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Climate action ok, what about the reaction?

Newsletter - October 30, 2019

A wave of violence: Protests in Chile were triggered by a hike in metro fares as the government seeks to switch to renewables and tax conventional energy sources | Photo: Project-Syndicate.org

Climate action ok, what about the reaction?

In January this year, the UN security council recognised climate change as a “threat multiplier” for social and political stability around the world as it deliberated conflicts that had erupted in Africa and the Middle East since the turn of the decade. The link is straightforward enough. Climate change places stress on natural resources which when compounded by unequal distribution sees higher probabilities of violence. However, there was some solace in the widely-held belief that this was likely only among vulnerable and poor societies in the world, while more developed nations would be able to balance their adaptation and mitigation requirements without too much disruption. This year, dubbed the year of protests, has shattered this perception.

Mass mobilisations in rich and poor countries alike have targeted new policies which have sought to reign in emissions. The global north, which has been facing record-breaking heat spells year after year (….), saw its first big wave of protests in France by the Gilet Jaunes or Yellow Vest protestors who have been organising country-wide protests, and clashing with police, for nearly a year now over fuel surcharges introduced by the Emmanuel Macron government as an environmental measure. The protest, over months, has found solidarity from working classes across Europe, North America and even the Middle East.

Earlier this month in the Netherlands, thousands of farmers blockaded highways to protest government proposals to shut some cattle farms due to their high carbon footprints. In Russian capital Moscow too, protests demanding election reforms have emerged in the backdrop of the Putin government’s perceived bias towards industrialists while setting the country’s climate agenda.

The situation isn’t very different in developing nations of the global south. This month’s protests in Chile’s capital Santiago (host of this year’s COP), which turned violent and resulted in 18 deaths, was triggered by a hike in metro prices. Somewhat ironically, the hike came about a result of the Chile government’s decisions to tax conventional energy sources and switch the Santiago Metro system to renewable power. Just a few weeks earlier, Ecuador declared a state of emergency after protests against the government’s decision to end fuel subsidies shook the country. Protestors, fearing steep increases in prices of common goods and food, took to the streets and clashed violently with police. Volatility in the oil industry and unpopular austerity measures have sparked wide protests, reminiscent of the Arab Spring, across the Middle East and North African region as well.

In India too, recent months have seen backlash against climate-aligned moves by the government. While the push for electric vehicles has been implicated in the slowdown and job losses that has afflicted the auto sector in the country, a widely-mooted plastic ban across the country was abandoned allegedly due to the huge impact on employment in the country and the potential backlash that would follow. Interestingly, though, the country has continued to extend deadlines to meet new emission standards for thermal power plants.

The readiness of modern democracy to meet the challenge of climate change has been a subject of intense speculation in recent years. Data shows that while public protests increased dramatically, success rate of protests witnessed a staggering decline since mid-2000s, which is as low as 30% today.

Mass protests across the world have had separate triggers, but they’re united by distrust of the ruling elite and the policies they perceive as proof of a double standard that favours the rich. While protests against austerity measures have rocked climate policy, anti-immigration laws being put in place by several governments are also being interpreted as a response to climate change and its impending impacts. The Paris Agreement lays out the objective of climate action and although the debate rages on whether climate action under the agreement will be adequate to avert crisis, the disruption caused by green transition under the current economic and political systems is laying bare the tough road that lies ahead.


Climate Science

A hot mess: An study of 33 el Ninos since 1901 has found that the events, which causes anomalous heating in the Pacific, have gotten stronger in the last 50 years | Photo: Washington Post

Climate change causing stronger El Ninos: Study

El Ninos are getting stronger thanks to climate change, a new study found. The study, which examined 33 El Ninos since 1901, found that since 1971, the El Ninos were being formed in warmer waters, therefore were emerging stronger than before. Why this is a problem is that stronger El Ninos are known to trigger drought in places like Australia and India and flooding in places like California. The number of hurricanes increases in the Pacific and drops in the Atlantic during a stronger El Nino.

