaluation of the norms to control PM2.5 emissions, CO2 emissions and water consumption in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei revealed spillover effects to other regions. Polluting industries are being pushed to neighbouring areas that have lower environmental standards, the study says.

43% Americans breathing dirty air as planet warms: American Lung Association

According to the latest American Lung association study, 43% of Americans now live in polluted spaces and are breathing unsafe air. With global warming, the air quality is increasingly deteriorating in the US. As temperatures rise, wildfires are getting worse building up more smog, or ground-level ozone, across the western US on warmer days, the study says. Over the three hottest years on record (2015, 2016, 2017), about 141 million people lived in US counties that saw unhealthy levels of particle pollution…7 million more people than in the group’s last report”.

No diesel Maruti cars from 2020

Maruti Suzuki has announced it will stop selling diesel cars from April 2020, the time when new emission norms of upgrading fuel standards from Bharat IV to Bharat VI, kick in. Diesel cars contributed to 23% of Maruti’s total sales of 1.75 million vehicles in FY19. The decision to phase out diesel cars have sent suppliers of auto-parts scrambling for other options from Maruti.

Cruise ships pollute as much as a million cars every day

An undercover investigation targeting Britain’s P&O Cruises has found that cruise ships can emit as many ultra-fine particles every day as by a million cars put together. This is because the ships run on the inexpensive but sulphur-laden heavy fuel oil, which makes the air close to their exhausts record concentrations as high as 2,26,000 ultra-fine particles/cubic meter. In comparison, Piccadilly Circus in London – a popular tourist spot – records an average concentration of 38,400 ultra-fine particles/cubic meter.

After protests, India’s green ministry issues notice to polluting Delhi waste plant

The people’s will prevailed this week in India after the Union ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued a show-cause notice to a waste-to-energy plant in Okhla, a suburban colony in the national capital. The move comes after local residents protested against the plant in a rally last month, saying toxic emissions from the plant were polluting the area around it.


Necessary: $500 billion for India’s renewable energy targets is much-needed investment to steer its clean energy transition | Image credit: HuffingtonPost

India looking at $500 bn investment in renewable energy generation by 2028

A massive $500-billion renewable energy investment is on the cards in India, according to the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’ (IEEFA) energy outlook. In addition, the country will invest $250 billion in grid expansion and modernisation. IEEFA’s outlook references a statement made by Mr. Anand Kumar, Secretary of MNRE, that India is projected to need close to 850GW of electricity by 2030 if it grows annually at 6.5%.

TANGEDCO announces draft repowering policy for wind turbines, India may reach 54.7 GW wind capacity by 2022

Tamil Nadu’s power utility TANGEDCO announced a draft policy to repower some of the aging wind turbines in the state. Its wind turbines have capacities ranging from 200-600 kW and date back to 1986. These will now be replaced with new turbines that range from 750 kW to 2.1 MW. The upgrades are expected to significantly boost the state’s wind power output.

On the other hand, research firm Fitch Solutions has estimated that India will reach 54.7 GW of wind power capacity by 2022 – 90% of its 60 GW target. The key roadblocks identified for the shortfall are land acquisition issues, insufficient grid capacity to absorb additional wind power and the industry’s unsustainably low tariffs – which has negatively affected inflow of investments.

International Solar Alliance funding to be free from “foreign” tag

The India-France initiative, International Solar Alliance, for sunlight-rich countries, will no longer be classified as a foreign source of funding for NGOs in India, the government said as part of its efforts to achieve the goal of increasing the use of solar energy. The United Nations, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Labour Organisation, and International Monetary Fund are among 109 organisations exempted by India from foreign funding licences. NGOs seeking foreign funding are required to obtain licences from the Union home ministry and are required to state the purpose of the funds being brought into the country.

BRI nations overwhelmingly want China to invest in renewables, not coal

A poll commissioned by E3G across six BRI nations has shown that 85% of the 6,000 respondents preferred renewable energy – and not coal, due to its record on air pollution – when it comes to China investing in their power capacities.

The poll was conducted across Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Philippines, Vietnam and Turkey and highlighted the mounting unpopularity of China’s overseas investments in coal power – both due to its poorer economics and its role in driving air pollution. Around 90% of the poll’s respondents instead supported solar power, while coal lagged behind even nuclear power in order of preference.

India’s solar power capacity addition to grow 15% to 7,500 MW this fiscal

Credit rating agency ICRA said India’s solar capacity addition will grow by about 15% to 7,000-7,500 MW in the current financial year (2019-20). ICRA based its estimates on the tendering activity and awards of projects in the past 12-15 months. The last financial year’s solar capacity addition remained in a slow range of 6,000 MW and 6,500 MW because of the weak trend in awarding of solar projects in 2017.

Renewables hit record 77% of German power on Easter Monday

Good wind and sunshine helped Germany produce 77% of net public electricity supply, which is a new German record, on April 22, Easter Monday. Wind power provided 40% of total net power, solar 20%, and biomass 10%.

