China’s 14th five-year plan fails to deliver on long term climate goals

Newsletter - March 12, 2021

Misaligned: China’s 14th five year plan has been flagged as being not in line with the country’s long-term net-zero plans | Photo: Reuters

China’s five-year plan puts its climate ambitions on shaky ground

China’s 14th five-year plan lacks the foresightedness needed to help the country achieve its target of carbon neutrality by 2060

Chinese President Xi Jinping caught the world by surprise last September when he laid out China’s plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. While the announcement was welcomed by observers around the world, most agreed that any celebration would be premature without additional details on China’s strategy. The wait for specifics ended last week as the country unveiled the first steps of its long-term decarbonisation plans. 

The 14th Five Year Plan (FYP), the guiding document for China’s economic development for the next five years, has laid out decarbonisation targets the country will pursue till 2025. While the plan, adopted officially by the National People’s Congress on Thursday, reflects a marginal increment over targets included in the 13th FYP (2016-2020), experts have pointed out that it falls substantially short of the emission reductions required in the short term.

Failure to meet climate expectations

The FYP mechanism to set out national economic and development objectives dates back to 1953. Climate change has figured in the plans since the 10th FYP, which guided China’s development from 2001 to 2005. Concrete targets regarding energy intensity of the economy, carbon intensity and the share of non-fossil fuels in China’s energy mix assumed significance in the 12th and 13th FYPs. The 13th FYP aimed to lower the energy intensity and carbon intensity by 15% and 18% respectively in 2016-2020, and bring the share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix to 15% by 2020. China managed to achieve both these targets ahead of schedule.

While that might be construed as an indicator of China’s readiness to raise ambition, the 14th FYP barely stays the course, despite the introduction of a target on forest cover expansion. The draft includes some key targets for climate action during the 2021-26 timeframe:

  • Energy Intensity: China will aim to lower the energy consumption per unit GDP by 13.5%, less ambitious relative to the 13th FYP target.
  • Carbon Intensity: It will maintain the course set in the 13th FYP with planned reductions in carbon emissions per unit GDP at 18%.
  • Non-fossil Energy Share: There are plans to increase non-fossil share in consumption energy mix to 20% from the current 15.8%.
  • Forest Cover: The goal of a marginal increase in forest cover from 23.01% in 2020 to 24.1% in 2025 has been set.
  • Air Pollution: A target to eliminate heavy air pollution within the five-year period has also been set.

Analysts believe the marginal increment reflects a misalignment between China’s short-term goals and long-term ambitions for low carbon growth. “As the first five-year plan after China committed to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, the 14th FYP was expected to demonstrate strong climate ambition. However, the draft plan presented does not seem to meet the expectations. Overall, the plan doesn’t contain enough details on how China plans to accelerate the economy’s decarbonisation, nor does it offer much strategic guidance on how to peak carbon before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060,” says Zhang Shuwei, chief economist at Draworld Environment Research Center.

Net-zero by 2060 still a long shot

China’s emissions, which were significantly dented by the pandemic, saw a sharp rebound in the latter half of 2020. Fuelled by stimulus spending in heavy industries, manufacturing and construction, China’s emissions actually registered a growth of 1.5%. The 14th FYP will likely culminate in a slowdown in emissions compared to levels in recent months. Analysts, however, believe this is still short of China’s NDC towards the Paris Agreement, and nowhere near the action required to achieve the country’s 2060 net-zero ambitions. “There remains much to be done beyond these five-year targets. There’s still no end in sight for China’s coal plant construction boom. Runaway momentum in the steel, cement, and aluminium sectors suggests China needs to do much better to green its COVID recovery,” says Li Shou, policy advisor to Greenpeace East Asia.

Source: Asia Society Policy Institute

Analysts have long believed that decarbonisation efforts will hinge on when China plans to peak its emissions, and at what levels. While China has committed to reaching peak emissions before 2030, a recent study published by the Asia Society Policy Institute and Climate Analytics suggests that the peak will have to be attained much sooner, and no later than 2025, in order for China to meet its NDCs. 