A separate study revealed climate change may have led to the widespread dying of European peatlands, which are a natural carbon sink. The study’s results are significant because peatlands lock up five times more carbon than forests in Europe alone. According to the study the peatlands are so dry and fragile and may end up releasing carbon instead of absorbing it.

Population at risk from coastal flooding more than triple that of previous estimates: Climate Central study

A new study by Climate Central published in the journal Nature Communications has revealed that by 2050 sea level rise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land now home to 300 million people. Further, high tide lines could permanently rise above land occupied by some 150 million, including 30 million in China. Six Asian countries (China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand) are home to the great majority of people–approximately 237 million combined–living in places that without coastal defenses could experience coastal flooding at least annually by 2050, more than quadrupling estimates based on older elevation data. The new estimates puts some 36 million people at risk in India as compared to the estimate of 5 million in previous assessments. The new estimates are based on CoastalDEM which uses machine learning methods to correct for systematic errors in the principal elevation dataset used until now for international assessment of coastal flood risks. The main dataset used for global coastal research so far, NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) measures elevations closest to the sky such as treetops or rooftops and hence overestimate coastal elevations by 2-4m.

Thawing permafrost turning Arctic into a carbon emitter

The Arctic, which is home to permafrost that act like a carbon sink, is thawing so quickly because of the warming planet, that it is now a source for emissions instead of being a sink. Scientists estimate that the melting ice is emitting 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon annually between October and April – this is twice as high as previous estimates.   

Speaking of thawing ice, melting glaciers have revealed five new islands in the remote Arctic, according to the Russian navy. The islands are yet to be named.

New carbon sinks discovered in glacial rivers

In a surprising bit of optimistic news, a new study has revealed that glacial rivers could be pulling carbon from the atmosphere faster than the Amazonian rainforest. Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that low rates of organic decay in glacial rivers and high rates of chemical weathering which results in glacial rivers becoming carbon dioxide sinks that can sequester up to 40 times more than the Amazon rainforest pre unit area. The limited size of glacial rivers though means the amount is still much less than what the rainforest pulls.

In some separate news though, all is not well for the Amazon. New research has suggested that if current rates of deforestation continue, the rainforest will cease to produce enough rain to sustain itself as early as 2021. Crossing this tipping point would mean a gradual degradation of the rainforest into a savannah releasing billions of tonnes of carbon. The claim has split experts with some estimating that the tipping point is still at least 20 years away.

Global Hunger Index links climate change to rising global hunger

This year’s Global Hunger Index claimed that climate change is one of the reasons why global hunger has been rising since 2015. It points to extreme climate events affecting crops since the 1990s to make its case. The study highlights the strong overlap between climate vulnerability and malnutrition

Most delayed monsoon withdrawal on record set to disrupt Australian summer monsoon

While officially India’s monsoon season ended on 31 September, the monsoon is yet to withdraw completely from the subcontinent a month after the official date. The monsoon, affected all season long by spatial and temporal distributive abnormalities, ended 10 per cent surplus, the largest seen in recent years. The withdrawal, the most delayed on record, is now expected to negatively impact the Australian summer monsoon. The culprit is the positive Indian Ocean Dipole which heats up the western Indian Ocean more than the east. While the phenomenon, which has lasted longer than typical, favours rains during the Indian monsoon, it has a debilitating effect on the Australian summer monsoon.

Wildfires rage in California as residents face huge power cuts

A new round of wildfires ignited this fortnight in California, sending millions of residents into a panic caused by power blackouts, evacuations and poor air quality. An estimated 1.5 million more people in California are set to lose power as utility firm Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) tries to stop damaged cables triggering wildfires.

Authorities and local newspapers have issued advisories on how Californians can detect air quality levels and protect themselves from the toxic smoke. 

