Newsletter - May 15, 2019
Big Story: Daimler joins the EV race, will build 100% electric cars by 2039
Germany’s Daimler AG has committed to building a 100% electric passenger car fleet by 2039 as part of its Ambition 2039 sustainable mobility target. The automotive giant owns the luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz and was the first to introduce the IC engine car to the world back in 1886. Under Ambition 2039 it will also make the cars carbon-neutral, in part by only sourcing renewable energy for each of its European production plants.
Daimler sold around 2.4 million cars in 2018 and becomes Germany’s second-largest automaker to commit to zero emissions (individual) mobility after Volkswagen. Its rivals BMW, Audi, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have previously announced several electric or plug-in hybrid cars in their future lineups, which could greatly reduce personal mobility’s CO2 footprint. However, the impact in India may be marginal, since luxury cars only accounted for about 1.5% of the country’s car market in 2018.
UN modernizes guidance for greenhouse emission estimates
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has updated guidelines for governments to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. The out-of-date norms, written in 2006, have been revised to now include tracking emission sources across the energy, industrial processes, waste, agriculture and forestry sectors. The new rules are a result of a five-day general assembly meeting in Kyoto, Japan. They will help countries to prepare and continuously improve their national greenhouse gas inventories.
Million species at risk of extinction: Landmark UN report blames “relentless growth”
UN biodiversity science body IPBES, formally released its landmark report, warning that one million out of the eight million known plant and animal species could be at risk of extinction due to world’s relentless pursuit of economic growth. Scientists said governments and businesses must fight “vested interests” that are blocking reforms in farming, energy and mining. The Global Assessment report said industrial farming and fishing were mainly responsible for the crisis.
In 2020, countries will meet in Kunming, China, to set global biodiversity targets. Scientists and environment groups have urged the next Australian, with its rich biodiversity, to take a lead in securing a global deal to save nature.
Cambridge scientists test radical “geoengineering” to repair Earth’s climate
Refreezing Earth’s poles by brightening the clouds above them with the injection of tiny salt particles, or recycling CO2, by converting emissions from coal plants into synthetic fuel – Cambridge scientists are willing to adopt such geoengineering options to cut CO2 emissions faster than the world is currently able to. They plan to set up a research centre to test radical ways to fix Earth’s climate.
El Nino may impact monsoons in central and eastern India
The El Nino weather pattern, which warms the Pacific Ocean’s surface temperatures, could impact monsoons in central and eastern India negatively, according to Skymet. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there is an 80% chance that the pattern would stretch well into summer and a 60% chance that it may last until autumn.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) released new data, which shows a drastic drop in water levels in reservoirs across southern and western India. Of the 91 reservoirs assessed, CWC found that 19 had water levels that were half or below the normal storage (average of last 10 years), while 22 were between 50%-80% of that level. What is worrisome, however, is that while precipitation has fallen in these regions, water usage levels remain the same.
Ranavirus may wipe off frogs in UK in next 50 years
A study on British ponds, published in the journal Global Change Biology, has found a deadly frog disease called ranavirus spreading due to warmer temperatures threatening to wipe off entire populations of frogs in the next 50 years. Four out of 10 species are on the verge of extinction globally due to disease, habitat loss and climate change, the study said.
UN calls for ambitious climate action, world “not on track”
Ahead of the much-awaited September climate summit, UN leaders appealed to countries to urgently develop a policy to step up climate targets by 2020 and come to New York with a concrete action plan to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Recently, during a visit to New Zealand, UN Secretary-General warned that the world was ‘not on track’ to limiting a temperature rise to 1.5°C. Earlier, Guterres said countries should not build new coal plants after 2020. “If you don’t hang on to that goal, what you’ll achieve is a total disaster,” he said.