With mounting pressure to bring some clarity to these points, expectations were that 14th FYP would include a “carbon cap” that sets absolute limits on additional carbon emitted. The latest FYP, however, has persisted with the goal of reduction in emission intensity, effectively dodging the all-important question regarding the timeline for China’s peak emissions.

“To tackle the climate crisis, China needs to bring its emission growth to a much slower level, and to flatten the emission curve early in the upcoming five-year period. Peaking emissions earlier than 2025 is not only possible, but necessary,” adds Li.

Interestingly, the 14th FYP has deviated from the norm of setting five-year targets for the country’s GDP. Instead, this time around, China will evaluate its targets based on inputs from provincial and regional governments on a yearly basis, with the 14th FYP including only a target for 2021, which has been set at 6%. According to analysis conducted by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), pursuing 6% growth at the prescribed 18% reduction in energy intensity would still raise emissions by about 1.9% in the current year. 

At a 6% growth rate, emission intensity would have to be reduced by over 25% in order to bring emission growth rates close to zero, the analysis suggests. Even with an average GDP growth rate of 5.5% from 2020, CO2 emissions are poised to grow at 1.1% from 2020 to 2025 under the current target for reduction in emission intensity.

“The 14th FYP targets on energy intensity and carbon intensity are rather moderate. The plan doesn’t include an explicit five-year target on GDP growth. However, our calculations show if the actual annual GDP growth is above 3.9% in the 14th FYP period, China’s absolute emissions will continue to increase,” explains Zhang.

China’s CO2 emissions increased by approximately 1.7% per year from 2015 to 2020, and kept growing at 1.5% even in 2020, despite the pandemic. Assuming that GDP growth over the period averages 5.5%, CO2 emissions could grow at 1.1% from 2020 to 2025, and still meet all the targets announced. This would be a slight deceleration compared with past years. However, if there is a strong rebound in growth this year and the rest of the period averages 6%, CO2 emission growth could even accelerate under these targets, compared with the past five years. “This would be a slight deceleration compared with past years. However, if there is a strong rebound in growth this year and the rest of the period averages 6%, CO2 emission growth could even accelerate under these targets, compared with the past five years,” warns Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at CREA.

The 14th FYP also seeks to increase non-fossil share in China’s energy consumption from the current 15.9% to 20% over the next five years. While this increase signals modest growth in renewables, analysis of pathways to attain the 2060 net-zero target suggests that a linear path would require at least 25% of China’s energy mix to comprise non-fossil energy sources by 2025.

A major issue though, according to Myllyvirta, is the absence of any limits on energy consumption. “Without the energy consumption control target, there’s even less in this five-year plan to constrain emissions growth than in the previous ones.  As a result, there’s no guarantee that emissions growth will slow down, let alone stop, by 2025. So it’s leaving the decisions about how fast to start limiting emissions growth to the energy sector five-year plan and other plans expected at the end of the year,” he notes.

The road ahead

China has not released any official roadmap for its 2060 carbon neutrality deadline. The short-term plan reflected in the 14th FYP, though, is in line with the decarbonisation approach forwarded by researchers at the Tsinghua University, which proposes smaller reductions until 2035, after which larger reductions in emissions will be easier to achieve given a wealthier population and technological breakthroughs in green energy. 

In the nearer term, however, the five-year plans for energy and electricity, expected to be released later this year, are likely to add further detail to China’s decarbonisation efforts. Additionally, China will also release its first ever five-year plan on climate, led by the environment ministry, which in recent years has seen a surge in official clout.

While demand for oil and gas is expected to continue to grow through the decade, a big concern among observers is how China intends to manage its growing appetite for coal with nearly three-fourths of all new coal power capacity being built by China alone. There is little indication of how China intends to handle the coal question. The 14th FYP draft document promises a “major push” for clean energy, but almost in the same breath, also advocates for the use of clean coal.

