Forests be damned, we need the concrete jungle

Newsletter - October 16, 2019

Missing the woods for the trees: India’s afforestation efforts have failed to keep step as deforestation shows no signs of slowing down | Photo:

Forests be damned, we need the concrete jungle

After all the public mobilisation and demonstrations to save the swathe of forest at Aarey Milk Colony chalked out to be cut down for the planned Metro car shed, the implications of the last-minute special hearing in the Supreme Court and the order to halt tree felling were little more than just academic. By the time the order to maintain status quo was pronounced, 2,145 of the 2,185 trees designated to be felled, or 98% of the planned felling, had already been executed. To atone, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is handling the project, claims to have planted around 24,000 trees at Aarey and the neighbouring Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) to limit the environmental impact of the felling.

But such announcements almost never include plans of how authorities plan to monitor the years-long replantation process. Already, of trees planted at Aarey, official apathy seems to have killed some, while many have been planted too close to each other and therefore may not survive. The lack of a concrete plan to ensure their survival is why activists and citizens seem most sceptical of grand replantation announcements.

While the Aarey episode set the internet abuzz this fortnight with news, photos, videos and opinions and grabbed eyeballs, India’s track-record regarding forest clearances in the recent past has been unimpressive. In fact, for every Aarey, there seem to be numerous other cases of blatant forest land diversion and tree felling that have mostly flown under the radar. According to government data, in India, over 15 lakh hectares (ha) of forest land has been diverted since 1980, around a fifth of which has worryingly happened since 2010. In 2015 alone, more than 1 lakh ha was diverted. The Global Forest Watch reports that India has lost 16 lakh ha of tree cover between 2001 and 2018 – a 4.3% decrease relative to 2000 levels.

Worryingly, the largest losses in tree cover have been reported from north-eastern states indicating high levels of clearance of natural forests. The signs are ominous in the Western Ghats, too, as states have declared only half of the recommended 60,000-odd of the ghats as ecologically sensitive.

Road projects have by far been the biggest reason for forest diversion and tree cutting in recent years. In Uttarakhand, for instance, the much-touted Char Dham Mahamarg road project is estimated to have cost over 25,000 trees across 373 ha of forest land susceptible to slope instability. In Madhya Pradesh, the numbers are even more stark. The Bharatmala Pariyojana highway development plan is slated to be implemented at the expense of at least 1.18 lakh trees spread across seven protected forests. Between 2015 and 2018, India lost 20,000 hectares of forest land, almost the size of Kolkata, to industrial development and mining. 

Projects that are to be built on forest land for non-forest purposes have to, by law, undertake compensatory afforestation on an equivalent piece of non-forest land or double the expanse of the forest land that has been degraded. But this week, a CAG report found that the Karnataka state Forest, Ecology & Environment Department violated the Forest Conservation Act while approving or leasing 7,785 hectares (19,237 acres) of forest land. The CAG audit, conducted between January and July 2018, covered two offices of Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and 10 out of 39 territorial divisions in Karnataka. It found that the state department had failed to ‘ensure compensatory afforestation in exchange for forest land diverted to other purposes between 2013 and 2018, even after collecting statutory charges for the purpose of raising plantations.’ A similar situation has been reported from multiple states over the past years.

Even where compensatory afforestation is seemingly working, it often puts indigenous communities at risk. In Chhattisgarh, 4,000 acres in 16 villages have been earmarked for a compensatory tree plantation in lieu of forests to be stripped for the Parsa coal block. The victims in this case are hundreds of villagers, many from the indigenous or adivasi communities, who have suddenly been forced to give up their lands for this project. A recent move by the Centre has made it possible for states with high proportions of forest cover to transfer compensatory afforestation projects to other states. With little or no monitoring in place, the move threatens to further erode the country’s natural forest cover with almost no replacement.

While monitoring and reporting of forests, tree cover and sequestration potentials are riddled with accounting complexities, India does not even have an operational legal definition for forests and has been using the criteria of 10% tree cover to demarcate them – which often includes agricultural and agro-forestry lands. This ambiguity was once again exploited to announce an increase in afforestation targets in last month’s UNCCD COP in New Delhi. The loophole is likely to have enabled exaggeration of afforestation claims by up to 12% and has earned the ire of other nations in recent international forums.