Australian islanders file landmark climate change complaint against government
Indigenous people living in low-lying islands off the Australian coast filed a landmark complaint against the country’s government, alleging climate inaction. The eight Torres Strait Islanders complained to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, claiming that rising sea levels were destroying their lives. The islanders from over 270 islands alleged that their homes, burial grounds and cultural sites could disappear underwater in their lifetimes, CNN reported.
France’s new energy law delays nuclear reduction by a decade
At the end of April, the French government presented a draft ‘energy transition law’, which aims to cut down the country’s carbon emissions by a factor of more than six by 2050 as compared to 1990. This is much higher than the reduction target by a factor of four envisaged in the 2015 energy law put forth by President Emmanuel Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande. While the ambitious plan is definitely noteworthy, the new law also delays the 2015 law’s pledge to cut France’s nuclear energy share to 50% by 2025 from the current 75%. The Macron government has pushed the deadline for this target to 2035. This comes in the midst of the ‘yellow vests’ protests against Macron.
After UK, Ireland declares climate emergency
The Republic of Ireland has become the second country to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, a week after the UK parliament had declared a climate emergency on May 1. The amendment to the Climate Action report prepared by citizens’ assembly was accepted without a vote. Experts say under climate emergency, many areas in Ireland want to be, very ambitiously, carbon-neutral by 2030. Scotland is also setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045.
New Zealand unveils ambitious plan to go carbon neutral by 2050
New Zealand aims to be mostly carbon-neutral by 2050. The country proposed two separate targets to reduce biological methane (cattle and sheep) and other greenhouse gas emissions (transport, power). The proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill sets a target for a 10% cut in biological methane emissions by 2030 and aims for a provisional reduction of carbon emissions ranging from 24% to 47% by 2050.
No place to hide: AI firm to use satellite data to track air pollution, make data public
In a huge development, artificial intelligence firm WattTime has announced it will use satellite cameras to precisely track the air pollution (including carbon emissions) coming out of every single power plant in the world, in real time, and make the data public. The initiative is backed by financial think-tank Carbon Tracker. The system aims to fix the problems of poor monitoring and gaming of emission data. It will also help citizen groups to go online and track the polluting power plants in their area and initiate action.
Delhi NCR needs a plan to tackle summer air pollution
Not just in winter, there is an air pollution health emergency in Delhi-NCR area during the summer as well – that’s the conclusion of experts based on air quality figures provided by the Central Pollution Control Board in Delhi. Delhi’s air quality on Monday was “very poor” (322); Ghaziabad was also “very poor” (384), and Gurugram was “poor” (277). An average of the PM2.5 data across 10 locations in Delhi, taken between May 1 and May 12, show that the Air Quality Index (AQI) levels touched 500 (hazardous) several times, HT reported.
Poll time: Indian parties promise clean air in manifestos
With national elections in full swing, finally major and minor parties and independents were seen raising issue of clean air and environment protection in their manifestos. The biggies, BJP and Congress, promised to tackle air pollution, but did not mention legally binding targets or raising funds, experts said. The AAP manifesto promised clean air for Delhi, Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD) Virender Rana offered the same for Gurugram. What was refreshing to see was Independents fighting on an environment plank. Independent Niraj Agarwal pitched clean air and waste management to the Kolkata electorate.
No pollutants: London to have world-first hydrogen-powered double decker buses
To clean its polluted air, London will introduce on its roads the world’s first hydrogen-powered double decker buses. Initially, 20 buses, costing around £500,000 each, will be introduced. The buses will emit only water as exhaust and they will run on green hydrogen produced via North Kent offshore wind farm. The buses are part of the capital’s ultra-low emission zone norms introduced last month, where polluting bus and coaches are charged £100-a-day to drive.
India’s environment minister: Don’t agree millions of people are dying because of pollution
Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan has rejected recent global reports that attribute over one million deaths in India to air pollution, saying such studies are only aimed at “causing panic”. A Greenpeace report ranked Delhi as the world’s most polluted city yet again. The State of Global Air report by Health Effects Institute had revealed that about 1.2 million people were killed in India due to air pollution in 2017.