“In terms of the climate, initial indications from China’s 14th Five Year Plan are underwhelming and shows little sign of a concerted switch away from a future coal lock-in. We hope to see a coal cap in the more detailed energy sector and climate five year plans later this year, which will help shed light for the international community on the future of China’s emissions growth and its climate commitments,” says Swithin Lui, Climate Action Tracker’s China lead at the New Climate Institute.

Although a clearer formulation is expected in the five-year plan for energy later this year, the China Coal Association recently stated that coal consumption in 2025 would be capped at 4.2 billion tonnes, which is close to the current consumption levels and indicates peak coal consumption sometime in the next five years.

Further, the change in guard in the US with Joe Biden assuming presidency could provoke some change in China’s strategy for the Paris Agreement era that extends up to 2030. With the White House preparing a new, more ambitious target for 2030, international pressure on China to step up their own ambition will likely grow in the run up to the UN COP26 climate negotiations in November. While there is no doubt there is a will on China’s part to work on climate issues, the question of the way still remains to be answered.

Climate Science

Heating up: Long-term data has revealed Indian summers have become warmer over the past 22 years | Photo: Outlook

Indian summers have before more intense since 1998, reveals long-term data

There has been a ‘clear shift’ in the intensity of the Indian summer since 1998, according to experts, who have linked the trend to the climate crisis. Data from 1971 onwards shows that the Indian sub-continent has recorded warmer than normal summers for the past 22 years and heatwave events have also more than doubled in that time period. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a harsh summer this year, with very hot days and warm nights. 

Winter is still not officially over, but some parts of India, such as Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and even Himachal Pradesh have already recorded above-normal temperatures. Some experts said the change in weather patterns could be because the La Niña years may be getting warmer than El Niño events of the past.

The climate crisis is set to cost top Indian companies around ₹7.14 lakh crore over the next five years, according to a report by CDP. The organisation based the number around responses it received from 42 of the 220 Indian companies disclosing their climate data. 

Atlantic Ocean current weakest in over a millennium: Study

Researchers revealed the Atlantic Ocean current, which plays a major role in determining global weather patterns, is currently in the weakest state it has been in, in over a millennium. The current, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), moves warm water from the tropics to the northern hemisphere, releasing heat as it flows, which keeps countries warm.

The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, combined data from other studies to create a consistent graph of how the AMOC has evolved over 1,600 years. It found that the current was stable until the late 19th century. The researchers observed a weakening since 1850, which became more drastic in the mid-20th century.   

New tech gives real-time deforestation updates even amidst thick cloud cover

New technology will now make it possible to get real-time updates on deforestation even on days where there is a thick cloud cover. World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch will rely on Radar for Detecting Deforestation (RADD) alerts that use radar data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellites. These satellites observe the tropics every six to 12 days. The long radio wavelength of these satellites can penetrate through not just clouds, but also haze and smoke, unlike optical sensors, used in NASA’s Landsat satellites, which can capture images only on cloud-free days. This new technology will cut down on the delay in detecting deforestation, experts said. 

18%-20% permafrost degradation by 2100 with global warming of 1.5°C-2°C: Study

A new study expects permafrost degradation, in a moderate emission scenario – warming of 1.5°C-2°C – to be 18% to 20% by the year 2100. The study also found permafrost in the southern part of the northern hemisphere to be more vulnerable to warming. Also different warming scenarios will affect the spatial and temporal patterns of melting permafrost, the study found. 

Climate Policy

Under threat: Environmentalists fear that mining in the Aravallis could impact its biodiversity and groundwater recharge system | Photo: India Legal

Haryana govt seeks SC nod to start mining in Aravallis

Despite protests from environmentalists, the Haryana government is seeking approval from the Supreme Court to restart mining in the Aravallis, specifically in the districts of Faridabad, Gurugram and Mewat. The move is considered controversial because of the potential impact mining will have on one of the oldest mountain ranges, particularly with regards to groundwater recharge and biodiversity. As per the appeal to be submitted before the court, the Haryana government wants to start mining citing large-scale unemployment in the region because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other reasons include delays in the execution of infrastructure projects and their cost escalation. 