Study unveils detailed roadmap to make land sector carbon neutral for 2040

A study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis laid out a way forward for governments to make the land sector carbon neutral by 2040. This is the first comprehensive look at how the land sector can help achieve the 1.5°C target and it identifies specific land use actions, their related geographies, and implementation pathways to reduce land use emissions by 50% per decade between 2020 and 2050.

One of the immediate solutions, according to the researchers, is to restore forests, peatlands, wetlands and agriculture soil. But in the long term, additional negative emissions technology, such as direct air capture and low-impact bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), will have to be developed to ‘sustainably remove carbon from the atmosphere’, the researchers said.


Climate Policy

A criminal feat: Latest NCRB records show that environmental crime in India has jumped 790% between 2016 and 2017 however experts have cast doubts on the data | Photo: Mongabay

790% rise in environmental crimes in India between 2016 and 2017: NCRB data

Environmental crimes in India shot up 790% between 2016 and 2017 – from 4,732 to 42,143, according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)’s Crime Statistics Report for 2017 released this month. Tamil Nadu led the list of states – 20,914, which is 49.6% of all the crimes committed followed by Rajasthan (16%) and Kerala (16%). The hike has been attributed to the inclusion of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, to the list of environment offences, which has, on its own, added 30% more offenses to the total.

The NCRB’s data for 2017 was released after a delay of more than a year. Experts pointed to ‘fundamental flaws’ in the way environmental crime data is collected in India.

India’s power sector hit by bad loans worth Rs1 lakh crore

The position of India’s power sector has gone from bad to worse. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) reported that around 1 lakh crore worth of loans given to thermal power companies have gone bad. These loans make up 18% of the sector’s total outstanding debt. TERI has blamed the ‘imprudent capacity expansion’ between 2010 and 2015, the demand growth slowdown after 2012, among other reasons for the bad debts.

According to a recent RBI report, the total debt burden of India’s states is on the rise – Rs52.58 lakh by FY20 – and one of the major reasons being cited for this is the indebtedness of power distribution companies or discoms. Union power minister RK Singh has said major structural reforms are on the cards of the sector.  

Trump administration to begin process to pull out US from Paris agreement

It’s finally happening – the Trump administration is preparing to formally withdraw the US from the Paris agreement. Once the process has begun, the withdrawal could take up to a year, according to the rules of the Paris accord. US president Donald Trump confirmed the pull-out saying the accord would have shut down domestic producers with excessive restrictions while giving a free hand to ‘foreign producers’. “What we won’t do is punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters,” he said, adding: “I’m proud to say it, it’s called America First.”

Justin Trudeau re-election paves way for net-zero emissions in Canada by 2050

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s party was re-elected by a narrow margin this fortnight, putting the spotlight on the leader’s primary campaign promise – the country achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Canadians have voted in favour of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” he said. Experts said Canada will not how to set out a clear agenda to achieve this target, adding an increase of Canada’s 2030 target in the next year is “inevitable”.

Australia’s land-clearing practice wiping out billions spent to control carbon emissions

The Australian government has committed a huge chunk of taxpayer money to climate change projects, and spent nearly $62 million on a policy to plant 20 million trees. But all that effort is getting massively cancelled because of the significant stepping up of land clearing programmes in several states, mostly for agriculture. If this continues, two years of land clearing will completely eradicate all the money spent on controlling carbon emissions. The number is alarming. Using government figures, the Wilderness Society estimates a Melbourne Cricket Ground-sized area of forest and bushland was cleared every two minutes in 2017.