European bank increases renewable financing for Poland

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has decided to increase funding for Poland’s renewable energy this year, as the once coal-happy government of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) shifts toward green energy. Poland removed tax disincentives for wind farms and began auctions under a new subsidy system. EBRD may increase renewable financing in Poland to around 650 million euros from 560 million euros last year.

Delhi Metro aims to be first 100% solar-powered metro

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is aiming to be world’s first rail network to go 100% solar by 2021 and save Rs41 crore. Currently 60% of its operations run on solar energy. Most recently, it got 27MW of solar power from the Rewa solar farm in Madhya Pradesh.

Electric Vehicles

What a delivery: Popular Indian food delivery service Swiggy claims its test EVs deliver 40% lower operating costs – of course with zero emissions | Image credit: ForbesIndia

Swiggy testing EVs for food deliveries in 10 Indian cities

Swiggy is reportedly testing EVs across 10 Indian cities for food deliveries as part of its sustainability efforts. The firm claims that EVs lower the cost of running the delivery vehicles by up to 40% – which also benefits the owners of the vehicles through higher payouts. Swiggy already partners with 10,000 delivery personnel who use bicycles, and its business rival Zomato has also announced plans to convert 40% of its delivery fleet to EVs within two years.

BNEF: Electric cars will reach price parity by 2022

Research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has once again revised its prediction on EVs and now says the rapidly falling costs of their batteries will make electric cars price competitive with IC-engined cars by 2022. It had earlier estimated the date to be 2024, and predicts that EV batteries that account for 33% of an electric car’s cost today will only add 20% to their costs by 2025.

SBI releases low interest Green Car Loan to accelerate EV uptake

India’s largest public sector lender – State Bank of India (SBI) – has introduced a Green Car Loan to attract potential EV adopters. The loan will have an extended repayment period of up to 8 years – as opposed to 5-year loans for traditional automobiles – and no processing fees till October 2019. SBI says it has introduced the loan to help lower vehicular air pollution and accelerate the uptake of EVs across India. The bank itself has committed to an all-electric fleet by 2030.

Japan to include EVs in 30% higher ‘fuel efficiency standards’ by 2030

Japan will now also include EVs in its revised fuel efficiency standards – which will require its automakers to improve their fleets’ cumulative fuel efficiencies by around 30% by 2030. The EVs will be included after factoring in CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel plants that power their charging infrastructure.

However, the move could boost EV sales in Japan as its automakers have admitted they will be unable to meet the new standards with improved IC-engined vehicles alone. EVs and hybrids accounted for 1% of all of Japan’s car sales in 2017, but the figures could rise to up to 30% by 2030.

Fossil Fuels

Coming through: Tata’s exit from new coal power highlights coal’s ballooning shortcomings – and that renewables make good business sense | Image credit: FIINews

Tata Power to quit new coal power, focus on renewables

IEEFA has reported that one of India’s largest private power developers – Tata Power – will quit developing any new coal power plants. It will instead source up to 70% of its new power capacity from wind, solar and hydro power. The announcement completely contradicts established wisdom that India’s growing energy needs must be fueled by coal, and is an important shift for the firm whose current thermal capacity in India is around 6,000 MW. Moreover, its 4,000 MW ultra mega thermal power plant at Mundra, Gujarat, has reported heavy losses over the rising costs of imported coal.

China to restrict new coal plants at home over air pollution, overcapacity concerns

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) – its energy policy drafting and implementing agency – has announced it will not allow any new coal plants to be commissioned in eight coal mining-heavy provinces till 2022. These provinces are currently oversupplied with coal power that is wasted without adequate transmission capacity to neighbouring regions. The NEA is also targeting them for further reduction in air pollution – part of which is due to the local coal plants.

India: Govt approves coal mining in Chhattisgarh’s “inviolate”, very dense forest

India’s government has approved coal mining from Chhattisgarh’s Parsa open cast coal mine – which is also home to the very dense and pristine forest of Hasdeo Arand. The forest is currently classified as “inviolate”, which forbids any industrial and/or commercial operators to establish operations within its boundaries.

Yet, as India’s coal imports rose by 8.8% in FY19 over strained domestic supplies, over 840 hectares (8.4 sq. km) of the forest have been cleared for felling to help boost domestic output. The coal will be mined by the Adani group and sold to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam (RRVUN) Ltd.

OCBC, DBC Bank to stop financing new coal power

China’s OCBC (Overseas Chinese Banking Corp.) and DBS (Development Bank of Singapore) will both stop financing any new coal power projects. OCBC is Asia’s second largest financier and has said its support to two new coal plants in Vietnam will be its last.

DBS’s decision is influenced by the IEA’s 2018 World Energy Outlook report, its sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the IPCC SR15’s recommendations to curb the global use of fossil fuels. Both banks will, nevertheless, continue to finance existing commitments, which for DBS may extend till 2021.