No more climate denial at the White House

Newsletter - November 12, 2020

Great expectations: The new administration will have to contend with a divided congress and a conservative Supreme Court in its fight to deliver climate action | Photo: InDepth News (IDN)

No more climate denial in the White House

All eyes are on US President-elect Joe Biden as he fights fires on several fronts. Question is, how will he deliver on climate change while walking a political tightrope?

Almost four years ago, days after the Paris Agreement’s early entry into force, the celebratory optimism of the global climate movement was cut short by the election of climate denier Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America. At the 22nd UN climate conference going on at the time in Marrakech, sure-footed confidence abruptly collapsed into chaos as news of Trump’s election washed over the venue.  Hope, in real time, turned to palpable horror. Suddenly, the potentially disastrous ramifications came into focus and success of the Agreement seemed more out of reach than ever.

This fortnight, days after the US formally completed the process of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the United States of America elected Joe Biden as its 46th President. Victory has earned Biden charge of leading the country out of a number of crises — from the COVID-19 pandemic to systemic racism and rapidly worsening climate change. On social media and in the global climate movement, Biden has been hailed as the ‘new climate president’, who undoubtedly has a mammoth task ahead to undo much of the damage done by Donald Trump.

US’ climate action story so far

Under Trump, America found itself largely isolated from the rest of the world, especially on the issue of climate change. From the moment he was elected, Trump backtracked on some key climate initiatives undertaken by his predecessor Barack Obama — chief among them was the exit from the historic Paris Agreement that binds countries to limit warming to less than 2°C. If he thought other countries would follow suit, the verdict was unanimous — addressing the climate crisis was the need of the hour and the Paris Agreement was the best first step the world needs to take in that direction.

With help at the federal level hard to come by, the issue was being tackled at local levels in the US with states, cities, businesses, universities taking a bottom’s up approach under the America’s Pledge initiative. The coalition, which claims to represent around two-thirds of the US’ GDP and population, continued to back the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s decision and its 2019 report estimated 37% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030 with significantly expanded action and 49% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030 with aggressive federal reengagement starting in 2021. It identified five key sectors with the greatest 2030 emission reduction opportunities, namely electricity, transportation, buildings, methane, and HFCs.

So where does all this leave Biden? With many states, cities and businesses already playing their part, the President-elect needs to join in and play his part, say experts.  “Sub-national groups, like California, are going to do much more when Biden is president and he adopts an ambitious climate agenda. No doubt about that,” says Jerry Brown, former four-term Governor of California, who co-launched America’s Pledge, the U.S. Climate Alliance and the Under2 Coalition to spur and quantify subnational climate action toward the Paris Agreement. “How do they work internationally? The Under 2 Coalition, which is now in its 5th year, involves a third of the population of the world. So we have the framework, all we need is Joe Biden to bite the bullet, to be powerful, and then we need him to work with other leaders. We need to transcend the US/China antagonism. It’s not just Biden, but Biden is the first step. Sub-nationals can do more of what they’re doing because they will have federal backing.”

A vital obstacle for Biden when it comes to global climate action is to get the US back in the game by regaining the world’s trust lost under Trump. Biden has already made his intentions of rejoining the Paris Agreement clear. The US formally withdrew from the pact on November 4 this year, three years after Trump first pledged to make the move. Biden quickly tweeted his commitment to rejoin the day he is sworn-in. It would still take a year for the US to officially get a seat at the table, but because it was the only country to walk out, its rejoining is unlikely to impact global climate action.

Mission emission

What is likely to create an impact, however, is the climate target that Biden sets for the US. Biden has promised a net zero emissions by 2050 target, which, according to analysis by Climate Action Tracker, could reduce end-century warming projections by about 0.1°C, and bring the Paris goals ‘within striking distance’. “People will give the Biden Administration some time to get themselves sorted out. But I think it would be difficult for the US to start engaging and sort of telling everyone else what to do if it isn’t coming out with its target itself. I think it would need to be coming out with its target before COP26 in Glasgow. So it’s got a few months, but it doesn’t have an awful lot of time,” says Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, who previously served as special representative of the UN Secretary-General and chief executive officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and was the former WorldBank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change.

With China’s recent net-zero by 2060 announcement, followed closely by Japan and South Korea, if Biden follows through with his plan, this would mean that countries producing half of the world’s global emissions would have pledged net-zero by 2050. The China and US pledges alone would be enough to bring down global heating to about 2.3°C to 2.4°C by the end of the century, according to Climate Action Tracker, which is about 25-40% of the effort to limit it to 1.5°C.