Air Pollution

Festival of no respite: Peak Diwali pollution has pushed air quality in several parts of Delhi into the ‘severe’ category with little, if any, improvement seen over past years’ air quality | Photo: Tata Cliq

‘Delhi in ICU’: 2 days on since Diwali, “severe” pollution levels continue

It’s been over 40 hours that the national capital is battling “severe” AQI levels. The peak Diwali pollution struck Delhi at 3 am on October 28. Official limit for declaring emergency is 48 hours of continuous  “severe” category pollution. The peak pollution in Delhi NCR this year was almost similar to the peak Diwali pollution of 2018, according to the Centre for Science and Environment analysis of real time data collected by Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) on PM 2.5 concentrations. CSE says this Diwali the air quality index turned from clean to “severe” post 10 pm on October 27: PM2.5 jumped 10 fold between 5 pm and 1 am because of the use of firecrackers. The peak pollution levels from 1 am to 3 am on October 28 were similar to those of 2018 during the same period, but since this year Diwali occurred 10 days earlier, it was warmer and windier which allowed the smog to dissipate faster than it did in 2018 when “severe” levels lasted until 8 am on November 8. CSE said firecrackers triggered Delhi National Capital Region’s first “severe” pollution levels of the season that was comparatively cleaner from September 15 to October 27. In Delhi NCR, Ghaziabad ushered in the “severe” levels first, followed by Gurugram, Faridabad, and Noida.

Pollution watchdog moves top court: waste burning in Haryana, Rajasthan, U.P.

The top court appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) submitted special report to Supreme Court on pollution hotspots in the NCR states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab and asked the apex court to direct the pollution control boards of the three states to strictly monitor industry emissions at night and prevent waste burning in their states. The EPCA report found tons of plastic and industrial waste dumped and burnt in open areas. The pollution watchdog recommended that such waste should be processed or incinerated properly. The EPCA also spotted many industries spewing black smoke. Their report said industry must comply with standards for particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. 

Another poisonous winter: Over 33 power plants in Delhi NCR to miss emissions deadline yet again

More than 33 coal plants in the National Capital Region will miss their deadline for the second time, after they were given a two-year extension over the original deadline of 2017 to retrofit their plants with emission control technology. A Right to Information application has revealed that most of these thermal units have not even awarded tenders for the job yet. This is after massive media coverage of Delhi’s deadly air pollution: 20 times over the acceptable limit which the residents of the region are forced to inhale. The RTI has revealed that for several months after the deadline lapses in December 2019, the power stations are likely to continue to pollute beyond legal limits. 

‘Dictatorial move’: 133 farmers booked in western UP over crop burning

In western Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district 133 farmers were booked for stubble burning. The SDM said their revenue staff had conducted several awareness drives along with panchayats and even through beating drums to alert farmers. 133 FIRs were recorded under section 435 which can send violators to maximum seven years in prison. The farmers said the FIRs were draconian and dictatorial. They said burning of crop stubble was necessary to prepare grounds for sowing of next crop. 

Petitioners to challenge “grossly inadequate” Singrauli pollution fine of Rs 79 crore 

Earlier this month India’s green court National Green Tribunal imposed Rs 79 crore fine on six companies running mines and power plants in the critically polluted region of Singrauli in MP. Experts say since the companies are mostly government-run, will the inter-department penalties serve as deterrent is yet to be seen.  The fine is less than 1% of the profit made by the companies in the area. The petitioner had demanded compensation for two decades of pollution caused in the region. The green court formed committee of officials from the pollution control boards of the Centre, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to assess the damage. The panel collected data on non-compliance of these industries on a daily basis for the last five years and calculated penalty of Rs 30,000 per day for each non-compliant day. Campaigners say the amount was grossly inadequate compared to the massive damage that has been done in the region. The Environment law allows upto Rs 100,000 a day as fine for non-compliance. The petitioners plan to challenge the assessment of the fine by the panel.

Aus judge says fine “outrageous”, Volkswagen may have to pay more

Volkswagen may have to pay more fine after the $75 million amount calculated by the company and consumer watchdog was declared “outrageous” by the judge of the federal court in Sydney. A month ago the carmaker settled a suit of between $87m to $127m with owners of its 100,000 cars that were hit by emissions test cheat scandal. Volkswagen has been fined over $49bn globally since the scandal first erupted in 2015. Earlier this month a class action with 470,000 owners of Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi and Seat started in Germany.