Govt allows industries violating coastal norms to avoid closure by paying compensation

A new government order triggered concerns of damage to India’s vulnerable coastal areas. The order allows industrial projects being built in an ecologically sensitive coastal zone without necessary permissions to avoid closure by paying for a conservation and environment management plan as compensation. The environment ministry explained the new rules through an ‘office memorandum’ sent to all coastal states. Current laws make it compulsory for such projects to obtain prior clearance before starting construction work.   

European officials at World Bank urge management to exclude investments fossil fuels 

In a major move, senior European officials at the World Bank urged management to ‘exclude’ all its fossil-fuel investments and also phase out natural gas investments from its portfolio. The letter written by the officials is significant because the World Bank is the largest provider of climate finance to developing countries. 

The EU, meanwhile, continues to spearhead the climate movement globally. All member countries officially approved the EU’s 17.5-billion euro EU Just Transition Fund. This fund will help the region phase out the coal and oil sectors to make way for cleaner industries and jobs. 

Biden pushes up cost of carbon  

US President Joe Biden continues to walk the walk when it comes to climate change. He has hiked the social cost of carbon, as calculated by the Obama administration. The cost will now be $51 for every tonne of carbon released into the atmosphere. The previous Trump administration had set a figure of just $8. The social cost quantifies the economic and societal damage that greenhouse gas emissions will cause in the next few decades. 

According to energy consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd, however, carbon prices will have to surge to at least $160 per tonne of CO2 by 2030. The current global average is $22. The report also urged companies to capture, store and use huge volumes of CO2 in order to try and limit warming to 1.5°C.

China to launch online emissions trading system by end of June

In order to reach its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2060, China will launch a carbon emissions trading system this year. The registration system and data for the exchange will be based in central Hubei province, while Shanghai will host trading on Friday and Saturday. Trading is expected to begin by the end of June. The system will initially only trade emissions by coal- or gas-fired plants, major refineries and manufacturing facilities with captive power plants.   

Air Pollution

Getting pricey: The upward trend of LPG prices over several years has put cooking gas, and clean indoor air, out of the reach of millions of Indians | Photo: Livelaw

Indoor air pollution: ‘Only 50% urban slum households use LPG’, refill cost jumped ₹ 125 in a month

In a major setback to initiatives aiming to curb indoor air pollution, a new survey revealed that 86% of households in urban slums across six Indian states have liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections, but only about 50% use them. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) survey found that 16% of the households in the sample states used firewood, dung cakes, charcoal and kerosene to cook. The six Indian states included Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which account for nearly a quarter of India’s urban slum population.

The government informed the Parliament that the price of a household cooking gas (LPG) refill has doubled in the past seven years and subsidy has vanished over the years. Tax from petrol and diesel has also risen four-and-a-half times during this period. 

According to the government, an LPG refill in Delhi costs ₹410.50 per cylinder on March 1, 2014, and has risen to ₹819 this month. The prices vary with state taxes. In the past one month alone, the LPG refill price jumped by ₹125 per cylinder.

Parliamentary panel: There’s lack of air quality data in smaller cities

A parliamentary panel report stated that the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) can be effectively implemented only by strengthening capacities at the municipal level. Also, the panel acknowledged the lack of quality data on air pollution in smaller cities and towns. The panel suggested that the grants for installation of systems to monitor air quality, as recommended by the 15th finance commission, must be prioritised in smaller cities and towns.

For example, Guwahati received ₹20 lakh in funds in 2019-20 under the NCAP; but it costs ₹1.2 crore to install one air quality monitor. The panel insisted upon the need for transparency in information relating to expenditure of ‘Control of Pollution’ scheme, progress of NCAP, and functioning of pollution control boards.

The ‘Control of Pollution’ scheme of the Union Ministry of Forests and Climate Change will have to be implemented through various central and state government agencies, the Parliamentary panel said.

Pollution increased in half of Maharashtra cities included in National Clean Air programme  

Air pollution increased in half of the 18 cities of Maharashtra that are included under the National Clean Air Plan in 2019 compared to the levels recorded in 2017. The main pollutant, PM 10, increased in nine cities, including Aurangabad, Chandrapur, Jalna, Kolhapur, Latur, Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane, according to a report by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). 