In the larger scheme of things, it has put India’s Paris Agreement carbon sink target in doubt as sequestration from natural forests has been showing dramatic decline in the country even as sequestration from agriculture and agro-forestry see massive jumps. The trend once again underlines India’s preference for plantation crops for afforestation while reforestation efforts have been scuppered by falling budgetary allocations and poor monitoring. India’s latest attempt is to come in the form of a 1,400-km long and 5-km wide green belt from Gujarat to the Delhi-Haryana border. The plan is part of the country’s goal to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The idea is still, however, at a nascent stage and the effective implementation of such a large-scale project remains to be seen.

Climate Science

Overstaying its welcome? The Indian monsoon still remains a long way from exiting the subcontinent a fortnight after the season officially ended | Photo: Skymet Weather

Monsoon withdraws a month late in India

For the first time in 59 years, the withdrawal of India’s monsoon season has been delayed to the month October – October 10 to be precise. The last time this happened was in 1961 when the rain began retreating on October 1. This is highly unusual for a country that usually moves on to the next season by September 1. Over the past few years, however, the season has been facing delays of up to a few weeks. India finishes its monsoon season with above normal rains at 110% of the long-period average (LPA). This, despite that fact that rains arrived a week late and the month of June ended with a rainfall deficit of 33%.

This year’s monsoon has killed several hundreds and devastated various parts of the country. According to the Union home ministry, more than 2,100 people have been killed so far and another 46 have been reported missing because of unrelenting rain and floods. Overall, 25 lakh people have been affected this monsoon season across 22 states, according to official data. 

Not just intensities, heatwave sizes also set become larger

The increase in heatwave intensity and frequency around the world has been clearly evident in recent years, and is expected to keep increasing. Studies thus far though, had not shed light on how the spatial scope of heatwaves is also likely to change under future climate scenarios. For the first time, in a new study, scientists, funded in part by the NOAA Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring Program, examined this aspect under two different scenarios. They found that by mid-century, in a middle greenhouse emissions scenario, the average size of heat waves could increase by 50%. Under high greenhouse gas concentrations, the average size could increase by 80% and the more extreme heat waves could more than double in size. The findings have implications for planning, apart from the obvious health considerations. “Larger heat waves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the grid as more people and businesses turn on air conditioning in response,” explained Brad Lyon, lead author of the paper published in Environmental Research Letters.

UK in danger of losing a quarter of its mammals, reveals study

A report on the state of the natural world in the UK revealed that more than a quarter of mammals are facing extinction. The State of Nature report said one in seven species was facing the threat, and 41% of the 7,000 species that were examined for the study, have experienced a decline since 1970.

The same report also outlined the ‘widespread changes’ brought on by climate change on the country’s natural wildlife, especially on its ‘abundance, distribution and ecology’. The study stated that many species, including birds, butterflies, moths and dragonflies have shifted their range north over the last four decades, moving by, on average, 20km per decade. 

Lake algal blooms also increasing worldwide finds first-of-its-kind study

The IPCC SRCC report published last year touched on the increasing frequency and size of algal blooms around the world, threatening ocean productivity in several coastal regions. A new study, published in the journal Nature, now has found that the situation is just as dire in freshwater lakes across the world. In a first-of-its-kind global study encompassing 71 large lakes in 33 countries on six continents, scientists found that peak intensity of summer algal blooms had increased on over two-thirds of the lakes observed, while only six showed decreased intensities. Researchers analysed more than 72 billion data points compiled from 30 years of data from NASA and the US Geological Survey’s Landsat 5 near-Earth satellite, which monitored the planet’s surface between 1984 and 2013. While reasons for increasing intensity were inconsistent and location specific, scientists found that only lakes that experienced the least warming were able to sustain any improvements in bloom conditions seen over 30 years.