Progress in reducing air pollution stalled in Europe: Study

Latest study has warned that reduction in air pollution in Europe has reached a plateau, little progress has been achieved despite global awareness and outrage over air pollution. The European Environment Agency’s Air Quality in Europe 2019 report says the levels of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, which can enter bloodstream and lungs, appear to have stagnated across Europe, after over a decade of steady reductions. The PM2.5 is entering into the system from domestic cooking, industry and transport, the report said. Europe recorded over 4 lakh premature deaths from PM2.5 alone in 2016. The report said pollution monitors recorded levels over 10% the allowed limit in 2017. The UK recorded highest levels of Nitrogen Oxide in western Europe.

EU top court: France breached pollution limits “systematically”

Europe’s top court has ruled that France “systematically and persistently” breached pollution limits since 2010. European Court of Justice said Nitrogen Dioxide emissions, caused by diesel vehicles, exceeded the permissible limits in 12 zones. France will be fined if it fails to comply with EU standards. France is the third country after Bulgaria and Poland, indicted by the European court over failing to comply with air quality standards. Italy, Romania, Germany, The UK and Hungary also face court cases for exceeding NOx limits.


Renewables

Power struggles: The AP High Court has provided discoms in the state some relief with a stay on the Centre’s ultimatum to block discoms over payment securities | Photo: PVmagazine India

Andhra Pradesh HC stays Centre’s move to block discoms over refusing to give letters of credit to firms

In a breather to discoms, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has put a 3-week stay on Centre’s move to block state discoms over not providing letters of credits to power companies as part of payment security mechanism. Andhra Pradesh discoms said they received a letter from Centre-appointed body Power System Operation Corporation of India, saying state utilities will be banned from procuring power from exchanges, including short-term open access procurements, if they failed to issue letter of credits to power developers. Discoms argued that Centre has no business meddling since they are third party in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). While Andhra Pradesh is trying to renegotiate PPAs eyeing lower tariffs, the state has argued that giving LCs amounts to altering PPAs. This has been seen as a challenge to Centre’s move to make LCs mandatory. Payments delays have become one of the major points of contention for solar companies.

Payment issues ‘may hurt investor sentiment,’ but big firms stay afloat with equity gains

Ratings agency CRISIL has said payment delays by discoms to renewable energy companies may hurt the credit outlook of renewables sector. The report however revealed that large firms operating in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been able to manage the payment crisis because of their diverse operations and financial flexibility. The big players were able to refinanced debt for impacted projects and attracted share value gains of over Rs 5,500 crore during the first half of current fiscal which is more than the quantum raised in the last two financial years, ET reported. 

MP to get 1000 MW floating solar park, India’s biggest

India’s biggest floating solar park of 1000 MW is set to come up on the surface of Indira Sagar dam, in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. The Word Bank is preparing feasibility report for setting up Rs 5,000 crore solar park on Asia’s biggest dam. The MP government will procure 200MW from the park, and the government is in talks with other procurers, ET reported. Earlier the government set up a massive 750MW solar park in MP’s Rewa district. Renewable power supplies 20% of MP’s power demand. India already has one floating power project, a 100MW  floating solar park run by NTPC in Andhra Pradesh. There is another 150MW plant in the pipeline at Rihand Dam, Uttar Pradesh.

IEA: Renewables to see “Spectacular” growth in next 5 years, but not enough to meet Paris targets

Latest global solar forecast by IEA predicts “spectacular” growth for PV market in the next five years. Rooftop solar on homes and commercial buildings will drive this growth. The International Energy Agency estimates world’s total renewable-based power capacity to grow by 50% by 2024. The world is estimated to add 12,000 GW which will be enabled by falling prices and policy efforts. According to IEA, solar PVs will contribute 60% of this growth in renewables which will command 30% of world’s total power capacity by 2024 (up from 26% now). World’s second largest source of energy today, renewable expansion remains way below what is required to meet global energy needs. Even such estimated rise have to speed up significantly to meet Paris climate targets, said the Paris-based organisation that advises avises rich countries on energy policy. 