Ambitious goals

“Biden as President is going to have to call on all his political skills and all his empathy and all his rhetorical skills, because he has to lay out the vision but then behind the scenes, he’s got to bring into the White House bankers, businessmen, oil executives – the whole power structure of capitalist America – and he’s got to get the ones who are on-board for climate action to push the ones who are not – and then get the kind of financial support to help those who are being diminished as we move off of carbon,” says Brown.

If looked at in its entirety, Biden’s ambitious climate action plan does hit the right notes – for the most part. Apart from the Paris Agreement and climate target, Biden has pledged 1.7 trillion towards the US’ green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. His plan also aims to rid the power sector of carbon pollution by 2035 — which is massive considering the US has the largest reserves of coal on the planet. But some experts think this goal falls way short of helping prevent irreversible climate change. He has also pledged to improve the energy efficiency of buildings — in particular upgrade four million commercial buildings and weatherise two million homes in four years. But a Colorado-based energy research organisation found this pledge would achieve just a fraction of what is required to achieve the Paris goals.

Biden’s plan also envisages a revitalisation of the auto industry by leading the electric vehicles’ revolution. He plans to do this by building 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030 and restore the full electric vehicle tax credit to incentivise their purchase. What remains unclear, however, is how he plans to phase out cars powered by fossil fuels.

He did speak about ‘transitioning from the fossil-fuel industry’ in one of the presidential debates, but later clarified that ‘we are not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time’ because it would mean a massive job loss. He also said his administration would end subsidies on fossil fuels and instead give them out to renewables. But when it comes to the controversial process of fracking, the president-elect’s stand has been ambiguous, at best. Biden opposed a complete ban, but has instead proposed disallowing it on federal lands.

Internationally, Biden has his eyes set on China and has pledged to stop the country from subsidising coal and outsourcing carbon pollution — primarily through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He vows to help BRI countries find ‘alternate sources of development financing for low-carbon energy investments’.

The perils of a divided system

Biden’s policies do have the potential to push the US to the front of the line once again when it comes to climate action, but he inherits a divided system. A most-likely Republican senate and a largely conservative Supreme Court may make proposals, climate and otherwise, harder to pass. Case in point: Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had to issue executive orders to implement the Clean Power Act for the power sector, which were blocked by the Supreme Court. Trump’s latest appointee to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in her confirmation hearing, called climate change ‘a very contentious matter of public debate’. She joins five other conservative judges in the Supreme Court, who will decide on issues such as the legality of climate regulations for polluters and whether oil companies need to pay for their climate impacts. 

In his first speech as president-elect, Biden called upon his fellow Americans to marshal the ‘force of science’ in the ‘battle to save our planet’. It is an uphill task that can be achieved only if the world’s second-largest polluter is able to rise above its fractious politics.

Climate Science

Hope or hoax: An NCAER report claims and investment of ₹1,000 crore in the National Monsoon Missions would provide a benefit of ₹50,000 crore to 1.07 crore people below the poverty line | Photo: The Weather Channel

Return on National Monsoon Mission 50-fold: NCAER report

A new report released by the Indian government opined that the country’s National Monsoon Mission and High Performing Computing programmes will provide a 50-fold benefit on the funds allocated to them. The report, made by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), a Delhi-based independent, non-profit, economic policy research institute, an investment of nearly Rs1,000 crore in these programmes would provide a benefit of Rs50,000 crore in monetary gains to nearly 1.07 crore citizens below poverty line (BPL) agricultural households and 53 lakh BPL fishermen households.

The mission was launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in 2012 with a goal to develop a state-of-the-art monsoon prediction system for weather forecasting that includes short, medium and long-range forecasting.   

Study finds brown carbon tarballs in Himalayan atmosphere 

A recent study found nearly 28% of particles that were collected from air samples around a research station in the Himalaya-Tibet Plateau were tar balls – carbonaceous particles formed as a result of biomass of fossil fuel burning that settles on snow and ice. According to the study published in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters, this percentage rose on days with higher pollution levels and could cause a rapid increase in global warming and glacial melt. The study identified the sources of pollution to be a dense array of active fire spots coupled with wheat-residue burning in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. 