India to set up 40 GW battery storage capacity by 2022, invest $40 billion
India is likely to call for bids to set up 40 GW of battery storage capacity in the country by 2022. The capacity will be used to complement its targets of 30% EV sales by 2030 and 175 GW of renewables by 2022 – which together may need 300 GW of storage capacity.
Both domestic and international battery manufacturers could be eligible to apply for the bids and the nearly $40 billion in investments may attract global market leaders such as Softbank, Tesla and Panasonic to set up manufacturing plants in India.
India likely to add 80 GW of renewable energy capacity in next 5 yrs: Survey
India is expected to add about 80 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity in the next five years, according to Bridge to India survey. About 47 GW will be from utility scale solar, 21 GW from wind, 8 from rooftop solar and 3 GW from floating solar projects.
IEEFA: Rooftop solar projects must for India to meet 175 GW renewable energy goal
To meet its target of 175 GW renewables energy by 2022, India needs faster implementation of roof-top solar projects, said leading energy analysis firm IEEFA. Of the 175 GW, India expects 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. Out of the 100 GW solar capacity target, 40 GW is likely to be rooftop solar. India has installed 28 GW of total solar capacity, but rooftop solar in that constitutes only 10% of India’s 40 GW rooftop solar target. This is well below the run-rate anticipated by the government.
IEA: Renewable growth flatlined in 2018, well short of Paris goals
In a worrying global trend, renewable capacity growth stalled in 2018, after posting 20 years of strong annual growth, raising concerns about meeting long-term climate goals. According to International Energy Agency data, the new net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and other renewable power sources increased by about 180 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018, the same as 2017. That’s just 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals. IEA said renewables need to grow by over 300 GW on average annually between 2018 and 2030 to reach the Paris goals.
“Obligation met”, Karnataka puts a stop to large solar contracts
The Karnataka power regulator has stopped fresh contracts from large-scale solar projects for now, saying that the state is in power-surplus and has already contracted enough solar energy to meet its renewable purchase obligations (RPOs) for a couple of years, LiveMint reported. Experts see it as an attempt at balancing renewable power obligations with the financial health of its power distribution companies (discoms). Industry leaders point out that solar power should not only be produced for RPOs because it is also cost-effective and clean.
Ola says India not ready for 4-wheeler EVs, raises funds from Ratan Tata
Ride hailing service Ola has said it feels India is not yet ready for 4-wheeler EVs. Instead, it feels mass adoption will be driven by e-bikes for food deliveries and e-rickshaws. The opinion is based partly on disappointing results from its e-taxi pilot in Nagpur, which had drivers complaining about long downtimes for recharging and high operating costs.
However, the Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, Ratan Tata, has invested an unknown amount in Ola’s e-mobility initiative. Ola is running multiple e-mobility pilots across India and the investment could symbolise Tata’s confidence in India’s upcoming EV ecosystem and be an extension to the Tata Group’s exit from new coal power.
CII: FAME II could cut transport emissions by 37%, need strategic sourcing of raw material
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has stated the Indian road transport sector’s energy needs could be lowered by 64% and its carbon emissions by 37% by 2030 under the FAME II scheme. The comments are based on a government study and if achieved, the figures may lower India’s dependence on oil imports – which is currently at an all time high of 83.7%.
CII has, however, stressed the need to boost local manufacturing capacities and employability skills, and the need to strategically source raw materials. In 2017, India had imported li-ion batteries worth $150million – predominantly from China – but it is looking to shrink its imports and set up its own battery manufacturing capacities.
Germany unveils electric highways for trucks, Sweden tests ‘charge as you drive’ for EVs
A 10-km test track has been unveiled in Germany where diesel-guzzling trucks can run purely on battery power. The trucks connect to overhead electricity cables that charge their onboard batteries and the operation is possible at speeds up to 90 kmph. The Siemens-developed system could massively reduce the trucks’ CO2 and NOx emissions.