CO2 emissions causing labour productivity loss, has dented global GDP by 2% already

Climate change is expected to cost trillions of dollars in damages through its impacts on several economic sectors. While extreme weather and higher temperatures also imply loss of labour productivity, the extent of this expected loss as correlation of carbon emissions has thus far mostly been speculative. A new study published by researchers from the Concordia University now claims that every trillion tonnes of CO2 emitted could cause losses in labour productivity amounting to 0.5% of the GDP. Last year, the world emitted about 40 billion tonnes of CO2. According to the study, cumulative emissions have already caused a GDP reduction of around 2%. With agriculture, mining and quarrying, manufacturing and construction being the most vulnerable economic sectors, low-income and developing countries are likely to be affected the most by the productivity loss.

Climate Policy

Stemming the flow: The NGT has directed several industries to maintain water accounts and mandated the recycling of wastewater rather than direct discharge | Photo:

Recycle water, maintain accounts of amount used, India’s green tribunal tells industries

With an aim to curb industries’ unregulated use of water, a recent directive by India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered all slaughterhouses, food processing units and industries where large quantities of effluents are discharged to maintain water accounts. The directive also made it compulsory for industrial units to recycle the water used instead of discharging it on land or in water. The NGT issued the directive while hearing a petition filed against an Aligarh food processing unit for violation of environmental regulations.

Still no headway on new carbon market mechanism as latest round of UN talks concluded

Brazil, once again, stood its ground in opposition to the implementation of new rules to regulate global carbon markets that would see old carbon credits accumulated since 2008 be erased. The impasse came during the latest round of UN climate negotiations which were held in San Jose, Costa Rica. The new accounting rules, pushed aggressively by developed nations, is aimed at tackling the problem of “double counting” that has harmed the system’s credibility. But one major sticking point that has remained through discussions is the fate of existing carbon credits. Brazil, China and India – who together hold most the credits – insist they must be able to bring forward old CDM credits into the new mechanism. With delegates struggling to make headway on major points of contention, the impasse may  have an impact on the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Emissions in 30 of the world’s largest cities have reached their peak: C40 analysis

Thirty of the world’s largest cities, including London, New York, Sydney and Venice, have reached their peak greenhouse gas emissions, according to an analysis released just before the C40 World Mayors Summit held this fortnight. Scientists have determined that the world has to reach peak emissions by 2020 in order to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as per the Paris agreement. This analysis, therefore, is good news because it demonstrates that a rapid low-carbon transition is possible and has already begun.

The C40 summit, meanwhile, made headlines in India after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was denied permission from the Centre to attend the event held in Denmark. He, however, did manage to address the summit via video conferencing where he pledged to fight air pollution by signing the C-40 Clean Air Declaration that was signed only by 38 of the 94 cities attending. Kolkata won the C40 award at the summit for its green mobility.

Germany gives its nod to climate measures, but activists call them ‘weak’

Germany has set an ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, but will the measures approved by the German cabinet this fortnight to drastically cut emissions take them any closer to reaching that goal? Not really, according to climate activists and experts, who called the plans ‘too weak’. The measures, which give German chancellor Angela Merkel some much-needed fillip amidst criticism over pension and tax reform, are expected to raise $59 billion in taxes to be largely invested in green energy.

EU pledges ‘quick’, ‘effective’ plan to tax foreign polluting firms

The trade war between the EU and the US is likely to deepen after the former pledged to work on a plan to tax foreign polluting firms. EU’s economic and tax commissioner Paolo Gentiloni vowed to be ‘very quick’ and ‘effective’ on carbon border tax, which is seen as a bid to shield European countries from competitors based in countries where schemes to protect the climate are not as strict, which includes the US.  

Meanwhile, the nominee for EU Commission executive vice president, Frans Timmermans, who is set to run Europe’s climate policy and is key in the development of the European green new deal in the next five years, has backed the goal to cut CO2 by 55% by 2030. The EU’s current target is to reach 40% by that time and become carbon neutral by 2050. Estonia became the latest EU country to join a group of 24 European countries that back the ‘net zero emissions by 2050’ vision. The country has made a turnaround in its stance since last year when it was one of the four hold-out countries that blocked an EU-wide agreement to reach the target. 