Forest fires in Amazon continue to emit GHGs long after burning out: Study

Forest fires continue to emit greenhouse gases long after they extinguish, according to a new study. The research, published in Environmental Research Letters, found that forest fires continue to drive up emissions levels for around two decades after burning out. The emissions don’t peak until four years after the flames have stopped because of the slow death of trees, the study stated. Emissions after the fire stops account for nearly 73% of the total emissions from a single wildfire, according to the research.  

Study warns 2°C rise could release billions of tonnes of carbon from world’s soil

An average global temperature rise of 2°C could release 230 billion tonnes of carbon from the world’s soil, according to a recent study – about four times the total emissions of China and double that of the US over the past 100 years. Soil contains about two to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. The faster the temperature rises, the more carbon soil loses.

6,000 sqkm net global wetland loss likely by 2100: Study

A recent study projected a net global wetland loss of 6,000km2 by 2100. The study, published in the journal Nature, projected the number of sites with an area loss of more than 10% to increase by 19% –65% under low emissions, 148–243% under high emissions and ~16% with global mean warming of 2 °C relative to 1.5 °C. The research identified wetland locations in the Mediterranean, Mexico, Central America and South Africa to be the most vulnerable to shrinkage.

Climate Policy

Making a difference: Goans are protesting against Centre-funded infrastructure projects that will cut across two wildlife sanctuaries | Photo: The Logical Indian

Goans protest to save wildlife sanctuaries from infra projects

Goans have been vociferously protesting against three Centre-funded infrastructure projects – the double-tracking of a railway line, a highway expansion and a power line – that will cut across Goa’s oldest wildlife sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and its sister, Mollem National Park. These sanctuaries cover an area of 240 sqkm along Goa’s eastern frontier. These projects will collectively need to divert or destroy 170 hectares of forest along with the felling of thousands of trees. The public outcry seems to have pushed Goa’s chief minister Pramod Sawant to soften his stance on the projects. 

Baghjan oil field operating illegally: NGT committee

A National Green Tribunal (NGT) committee said the Baghjan oil field was operating without mandatory environmental clearances at the time of the massive blowout on May 27, this year, which was followed by a fire that continues to rage. Oil India Limited (OIL) claims to have obtained all the clearances necessary to operate near the Dibru Saikhowa National Park (DSNP) in Tinsukia district. The committee recommended the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) take legal action against OIL for the alleged violations. 

Australian pension fund settles climate change lawsuit

One of Australia’s largest pension funds will settle a landmark climate risk litigation case filed by a citizen who claimed it had failed to protect his retirement savings against climate change. In a statement, REST said that climate change could lead to catastrophic consequences and it was a “material, direct and current financial risk” to the superannuation fund. It committed to net zero emissions in its portfolio by 2050. The case assumes importance because it could influence how other global funds approach and manage such risks.

Climate risk disclosure to be made mandatory for UK businesses and financial institutions

British Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Monday announced that large companies, businesses and financial institutions in the UK would have to start reporting their exposure to climate risks within five years. The move comes as the UK chases a tougher regime to tackle climate change as it ramps up towards the 2050 carbon neutrality target. Sunak also announced plans to launch Britain’s first ever ‘green gilt’ in 2021- a financial bond which will be utilised to fund carbon-reducing technologies and create sustainable employment opportunities.

Air Pollution

To ban or not to ban: State governments and courts and scrambling to control firecracker during Diwali as COVID-spread fears rise | Photo: Rozana Spokesman

Ahead of Diwali, firecracker bans and U-turns

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned bursting or selling firecrackers in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) and much of north India till December 1. The ban has been imposed over the growing toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Chandigarh, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Calcutta high court had already responded to deteriorating environmental conditions by banning firecrackers this year.

Haryana and Karnataka did a U-turn. Two days after announcing a ban, Haryana allowed bursting firecrackers for two hours on Diwali. Karnataka has allowed ‘green crackers’, hours after indicating that the state would ban firecrackers on Diwali.

The Uttar Pradesh government banned firecrackers in the NCR region, including in Muzaffarnagar, Agra, Varanasi, Meerut, Hapur, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Moradabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Baghpat, Bulandshahr.

The government allowed ‘green firecrackers’ where air quality is ‘moderate’ or better. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said his government will not ban firecrackers. He appealed to people to refrain from using them in the interest of health and safety of all. In Mumbai, however, the BMC banned firecrackers within city limits.

PM2.5 breaches hazardous limits, ‘the worst-air’ days begin in NCR

Delhi recorded ‘emergency’ levels on the air quality index, exceeding well over 500. At some places it reached 735 on Tuesday—the highest so far in Delhi this year. This was a day after the worst-air day, and the fifth consecutive day of severely toxic air.  The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said PM2.5 was the prominent pollutant.