Sweden, on the other hand, is testing inductive charging for EVs. The 1.6k-m Smart Road Gotland, which houses inductive charging pads and EVs equipped with necessary hardware, could stay charged or even recharge their batteries by simply driving along over the track. If successful, the concept could eliminate range anxiety and EVs’ heavy onboard battery packs.
EVgo goes 100% renewables, DPD Ireland commits to EVs for all deliveries
USA’s largest fast-charging network provider EVgo has announced it will run all its chargers on 100% renewable energy. This would further reduce the country’s transport sector emissions – which currently account for 30% of USA’s GHG emissions.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s largest parcel delivery service, DPD, will invest €3.2million in switching to an all-electric delivery fleet. All delivery vehicles in central Dublin must be electric by 2019, and DPD is executing a similar project in Hamburg, Germany.
Los Angeles targets 100% zero emission cars by 2050
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has announced the city’s very own version of the “Green New Deal” that aims for 100% zero-emissions vehicles by 2050. The plan will include all vehicles – including school buses and garbage trucks – and will hike LA’s EV percentages from 1.4% in 2018 to 25% by 2025, 80% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.
Diocese of major shipping nations pledge fossil fuel divestment
The diocese of several important maritime nations have pledged to divest their fossil fuel holdings as a step towards climate action. The announcement was organised by the Global Catholic Movement and includes diocese from Panama (which has the world’s highest registration of merchant vessels), Greece, Malta, Italy, Australia and the Philippines.
The shipping industry accounts for about 3% of the world’s GHG emissions. The International Maritime Organisation will, however, meet this week to explore emissions reduction strategies. One cost-effective strategy would be to lower ships’ cruise speeds by 10%, which reportedly lowers their engine power by around 27% and fuel consumption by about 19%.
EU posts 2.5% less CO2 emissions for 2018, CO2 conc. hits 800,000-year high
20 of the EU’s 28 member nations together reduced the bloc’s total CO2 emissions by 2.5% for 2018 (over 2017) by burning less coal, oil and natural gas. Portugal and Bulgaria posted the sharpest reductions of 9% and 8.1% respectively, while Poland’s emissions rose by 3.5%.
Earth’s CO2 concentration, in the meantime, has hit an 800,000 year-high of 415 parts per million (ppm) despite repeated warnings by climate scientists to slash emissions.
UK runs for a full week without coal power, Cambridge to divest fossil fuel holdings
The UK has managed to run without coal power for an entire week on the back of plenty of wind power and temperatures that did not call for indoor heating. The National Grid – UK’s power transmission network – has said such instances will be more frequent as more renewable power comes online. The country has already pledged to stop using all coal power by 2025.
Also, Cambridge University has pledged to divest its multibillion-pound holdings in global oil and gas firms and the funds it has received from them. The institution has acknowledged climate change as a “real and present danger” and accepted a grace (motion) to detail the pros and cons of the divestment.
New York’s last coal plants to go by 2020, 40% of US coal capacity already shuttered
The state of New York has adopted a new emissions rule so (deliberately) stringent that it will force its last two coal plants to shut down by 2020. The move has been welcomed by trade unions and city councils despite it already raising NY’s projected power prices for 2021.
For the US as a whole, 289 coal plants have shut down since 2010. That’s 40% of its installed coal capacity and includes 50 plants shuttered under the Trump administration. Coal will now supply only 25% of the US’ power – down 10% from 2015 – as utilities move towards cheaper natural gas and renewables.
Norway’s KLP pension fund divests from thermal coal, sells $366 million in holdings
Another Norwegian pension fund – KLP (Kommunal Landspensjonskasse) – has divested from thermal coal and sold $366million of its holdings in 46 companies. The list includes prominent miners Anglo American and BHP. The fund has $70billion worth of assets under management and its CEO was firm in saying that “coal cannot and should not be part of energy supply in the future”.