The next EU energy chief Kadri Simson, meanwhile, proposed natural gas ‘might be the most cost-efficient option for replacing coal-based power plants’, while laying out her energy policy vision. 

Majority of 50 largest global banks yet to make sustainable finance commitments: Study

While the dialogue on sustainable finance has finally begun, the world is still woefully behind in achieving this goal. According to new findings by the World Resources Institute, released this fortnight, a majority of the world’s 50 largest banks have not made sustainable finance commitments to respond to the risks of climate change and continue to finance fossil fuels. The study found only 23 of the banks made commitments to finance projects for sustainable energy. But the average annual level of fossil fuel finance between 2016 and 2018 of these 23 banks is nearly twice the annualized amount of sustainable finance commitments.

Air Pollution

It’s hazy ahead: As Delhi enters the Graded Action Plan period with “very poor” air quality, it seems a question of time before emergency measures are introduced | Photo: dbpost

With Delhi breathing ‘very poor’ air, GRAP plan enforced, diesel generators banned

On October 15, the annual Graded Action Plan (GRAP) came into force to curb air pollution with stricter measures in Delhi and surrounding areas, which would mean more bus and metro services, higher parking fees and a ban on the operation of diesel generators when the air quality turns “poor.” But air quality was already “very poor” on October 13 in the National Capital Region, with farmers from Punjab and Haryana burning their crop residues. A further escalation of pollution would trigger  “emergency” measures of banning trucks entering Delhi, a ban on construction activities and the introduction of the odd-even car rationing scheme.

No court relief for polluting brick kiln owners in Punjab, will have to pay compensation

The Punjab and Haryana high courts refused to provide relief to brick kiln owners after they were fined by the government over polluting kilns. The kiln owners had to upgrade their brick kilns with non-polluting infused draft or zigzag technology by September 30. The Punjab government had ordered that brick kilns found without new emissions technology will have to pay a fine on the ‘polluter pays’ principle amounting to ₹ 25,000 per month for a kiln with a capacity of more than 30,000 bricks per day and ₹ 20,000 per month for kilns with a capacity of less than 30,000 bricks per day. The Punjab government’s orders to kiln owners were in compliance with the Central Pollution Control Board and NGT orders of January 22.

Plastic burning: Culprits fined, pollution body slams Delhi, Haryana govts over inaction

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) served ultimatums to the Delhi and Haryana governments for failing to stop plastic burning as well as controlling road and construction dust. EPCA chief Bhure Lal visited Mundka and Tikri Kalan in Delhi, and Bahadurgarh in Haryana, and imposed ₹ 1 crore in fines on violators. Lal also gave 15 days to the Bahadurgarh District Magistrate to allot separate land to scrap market to build temporary structures to stock “mountains” of plastic and rubber, currently dumped illegally on agricultural land. Lal ordered the administration to keep him posted on where the traders are selling the scrap and what are they doing with unsold plastic. Last year, the country’s green court National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned plastic burning and imposed ₹25 crore fine on the Delhi government for failing to stop illegal plastic markets in Tikri Kalan. Tikri Kalan’s illegal PVC scrap market is the source of plastic fires in Haryana. 

Advanced warning system to predict stubble burning, farmers seek incentives to stop burning crop residue

Based on 15 years’ data, scientists can predict the exact date and place of the next instance of crop burning and help authorities to act in advance. The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) launched the advanced Air Quality Early Warning System, which can preempt spots in neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day. Forecasting stubble burning for the first time, scientists said the attempt is to learn how many times an area has burned on a day over the past 15 years and the average gives a probability of that happening again. Models to forecast forest fires already exist, but the crop burning model creates probability maps to alert about areas where the chances of stubble burning are going to be high.

Meanwhile, farmers in Haryana, Punjab, and UP continue to defy the crop-burning ban over lack of time between the crops and financial incentives. They have barely three weeks between October-end and mid-November to clear paddy stubble and sow wheat crop. Farmers say they want the government to pay at least a bonus of ₹ 100 per quintal on paddy to manage stubble, and claim that subsidies for machines are inadequate to meet requirements.