Over 12 localities recorded AQIs in the ‘severe’ category between 401-500. In neighbouring places, Haryana’s Jind was the most polluted with an AQI of 500, Gurugram’s Sector-51 recorded (499), Noida’s Sector-116 (499), Faridabad’s Sector-16A (497), and Ghaziabad’s Loni (476). 

Nearly 2,247 stubble fires across Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and neighbouring areas were reported on Tuesday. This stubble smoke contributed 22% of the total pollution in Delhi-NCR. Increasing humidity and calm surface winds also exacerbated pollution. 

The newly formed Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining areas urged people to avoid using personal transport, stop burning biomass, sprinkle water on roads and use anti-smog guns at construction sites to improve the deteriorating air quality.

States granted ₹2,200 crore to fight air pollution, most-polluted Delhi not included

The Centre decided to release ₹2,200 crore to fight air pollution to 42 cities with a population of more than a million. The money will be used under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to build the local urban bodies and state pollution control boards. Delhi is not among the cities that will receive funds under this grant. While Delhi is among the 102 cities covered by NCAP, it has not received any funding under NCAP. Greater Mumbai received the maximum share, Rs244 crore followed by Kolkata (₹192 crore), Bengaluru (₹139.5 crore) and Chennai (₹90 crore).

The grant is part of the finance commission recommendation of ₹4,400 crore to NCAP. The programme aims to reduce PM 2.5 concentrations by 20-30% in over a hundred cities compared to 2017 levels.

For Delhi-NCR, the finance commission recommended that Centre constitute a high power committee, consisting of the ministries of Finance, Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, the Governments of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to devise, implement and monitor a time-bound action plan for pollution mitigation under the National Clean Air Programme, HT reported.

Tiny air pollution rise linked to 11% more COVID-19 deaths: study

In two separate researches, it has been found that 15% of all COVID-19 deaths around the world are attributable to dirty air, and most significantly, a small rise in long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an 11% increase in deaths from COVID-19.  The researchers said the evidence was now strong enough that levels of dirty air must be considered a key factor in handling coronavirus outbreaks.

Professor Francesca Dominici at Harvard University, who led the new analysis, said there is a lot of scientific evidence that makes us think that a virus that attacks our lungs and kills you with viral pneumonia, might become more deadly if your lungs are compromised because you’re breathing air pollution.”

The study considered the impact of a single-unit rise in average particle pollution over 16 years before the pandemic on COVID-19 deaths in 3,089 US counties, covering 98% of the population.


RE-surgence: In sharp contrast to all other fuels, renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7% in 2020, says IEA | Photo:

IEA: India will drive the global RE upswings in 2021

India will be the largest contributor to renewable energy upswings next year, says latest research by the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to the study, renewable energy continued to flourish around the world even during COVID-19 crisis, while the fossil fuel sector witnessed sharp declines. India’s annual additions would be doubling from 2020, the report said.

India and the European Union will drive the global expansion of renewable capacity additions of nearly 10% next year — the fastest growth since 2015. The report stated that this is the result of the commissioning of delayed projects where construction and supply chains were disrupted by COVID-19 and growth in markets where the pre-Covid project pipeline was robust.

Andhra Pradesh sets up 30-year PPA to attract low tariffs for free solar power to farmers 

The Andhra Pradesh government adopted the proposal to set up 10 GW of solar power capacity to supply nine hours of daytime free power to the agriculture sector.

Aiming to get lower tariffs during the bidding process, the government has introduced a 30-year power purchase agreement (PPA) instead of 25 years. The developers will be paid a flat tariff for the first 15 years and pre-fixed operation and maintenance charges from the 16th year of commissioning.

Under Biden, renewable fuels law would get bipartisan support?

US investors have said that if President-elect Joe Biden introduces the laws to back renewable fuels he will get bipartisan support even with a divided Congress. However, his larger plans to move the United States to a zero-carbon emissions scheme by 2050 may be thwarted. Investors pointed out that development of renewable fuels is supported by some in both the oil and green energy industries.

The United States consumes roughly 21 million barrels of renewable diesel per year, compared with 4.1 million barrels used every day for conventional distillate fuel oil, according to US Energy Department data.

Australian state to invest $23 billion energy roadmap in renewables push

The state of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia will shift toward renewable energy from coal. It aimed to attract $23.3 billion of private investment into the sector by 2030. The state will speed up approvals for businesses to invest in renewable energy projects, with four of its five coal-fired power plants expected to close in the next 15 years.