The report stated that Nagpur and Thane recorded an 18% and 17% increase respectively in PM 10 levels between 2017 and 2019, while Mumbai’s PM10 annual average remained the same at 125µg/m3 for both the years. The standard annual limit for Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), or PM 10, concentration is 60 µg/m3.

Centre allows resumption of diesel generators in NCR, Delhi slaps fine for dust pollution

Centre has allowed the resumption of use and sale of diesel power generators banned in Delhi-NCR under the graded action plan.  The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) lifted the ban predicting better air quality days this summer. 

According to the Delhi environment department report, 23,663 notices were issued for causing air pollution during peak season of winter. The state government also issued 2,66,829 challans for vehicular pollution.

The Delhi government collected ₹52 lakh in fines from sites that have not been following norms of demolition and construction. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) inspected 447 construction and demolition sites between December and January in the Capital, of which 106 were found violating dust control measures. Work at 44 sites has been put on hold until all dust control measures are put in place.

The DPCC had released norms for small and large construction sites to control suspension of dust. The guidelines recommend measures, including keeping building materials covered, paving vehicle tracks and working the area with concrete, DTE reported. 

Automakers to offer 5% rebate on new cars if buyers junk their old car

Transport minister Nitin Gadkari said if people will junk their old car and buy a new one under the Vehicle Scrapping Policy, they will get about a 5% rebate from automakers on the new purchase. As per the country’s voluntary vehicle scrapping policy announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22, personal vehicles require a fitness certificate after 20 years, while commercial vehicles would require it after 15 years. 

The minister said it would lead to a 30% boost to the Indian automobile industry turnover to ₹10 lakh crore in the years to come from the present about ₹4.5 lakh crore. Gadkari said initially about one crore polluting vehicles would go for scrapping. Of this, an estimated 51 lakh will be light motor vehicles that are above 20 years of age and another 34 lakh LMVs that are above 15 years. It would also cover 17 lakh medium and heavy motor vehicles, which are above 15 years and currently without valid fitness certificates, he said.

The UK violated pollution limits ’systematically’, EU court rules

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled that the UK has “systematically and persistently” broken legal limits on air pollution for a decade. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, mostly from diesel vehicles, remain illegally high in 75% of urban areas, the court ruled, saying that the UK had failed to end pollution in the shortest possible time, as required by law.

The case was filed before the UK left the EU, but the country could face fines if it fails to comply. The court also ordered the UK to pay the legal costs incurred by the European Commission.


Duty bound: India will replace its current safeguard duties regime on solar panel and module imports with a 40% customs duty starting next year | Photo: Live Mint

Solar target 280 GW by 2030: India to levy 40% Customs duty on solar modules by next year

By April 2022, India will levy 40% Customs duty on solar panels and 25% on solar modules, according to a memo issued by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Reuters reported. The country currently does not charge Customs duty on solar imports, but has a safeguard duty to boost domestic industry, which expires in July.

According to the memo, India wants to increase its solar capacity to 280 GW by 2030-31 from about 39 GW currently, making it over a third of its overall power requirement. India is chasing a renewable capacity target of 175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030, from about 93 GW currently, as part of its commitment under the Paris Climate Accords.

Targets missed, but RE companies’ ratings saved by diverse projects : Moody’s

Thanks to large and diverse portfolios, Indian renewable energy companies have been able to survive their failure to meet generation targets in the fiscal years of 2019 and 2020, a report by credit rating agency Moody’s said. 

According to Moody’s analysts, about 15%-20% of Indian wind and solar projects did not meet capacity utilisation targets in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 because of wind generation curtailments and lower irradiance for solar projects, which were responsible for 56% and 68% of the underperformance respectively. 

Around 176 projects totaling 11,462 MW, across five rated companies – Greenko Energy Holdings, ReNew Power, Adani Renewable Energy (Rj) Limited, Azure Power and Azure Power Solar Energy Private Limited – were analysed. 