India launches national knowledge network (NKN) to back national clean air plan (NCAP)

Centre launched National Knowledge Network (NKN) of IITs/Labs/Universities across 18 states to back its pet National Clean Air Plan (NCAP) as its knowledge partner. Launched earlier this year, in January, the NCAP identified 102 non-attainable cities across the country as the long-term target of its clean air mission. The plan aims to drive state pollution control boards to deliver the national target: 20-30% reduction in air pollution in the next five years with 2019 as base year.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K) has been set as NKN’s nodal institution. Prof. Sachchida Nand Tripathi,  the national nodal faculty for NKN network said state Pollution boards will be the key players to curb pollution, technical institutes will provide regular inputs to SPCBs and work towards reduction of pollution sources across key cities. The conference was attended by members from United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), World Bank, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Shakti Foundation, along with clean air start-ups.

Delhi to get BS VI-compliant vehicles by 2020, will check air pollution: Prakash Javadekar

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said BS VI-compliant vehicles will be coming to Delhi by April 2020, which will lead to “great reduction in air pollution from vehicles.” Private vehicles are a major cause of Delh’s pollution. Bharat Stage VI fuel and emission standards envisage low sulphur fuel and also cut harmful nitrogen dioxide by 70% in diesel and 25% in petrol cars. Cancerous PM 2.5 and PM 10 will also drop by 80% under BS VI norms, while the cost of cars is set to rise by about ₹ 1 Lakh for diesel and about ₹ 25,000- ₹ 50,000 for petrol cars. BS VI fuel is estimated to be costlier by ₹ 2. The Supreme Court has ordered all vehicles to shift to cleaner BS VI norms, skipping BS V. BS standards are based on European emission norms. BS norms were introduced in 2000, and have since become very stringent. 

Surat’s unique particulate matter trading scheme was designed by economist nobel couple

The Economics Nobel laureates for 2019, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Dufflo’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), set up the world’s first particulate matter Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in Surat, Gujarat. So far, 155 industrial units are trading particulate matter in a region where air pollution levels are high. The scheme is devised to bring down both, the air pollution and the cost of compliance for the industry. While there are trading schemes to curb pollution in other countries, none of them are for particulate matter emissions. Live trading began last month with 88 industries taking part in the first round, out of the 155 that have joined ETS so far. Emission permits worth ₹ 2.78 lakh were traded by units spread over an area of 50-30 sq km.


Still messy: The Centre-Andhra Pradesh tiff drags on, with the state now claiming it is being punished for having the highest share of variable renewables | Photo: GreenUbuntu

Centre should pay RE producers, not punish Andhra for having highest RE share, says minister

As power distribution companies (discoms) are being dragged to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) over payment dues, the Andhra Pradesh government has written to Centre saying it is being punished for being the first state in the country to have the highest share of variable renewable energy at 25%. Compared to other states, which entered into renewable energy agreements later, Andhra Pradesh was paying more for renewable energy integration, it said, adding that it is in the middle of a severe financial crisis because of ‘abnormal integration’ of renewable energy into the grid. The government said while it was paying for the welfare of different sections of the state, the Centre should pay for its wind and solar energy promotion policies.

CRISIL says India to miss RE target by huge 42%, Centre issues rebuttal, says will exceed target

Rating agency CRISIL said India may miss its 175 GW by 2022 renewable energy target by a massive 42%. At the recently held climate action summit in New York, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared to more than double the RE target to 450GW, but CRISIL cited regulatory challenges and policy flip-flops, amid record-low renewable power tariffs, as reasons for its excessively low assessment. The renewable energy industry is currently witnessing a slowdown for over a fiscal now. The government issued a rebuttal saying the CRISIL report doesn’t take into account initiatives taken by India to facilitate RE.