The plans would create close to 10,000 jobs and aim to bring 12 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar power and 2 GW of storage, such as pumped hydro, online by 2030, state Energy Minister Matt Kean said in a statement. Australia has refused to match other developed countries in setting a target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Kerala capital launches India’s first solar-powered mini train for tourists 

Kerala launched the country’s first solar-energy driven miniature train especially for children and tourists. The ₹10-crore project will have the tourist train run in the outskirts of the state capital between the Veli lake upto the point it meets the Arabian sea. 

The 2.5 km ride of the miniature rail comes with a tunnel, station and a ticket office. The train has three bogies that can accommodate around 45 people at a time. The surplus energy generated by the system will be routed to the Kerala State Electricity Board’s grid.

Firms in race to develop green hydrogen fuel to cut shipping industry emissions 

Global companies for the first time are testing the use of green hydrogen to sail ships as the shipping industry finds technologies to cut emissions. Made from electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable energy, green hydrogen is emissions free.

Swiss-based technology group ABB is working on hydrogen fuel cell systems for ships. Green hydrogen fuel costs around 4-8 times the price of very low sulphur fuel oil. Prices of green hydrogen are expected to fall over the next couple of decades as the cost of renewable energy and electrolysers falls.

Electric Vehicles

Riding the future: Battery-operated three-wheelers will capture up to 75% of their category's market share in India by 2030, says KMPG, but electric cars may only manage around 10-15% | Photo:

KPMG: Three-wheelers to lead India’s EV adoption with up to 75% penetration by 2030

A new report by KPMG and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) has predicted that three-wheelers will lead the adoption of EVs in India, with 65%-75% of the vehicles switching over to electric by 2030. Titled “Shifting Gears”, the report, though, sees two-wheeler penetration to only reach around 25-35% of the market, despite the cost benefits of electric two-wheelers and the segment alone accounting for 80% of India’s annual auto sales. However, it does say that the adoption will be heavily skewed in favour of the B2B segment, where the figure is expected to reach an impressive high of 60-80% by 2030. 

The report expects private electric car adoption to go from a low 1-3% in 2025 to 10-15% by 2030 — which in itself is not insignificant, given that only 3,600 e-cars were sold in the country in FY2019-20. However, up to 30% of taxis are expected to make the switch, possibly aided by better access to charging infrastructure and batteries that offer much greater driving range. Finally, 25-40% of the country’s buses are expected to make the switch over the decade, again possibly aided by improvements in EVs’ extended ecosystem. 

Gadkari asks automakers to forego initial profits in expanding share of EVs

India’s Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, has asked automakers to lower the costs of their EVs and forego initial profits in order to rapidly expand the market share of the vehicles. The statement comes just days after he claimed that India could become the world’s hub for EV manufacturing by 2025, even though the country’s automakers are currently prioritising the sales of ICE vehicles to revive the auto sector from the impact of the pandemic. 

Mr. Gadkari has also revealed that the Centre was planning to build an e-highway between Delhi and Mumbai — although the date for completion has not been specified — and the project will be a part of the 22 “green highways” that the country will inaugurate in the next three years, including one from Bangalore to Chennai. 

Bentley to go fully electric by 2030 and “end-to-end” carbon neutral 

The UK’s luxury carmaker, Bentley, has announced it will sell only fully-electric cars by 2030 in a major revamp of its product lineup. Bentley’s expensive cars are known for their V12 engines, that consume much more fuel than mass-market alternatives and have carbon emissions that can exceed 300 g/km. The manufacturer will stop making IC engines by 2026, transition to a hybrid architecture after the date and eventually switch to 100% electric models. It will also target “end-to-end” carbon neutrality in its operations — without resorting to carbon offsets — which would require it to work with its suppliers in lowering their carbon footprints at source. 

Incidentally, Rolls Royce, the world’s foremost luxury car manufacturer, is also planning to switch over to electric powertrains to comply with future legislation, which may forbid its customers from driving into zero-emission zones. 

Canadian automaker unveils single-seat, “motorcycle” electric car for USD 18,500

A Canadian auto manufacturer has launched the single-seat, fully electric Solo in the US for an initial retail price of USD 18,500. The car lacks a second rear wheel and is therefore classified as a “motorcycle” by the US government, but it offers front and rear crumple zones for passenger protection. It is aimed at commuters who travel solo to most destinations, and its on-board 17.5kW battery is rated at a maximum range of 100 miles. 