House panel: Govt consistently missing RE targets, cutting budget; need single-window clearance for rooftop solar

A parliamentary panel slammed the Centre for “consistently failing” to meet its RE targets. In its report on the demand for grants by MNRE for the financial year (FY) 2021-22, the panel pointed out that in 2020-21, 5.47 GW renewable capacity was installed as of January 2021 against the 12.38 GW target. About 4.16 GW of solar capacity was installed against its 9 GW target and nearly 940 MW of wind capacity against the 3 GW target.

The panel said the budget was cut by about 26% for the year 2019-20 and 38% for 2020-21. The ministry had utilised 91.53% and 69.78% of the budget allocations during 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively.

About failure to implement the solar rooftop programme, the panel suggested that a single-window clearance system be created for the transparent and quick disbursement of subsidies. The country’s cumulative installed rooftop solar capacity stood at  3.73 GW as of December 31, 2020, against the target of 40 GW by 2022.

Wind turbine commissioning jumps by record 59% worldwide: BNEF study 

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic last year, the commissioning of new wind turbines globally surged by a record 59% to more than 96 GW of capacity, according to a BloombergNEF study.

Companies commissioned 96.3 GW of wind turbines in 2020, compared with 60.7 GW the previous year, the majority of which were onshore installations. Offshore wind turbine projects fell by 19% to 6.1 GW. The report said in every region, wind power jumped in 2020 compared to 2019, but the most gains were made by China. The country commissioned 57.8 GW of new wind capacity in 2020. The government’s feed-in tariff for wind power is set to end this year, which could trigger a drop in the commissioning rate.

US’ biggest off-shore wind farm gets Biden boost

Seen as a breakthrough for the US offshore wind industry, the Biden administration in the US moved closer to approve a $2.8 billion project to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, the Washington Post reported. The Vineyard Wind project would consist of 84 turbines generating 800 MW of energy – enough to power 400,000 homes – and would begin feeding the New England grid in 2023. 

The project was conceived two decades ago but had been opposed by waterfront property owners near the upscale island, including then Senator Edward M Kennedy, who died in 2009, and the billionaire industrialist William I Koch. The project will consist of up to 84 turbines that will generate about 800 MW — enough to power about 400,000 homes, according to the companies.

Electric Vehicles

That's the footprint: A new study says electric cars waste only ~30kg worth of material in their lifetimes -- equivalent to a heavy football -- compared to gasoline cars that burn 17,000 liters | Photo: Euractive

New study says electric cars waste 300X less material than ICE counterparts

A new study by Europe’s Transport and Environment (T&E) found that electric cars that run on li-ion batteries waste 300 times less material than gasoline cars over their lifetime. T&E is an umbrella organisation for European NGOs working on transport and environmental issues, and its analysis found that unlike gasoline cars that typically burn 17,000 litres of fuel over their lifetimes, li-ion batteries can be recycled and thus end up using far less “material” — only about 30kg, or the size of a heavy football. 

The analysis further said that over their lifetimes, electric cars will use 58% less energy and emit 64% less CO2, and the findings come at a time when there is growing interest in recycling battery packs to move away from the relatively high prices of lithium and cobalt. 

Delhi government drops Tata Nexon from subsidy list over customer complaints 

The Delhi government dropped India’s best selling electric car for 2020, the Tata Nexon, from its list of EVs eligible for subsidies over a customer’s complaint that the car never managed more than 200km of driving range — despite it being rated at 320km on a single charge. The complaint may cost Tata Motors in lost sales going forward — it sold more than 2,000 units across India in 2020 — as under the Delhi EV policy, electric cars are eligible for subsidies between ₹1.5 lakh and ₹3 lakh (~$2,100 – $4,200). 

The development comes despite the model’s ARAI-certified driving range per charge having been ascertained under test conditions, which are very different from driving in the real world. Tata Motors is yet to independently verify the particular customer’s complaint, but has expressed its disappointment with the decision. 