The government said by September 2019, India had installed over 82GW of renewable energy capacity with over 31GW of capacity under various stages of installation. By early 2021, India would have installed more than 113GW of RE capacity, which is around 65% of the target, the Centre said. The government said that in addition, around 39GW of RE capacity is under various stages of bidding, which would be installed by September 2021, achieving over 87% of the target. “With only 23,000 MW of renewable power capacity left to bid, India is confident that the target of installing 1,75,000 MW of renewable power capacity will not only be met, but exceeded,” the government statement said.

Solar tenders drop to half over a month, auctions witness rise

Solar tender announcements plummeted to half at 3GW in September, from 6.5GW in August. However, solar auctions spiked in September (930MW) compared to August (695MW). Annually, the capacity tendered in September 2019 was nearly 119% higher compared to September 2018, which witnessed tender announcements of ~1.4 GW. Auction activity was higher by over 70% compared to the same month last year, Mercom reported.

Meanwhile, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation extended its bid submission deadline for its 2GW solar tender. The minimum tariff payable to the project developer has been revised to ₹2.65 ($0.037)/kWh from the earlier ₹2.95 ($0.041)/kWh. Bidders are expected to quote a fixed levelized tariff for 25 years.

Centre to set up solar-wind projects on “wasteland” along India-Pak border 

To avoid land acquisition issues and diversion of agricultural land to set up solar and wind energy farms, India has decided to set up solar and wind projects along the international border it shares with Pakistan in the state of Gujarat and Rajasthan. A 30-km long and 20-km wide stretch of land has been identified along the border in Kutch district of Gujarat, and along the border in Bikaner, Barmer and Jaisalmer districts of Rajasthan. The idea of using “wasteland” comes at a time when India’s RE sector is going through a crisis, as banks are shying away from funding projects. With developers ready to sell power at rock-bottom tariffs, banks consider the solar and wind projects “unviable”. The issues of non-allocation of land-to-wind power projects, as well as transmission- and connectivity-related challenges are also causing a slowdown in the RE sector.

Corporate solar power funding jumps 34% to $9 billion in 2019

According to Mercom, global business funding in the solar sector rose 34% to $9 billion in the first nine months of 2019. In September, the funding more than doubled to $3 billion from $1.3 billion in the same quarter last year. According to the report, solar developers globally continue to do well with positive demand outlook: over $100 million investment was made in companies focused on technology and manufacturing, which according to experts is refreshing.

The sector witnessed 13% rise to $1 billion in global venture capital funding in the first nine months of 2019. Global VC funding in the third quarter (July-September) totalled $208 million.

Punjab draft policy targets 3 GW of solar capacity by 2030

The state of Punjab has set a target of achieving 21% of its energy requirements through renewable energy by 2030. The draft renewable energy policy aims to reach a solar target of 3GW by 2030, which will include utility-scale, canal-top, rooftop, floating, and hybrid solar projects. The draft policy also includes 1,500 MW, biomass, biomass and bagasse co-generation, and small hydro.

The state vows to incentivise solar manufacturing such as cell, wafer, modules, and balance of system (BoS), by exempting state goods and service tax (SGST), electricity duty, stamp duty, and property tax. The policy has also announced fiscal incentives for small hydel and canal-top solar projects. Mercom pointed out that incentives can create world trade issues since recently India won a WTO trade ruling against several states in the US for providing subsidies to domestic solar companies.

Poland plans to triple solar energy capacity this year

Under criticism for rising air pollution and hit by growing pressure from the European Union to cut emissions, coal-friendly incumbent Polish government announced plans to triple its solar energy capacity in 2019 to 1.5GW: which is just over 3% of Poland’s current total installed power capacity of around 45 GW. Reuters reported that in June, Poland led eastern EU states in blocking a push by France and others to commit the bloc to net zero emissions by mid-century. The Polish energy minister recently put the cost of reaching a net zero emissions economy in Poland at 700-900 billion euros.

Renewable electricity exceeds fossil fuels in UK for the first time since industrial revolution 

The UK’s wind and solar farms and biomass plants provided more electricity to their consumers than fossil fuel sources for the first time in the last quarter. In September, the share of renewables energy in the UK rose to 40%. New offshore windfarms built in 2019 helped push renewables past fossil fuels, which made up 39% of UK electricity. The latest analysis by Carbon Brief shows that coal-fired power was less than 1% of all electricity generated.