However, criticism against the car has already started to mount as its three-wheel design harks back to the 1960s and 70s and because of the choice of used cars available to customers for under $15,000. Also, in lieu of technically being a motorcycle, critics say the manufacturer may not have subjected the Solo to the kind of crash tests mandated for modern cars to ensure passenger safety.

Fossil Fuels

Fully disclosed: The declaring of emissions of every cargo load of LNG under the Qatar-Singapore deal could prove to be a new standard of transparency for the oil and gas sector | Photo:

Singapore-Qatar LNG to detail emissions in an industry first

A new LNG deal signed between Qatar and Singapore will set an industry first by detailing the emissions from each cargo load of the fuel delivered under the 10-year term. The LNG will be delivered by Pavilion Energy, which in March won a tender that required bidders to help develop a methodology to quantify the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. The firm will detail the shipments’ emissions all the way from the gas well and the transportation to the import terminal. 

However, even though its CEO has expressed the “strong willingness of Pavilion Energy to pursue decarbonization and offset strategies”, the deal curiously does not impose any obligation to offset the emissions. Yet, the move could set a new industry benchmark and pave the way for other LNG retailers, such as the US, Russia and several OPEC members, to start detailing emissions from their natural gas operations despite the fuel being cleaner than coal

India: Adani, Hindalco, Vedanta & Jindal Power amongst winners of coal block auctions 

India’s latest round of auctions for 30 coal blocks has attracted 78 bids, out of which the most prominent names are also the country’s largest industrial groups, viz., Stratatech Mineral Resources (owned by the Adani Group), and India’s top copper and aluminium producers, Vedanta and Hindalco. The three have won bids for the Dhirauli coal mine in Madhya Pradesh [geological reserves of 586.39 million tonnes (MT) of coal], Radhikapur West mine in east Odisha (312 MT) and Chakla mine in Jharkhand (76 MT), respectively. The revenue sharing percentage with the Centre will be 12.5%, 21% and 14.5% for the three, in that order. 

Curiously, Andhra pradesh’s Mineral Development Corp has also won a bid for the small, Brahmadiha coal block in Jharkhand, which has reserves of only 5 MT, and the firm will share a whopping 41.75% of its revenue from the block with the Centre. Jindal Power, too, has won the Gare Palma IV/1 coal mine in Chhattisgarh (reserves of 84 MT) and the mine is expected to produce 6 MT of coal per year at peak capacity. Its revenue sharing agreement with the Centre has been set at 25%. 

Equinor aims for net-zero emissions by 2050 despite targeting more oil and gas output

One of Norway’s largest petroleum companies, Equinor, has announced that it will target net-zero emissions by 2050 and expand its share of wind energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The move is amongst the several Equinor has made in recent months — including a $1 billion stake sale in its wind energy portfolio to BP in September — that have made it one of the most progressive oil and gas drillers with respect to climate action. 

However, its new CEO has indicated that the firm will target a 3% annual increase in its oil and gas output through to 2026, although it is expected to prepare for a drop in demand for the fuels post-2030. The country’s oil and gas industry has also been dragged to the Supreme Court of Norway (after victories in lower courts) over its attempts to start drilling in the Arctic ocean, as environmental activists argue that such operations would exacerbate climate change and violate current and future Norwegians’ constitutional right to a healthy environment. 

Meanwhile, Italy-based Enel, which is Europe’s largest utility, has increased its ambition for greenhouse reduction by 2030 from 70% to 80%. It has already reduced its net emissions by 36% between 2007 – 2019. Malaysia’s Petronas, the state-owned driller that is the world’s fourth largest LNG exporter, is also targeting net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Japan eyes switch to Hydrogen to achieve net-zero target 

Japan is reportedly eyeing an investment of nearly $425 billion in building infrastructure that would grow its Hydrogen consumption, as it seeks to move away from coal on its path to net-zero emissions by 2050. The country’s power-intensive industries of cement, steel and heavy duty transport depend heavily on fossil power at the moment, but under its 2050 target — and its limited capacity for renewable energy generation — industry experts have suggested that the world’s fifth-largest polluter employ Hydrogen as a cheaper, energy-denser alternative. 

Similar efforts are on in the European Union’s heavy industries where “green hydrogen” — hydrogen that is obtained from electrolysis of water using renewable energy — is being explored in place of coking coal to slash emissions.