Volvo to go fully-electric by 2030

Swedish carmaker Volvo announced that it would only sell fully-electric cars from 2030, and in doing so becomes another major European car manufacturer (apart from VW) to permanently move away from the IC engine. In 2019, Volvo had announced that all its cars would have an electric motor (as hybrids) and by 2025, 50% of its sales would be fully electric. It has now upgraded the ambition and its Chief Technology Officer has also stated that Volvo would not invest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as it did not foresee sufficient customer demand for the technology. 

Rolls Royce completes first taxiing of superfast electric plane

Aircraft engine maker Rolls Royce successfully completed the first-ever taxiing of its “Spirit of Innovation” all-electric aircraft in the UK, setting an important milestone in the aircraft’s development. At an estimated maximum speed of 300 mph (480 kmph), the plane is touted to become the world’s fastest 100% electric aircraft when it reaches flight testing, and it’ll be powered by a 400kW electric powertrain that consists of 6,000 cells packed into a battery demonstrator pack. Meanwhile, NASA’s experimental electric aircraft, the X-57 Maxwell, is also close to being completed and it will have a range of 100 miles (160km) and a flying time of approximately 40 minutes. While the plane itself will not be commercialised, NASA hopes that the technical understanding from its flight characteristics will be used to develop commercial units for the mass market.

Fossil Fuels

Strange bedfellows: The IEA Chief's curious support for India's use of coal comes even as the chief of the UN is pleading with nations to end their toxic addiction to fossil fuels | Photo: Times of India

IEA chief supports India’s use of coal, calls for international support for exit

The chief of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, endorsed India’s plans for continued use of coal at a leadership dialogue on the grounds that developing nations cannot alone be asked to sacrifice several million jobs and economic growth for a problem that was essentially created by developed economies. The comments are an unusual show of support from the IEA, which recently signed an MoU with the Indian government to “strengthen cooperation in global energy security, stability and sustainability”, and essentially backs statements by the country’s home minister that envisioned coal playing a major role in India’s target to become a $5 trillion-economy by 2025. 

Birol also reiterated that global financial support was necessary for countries to gradually move away from coal — which developing nations have long demanded. However, the show of support comes at a time when the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has passionately pleaded with countries to step up their transition to renewable energy. 

New report finds Japanese banks largest financiers of coal, Chinese banks largest underwriters

A new report released by a coalition of NGOs found that Japanese banks are the largest financiers of thermal coal projects around the world — with $22 billion in financing meted out in the past two years, while the largest underwriters were from China, US, Japan, India and the UK, in that order. The report also found that together global institutional investors hold $1.03 trillion in thermal coal companies, with US investors holding the lion’s share at 58%. However, while there is no word on its $85 billion worth of exposure to thermal coal, BlackRock recently asked oil and gas firms to declare their emissions or face divestment. Also Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) may soon stop financing all new coal projects as pressure mounts on Japanese banks to move away from the fuel. 

New technology aims to produce 75% cleaner aviation fuel from non-recyclable plastic waste

A new plastics-to-fuel technology developed by London-based Clean Planet Energy claims to convert one million tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste per year into aviation fuel — termed Clean Planet Air — that will emit 75% less CO2. The process will involve conversion of the waste via pyrolysis and an oil upgrade, and as a by-product it will produce recycled feedstock that can be used to reproduce plastic. The synthetic fuel produced has also been tested to result in 850 times less NOx and SOx emissions, which would greatly impact air quality around airports. The firm will carry out the conversion at its ecoPlants in the UK and Europe (for now), each of which will process 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year. 

Hungary advances date for coal exit from 2030 to 2025

The state of Hungary agreed to advance its coal phaseout timeline by five years, and it will now shutter its last coal plant not by 2030, but by 2025. The country’s new target is to attain 90% carbon neutrality by 2030, and under the plan it will boost its solar installations to 6GW, which will be three times its nuclear power capacity. Its last coal plant, the 884 MW unit at Matra, meanwhile, will be replaced by a natural gas and solar power plant, and the affected workers will be compensated by the EU. The latest decision brings Hungary in line with six other EU nations — the UK, Ireland, Slovakia, Italy, Portugal and France — that will stop using coal power by 2025.