Electric Vehicles

So many in the pipeline: India’s new EV policy tweaks could see one charging point in every 3X3 sq. km grid – but EV sales need to pick up too | Photo: Ather Energy

India: Several policy tweaks, battery recycling policy in the works

New policy tweaks by the Union ministry of power mean that India could install at least one EV charging point within every 3km X 3km grid, set up a charger every 25km along national highways and possibly even exempt EVs from toll taxes. Fast chargers are also likely to be installed every 100km along inter-city highways.

The Centre is reportedly also mulling a li-ion battery recycling policy, a large chunk of which is likely to service batteries from EVs. The policy will roll out incentives for entities to collect and recycle spent EV batteries. India’s li-ion battery market is expected to balloon at 35% CAGR and go from 2.9GWh in 2018 to 132GWh in 2030.

NASA testing all-electric aircraft for clean aviation

NASA is testing an all-electric plane — the X-57 Maxwell — which could offer insights into commercialising electric propulsion for flying. The plane will use two experimental configurations and may boast of up to 500% increase in cruise efficiency over conventional aircraft. And most importantly, electric aircraft promise to be truly zero-emissions.

Inventors of Li-ion batteries awarded chemistry Nobel

The three inventors of the lithium-ion battery were chosen for the 2019 Nobel prize in Chemistry last week for their contribution to making energy storage from renewables possible and affordable. The three professors, John B. Goodenough of the USA, Japan’s Akira Yoshino and British-American Stanley Whittingham will share the $980,000 in prize money, which is a recognition of their breakthrough that goes back to work started in the 1970s, during the global oil crisis.

Fossil Fuels

Nevermind the colour: It’s the emissions that matter and not the fuel, is apparently India’s new stance on energy policy as coal continues to fuel the country | Photo: Yale

India: “Need to talk about emissions, not coal”, $60 billion committed for new gas grid

India’s Power Minister has said that the world needed to restructure the debate on coal and focus more on emissions reduction. The minister was speaking at the India Energy Week and reiterated that coal would continue to be vital to meeting India’s future energy demands. However, it appears that most new capacity will come from ‘supercritical’ and ‘advanced ultra-supercritical’ plants, which have significantly reduced carbon emissions.

The country’s oil and gas minister, meanwhile, has revealed that $60 billion in investments have already been committed for new projects in natural gas, that will expand the nation’s gas grid to each state by 2024. The eastern leg of the expansion — the Urja Ganga project — will lay pipelines to link the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, and supply 16 million standard cubic metres per day. 

20 oil & gas firms caused a third of all global CO2 emissions

A new study by the Climate Accountability Institute says that 20 of the world’s largest oil & gas firms are together responsible for 35% of the billions of CO2 and methane emitted into the atmosphere under human activity. The names include usual suspects Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, apart from Russia’s Gazprom and Saudi Aramco — the first four alone together emitting 10% of the total — despite having known about the climate impact of the fuels as early as 1965. 

Chevron, in other news, is said to be targeting a 5-10% reduction in GHG emissions from its oil drilling operations by 2023. It will also aim for a 2-5% reduction in emissions intensity from natural gas drilling, and is investing in carbon capture and storage (CCS). Saudi Aramco, on the other hand, is reluctant to abandon oil drilling, and is instead investing millions into cleaner internal combustion engines. 

Germany to heighten taxes on flights, may slash compensation for coal power developers

Reports suggest that the German cabinet may increase taxes on both short-haul and long-haul flights. The move is aimed as a deterrent to people choosing air travel over other, less carbon-intensive modes of travel, and may be in response to the fast growing flight-shaming movement in Europe
The country is also likely to slash compensation to its coal power developers for shutting down 5GW of capacity by 2023 — from €1.2-1.5/GW to a mere €1 billion for the entire lot. If passed, the decision may be keenly protested by the affected power developers, which includes RWE, Uniper SE and STEAG GmBH. And in a further blow, the utilities may have to compete for the funds via an auction, with the lowest bidder likely to receive preference.