IEA says wind may become $1 trillion business, IRENA expects it to be world’s largest power source by 2050 

Latest studies by IEA and IRENA have estimated wind energy sector to experience robust growth. Basing estimates on plummeting costs and improving technology, IEA expects offshore wind to become a cornerstone of the world’s power supply. Offshore wind turbines today generate only .03% of global power capacity. IEA expects policy to drive up wind energy capacity 15-fold over the next 20 years, turning wind sector into $1 trillion business. IEA says in China offshore wind will become competitive with coal capacity by 2030 and in Europe it will soon beat gas-fired energy capacity on prices.  

According to IRENA, wind energy may become the largest source of energy by 2050. This is possible if world installations of wind energy increase over 10 times to about 60,000GW by 2050 from 2018 level of 500 GW, at the annual investment of over $300 billion by 2050 from 2018’s less than $100 billion. IRENA sees India to be the second largest wind energy deployer with 443GW of wind energy capacity by 2050, while China to lead the world with 2525GW of onshore and wind energy capacity. Experts called these numbers inflated.

South Africa looks to get cheaper electricity by renegotiating older renewable projects

In a bid to boost its economy, South Africa began discussion with power producers to try and get cheaper electricity from older renewable energy projects by renegotiating agreements. But the plan might not work as the power producers are wary the country can save big on the 64 wind and solar projects because, they say, money allotted for the projects has already been spent.

They argued that putting any more pressure on these projects would result in a loss of investor confidence while the country suffers through nationwide power cuts. Climate activists, on the other hand, are wary of any such moves that could delay South Africa’s transition from coal power, which still accounts for more than 80% of the country’s output.

Columbia awards renewable contracts worth $2.2 billion

In what could become turn into a renewables ‘revolution’, Columbia awarded contracts worth $2.2 billion for wind and solar projects. While the country, with its high radiation sunlight, three high-altitude Andean mountain ranges and long stretches of coastline, has long been considered a dream destination for renewable energy, the lack of supporting infrastructure has hindered progress in this sector.

The government hopes this move will diversify the electricity grid in the country which already gets 70% of the energy from hydropower, making it vulnerable to droughts.

Study: Installing renewables in US Midwest to bring best climate impact 

According to the latest US study, installing solar and wind energy installations in the Midwest will reduce climate warming emissions far more than if the renewable sources are installed in other parts of the country. Cutting emissions through renewables also depends upon if they are replacing coal plants or cleaner fossil fuel like natural gas, says the study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Carnegie Mellon University. The study calculates that one megawatt hour (Mwh) of wind-powered electricity installed in the Upper Midwest earns about $113 worth of benefits compared with $28 per Mwh in California, which already has vast sources of renewables and gas.


Electric Vehicles

Soon, at every corner: E-ricks like the ones by SmartE will be able to charge at each Delhi metro station as the drive for cleaner last-mile connectivity intensifies | Photo: News18

Each Delhi metro station must get EV chargers, qQuick to provide e-scooters on rent

Delhi’s Lt. Governor has proposed that each of the city’s 250 metro stations must be equipped with EV charging facilities, to make way for cleaner last-mile connectivity. Electric rickshaws developed by SmartE already ply from a number of stations, and the proposal may be bolstered by qQuick, which has been granted permission by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to rent out its e-scooters from 4 stations. 

Chandigarh to only register EVs after 2030, plans massive drive to clean up city fleet

The city of Chandigarh has unveiled its draft EV policy, under which it will only register EVs from 2030 onward. The city has India’s highest density of registered vehicles and will replace its buses, taxis, rickshaws and school cabs as part of its drive to clean up the city’s air. The policy also includes several incentives for EV owners, such as free insurance for the first year, dedicated lanes for EV charging and up to 30% subsidy on installation of home chargers.

Electric two-wheeler sales crash by 94%, dismal e-car sales across India

New data suggests electric two-wheeler sales have crashed by 94% in the first six months of FY20 on the back of lower subsidies under FAME II. Year-on-year, sales dropped from 48,671 units to a mere 3,000, as the vehicles have become more expensive than their IC engine counterparts.

Meanwhile, electric cars have posted even poorer numbers, with Gujarat adding only one new unit to its tally of 31,576 in the last six months, while Maharashtra added only 4 units per day against its target of 274. 

Volvo to pay customers to charge their EVs

Volvo is unveiling the new concept of paying its customers to charge the new, all-electric XC40 Recharge crossover for the first year of ownership — starting 2021. The idea is to lower ownership costs for customers, to attract more to buy the new product. Volvo has also said it will launch a new electric model every year up to 2025.

The Swedish manufacturer is one of Europe’s leading automakers to move towards e-mobility, and the new incentive may be replicated by other manufacturers, such as VW, Daimler-Benz and BMW, each of which is investing heavily into the transition as well.


Fossil Fuels

Some comfort: India’s CO2 emissions have dropped over contracting coal capacity, but may again rise as more conventional transport fuels enter the market | Photo: Carbon Registry

India’s CO2 emissions drop to 20-year low

Contraction in coal capacity expansion has lowered India’s increase in CO2 emissions to a 20-year low, suggests Carbon Brief. Its analysis reports that the country’s CO2 emissions grew at just 2% in the first eight months of 2019, as against an annual average of 5% for the past 10 years. Surge in renewables has also had an impact, as has the slowdown in electricity demand due to energy efficiency measures and demands-side management. 

Slowdown cuts fuel demand, Centre to relax entry norms for transport fuel retailers

The country’s India’s demand for petrol, diesel and bitumen also dropped for September 2019 (y-o-y) amidst sharp economic slowdown. The contraction has lowered commercial vehicle traffic across the country, and tweaks to axle-load norms are also reported to have led to higher freight capacity for an unchanged fleet size — which too has lowered fuel consumption.

However, the Centre is lowering the net worth requirements for transport fuel retailers — from Rs2,000 crore to Rs250 crore — to allow much smaller domestic and international players to enter and expand the business.

New gas pooling scheme for gas-based power cos on the cards

The centre is mulling a new gas pooling scheme to prevent close to Rs. 1 lakh crore in the power sector from turning into non-performing assets. According to government sources, Power and Petroleum Ministries are in the final stages of drafting the new subsidy scheme which would allow stressed gas-based power projects to run on a mix of domestic and imported gas and is expected to help projects generating a total of about 25,000 MW. The new scheme will avoid committing any subsidy to power producers but a buffer of Rs 18,000 crore as subsidy may be created to keep power tariffs in check when gas prices spike. The gas pooling scheme is expected to bring electricity tariffs to under Rs.6/unit.

RE champion ReNew Power bats for natural gas

One of India’s top renewable power developers, ReNew Power, has come out in support for natural gas as a transition fuel for the global energy market. The surprising endorsement was voiced by the firm’s CEO, Sumant Sinha, who said that the fuel allows for a more flexible grid, and consequently allows for more renewables. Globally, natural gas is fast emerging as the fuel of choice for a lower-carbon economy. 

Japan to test wind-powered ship to haul coal

Two Japanese firms, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Tohoku Electric Power Co., will be testing the Wind Challenger — which is a telescopic hard sail that converts wind energy into forward propulsive force — to haul coal. A press release on the ironic project states the objective of the trial as “reducing the environmental impact” of the vessel and achieving improved “economic efficiency”.