Fire hazard: How climate change is derailing lofty carbon offset hopes

Fire hazard: How climate change is derailing lofty carbon offset hopes

Historic wildfires across the northern hemisphere in the past month have cast doubt on the prudence of relying on forests to build stores of carbon. Read more

Carbon set-off: Historic wildfires across the northern hemisphere in the past month have cast doubt on the prudence of relying on forests to build stores of carbon | Photo: The Moscow Times

Fire Hazard: How climate change is derailing lofty carbon offset hopes

Trends pointing to an increase in the length and intensity of fire seasons expose the dangerous over-reliance on land and forests to deliver carbon sequestration 

The window to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius has narrowed to just about a decade. This week, the IPCC’s Physical Science Basis report, the first of three parts of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), served as another grim notice on the current status and direction of earth’s climate and weather systems. Across the board, and in every region of the world, extreme weather is projected to become more frequent and inflict greater damage for as long as global temperatures remain on an upward curve and anthropogenic emissions overload natural cycles.

Just as the warnings from the latest climate science hit the airwaves, reports emerged that a pall of smoke emanating from wildfires raging in Siberia had enveloped the North Pole, over 3,000 km away. Eastern Russia has seen an exceptionally active wildfire season where over 1.6 million hectares of forest land has been burnt in the past two months. In Europe, close to another 5 million ha of forests have gone up in flames. The trend extends across the world with the Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa all reporting large areas of forests affected by wildfires in the past year, running into several millions of hectares. In other words, several millions of hectares worth of carbon stock was released back into the atmosphere.

The poetic juxtaposition of the IPCC report on the historic wildfire season (and other alarming instances of extreme weather currently unfolding) has not gone unnoticed. The coincidence has rightfully been used as a forceful call for urgent action. The moment, however, represents a deeper cognitive dissonance. Removing carbon from the environment is the need of the hour to prevent catastrophic climate change. But what happens when the primary mode of removal itself holds no guarantees of climate resilience?

The future of fire weather

Over the past few years, there has been a growing consensus that fire weather and wildfires are set to increase across the world as temperatures rise. Recent attribution studies have shown that some massive wildfires in the US and Europe would not have been possible in the absence of anthropogenic climate change. With a fast-expanding body of evidence to support the correlation, IPCC authors have stated that, “climate change will force widespread increases in fire weather throughout the world,” in their latest assessment.

According to the report, fire weather is also likely to become more common with an increase in frequency and intensity of droughts and heatwaves. The compound effect of droughts and heatwaves sustain high temperatures, while pushing down humidity and soil moisture- weather conditions, which are conducive to triggering and sustaining wildfires, the report explains. 

Assessments of wildfire trends have pointed to an increase in the length of fire seasons and in the burnt area. According to a 2015 study that mapped wildfire trends from 1979 to 2013, the global fire season length has increased by 18.7% in the time period, while area affected by wildfires has doubled. A more recent study from 2019, which attempts to project future scenarios for wildfires under warming futures, has warned that under warming of 1.5°C and 2°C, the fire season length and fire frequency is likely to increase in several parts of the world, particularly in the western United States, Central Asia, and Australia.

Changes in fire season length and wildfire frequency. Changes in the average length of the fire season (days) under (a) 1.5 °C warming, (b) 2.0 °C warming, and (c) during the 2080–2099 period, relative to the baseline period 1981–2000. Changes in the frequency of wildfires under (d) 1.5 °C warming, (e) 2.0 °C warming, and (f) during the 2080–2099 period, relative to the baseline period 1981–2000. Stippling indicates locations where the degree of change was statistically significant at the 95% confidence level | Source: Sun et al. 2019, Environment International

Beyond the implications on the well-being of the ecosystem and human health, worsening wildfires could jeopardise plans for future carbon removal and offset.

Neither fire-proof, nor fool proof

Last month, fire season kicked into high gear in the US. Largest among the several blazes reported so far is the Bootleg Fire, which affected large forest areas in Oregon and California. The fire, which spread over 400,000 acres of forests in the region, also engulfed a quarter of the carbon offset project Klamath East, operated by the Green Diamond Resource Company, a non-profit that works on carbon removal. In Washington state, runaway fires scorched parts of the Summit Creek and Shoal Creek carbon offset projects operated by petroleum major BP. Similar incidents of carbon offset projects going up in smoke, effectively releasing stored carbon back into the atmosphere, have been reported over recent years.

With a total carbon stock of 662 Gt, forest ecosystems are the largest terrestrial carbon sink on earth. The capacity of the world’s forests to absorb roughly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 each year has made afforestation the mode of choice to meet the urgent need of reducing and removing carbon from the atmosphere. Afforestation and agro-forestry plantations are currently perceived to offer the quickest and cheapest path to create and lock away carbon stocks, often at the behest of highly emitting businesses and polluting industries.

The reliance on existing and new forests to meet global climate goals is apparent in the inclusion of afforestation targets in almost 20 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) toward the Paris Agreement. The list of countries with specified goals to increase tree and forest cover include large economies such as Australia, Brazil, India and Japan. The recent thrust towards afforestation has yielded a marginal increase in the global area covered by forests, although much of the expansion has come through new forests and agro-forestry plantations.

As fire seasons look set to intensify, the over-reliance on afforestation as a mode of decarbonisation, however, is rapidly evolving as a concern. While fire regimes are an important part of nutrient cycles in several ecosystems, projections enhance the likelihood of such regimes becoming longer, more unpredictable and more damaging than in the past. According to the latest IPCC assessment, future climate variability is likely to enhance the severity and recurrence of wildfires across many biomes, including tropical rainforests, Arctic and boreal ecosystems, Mediterranean-type ecosystems, degraded tropical forests, and tropical forest-savanna transition zones. While the report concedes that risks from wildfires are yet to be fully incorporated into climate models, a partial representation of wildfires project increases of 8-58% in carbon emissions due to fire.

“We cannot be complacent about the world’s carbon stocks. With the over-reliance on land and forests for carbon removal, it is possible that decades worth of carbon stock can be wiped out in a matter of days or a few months. This is a particularly serious concern considering the likelihood of wildfires and extreme heat becoming more frequent and intense in coming years and decades apart from floods, landslides, pests and diseases. Our existing carbon stocks are already under threat, as will any new carbon stocks we are yet to create through tree plantations. Retaining and protecting individual large old trees whereever they exist will be important,” surmises Jagdish Krishnaswamy, senior fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

Other than the risk of fires releasing carbon stored in patches of afforested land, concerns regarding how plant and tree physiology will cope with changing climate have also been raised. “Beyond biome shifts, observations of tropical forests also show that increasing tree mortality rates within tropical forests may reduce carbon turnover times and storage, that increased tree mortality rates in tropical forests and elsewhere are expected with increased temperatures and vapor pressure deficit,” notes the IPCC Physical Science Basis report, adding that while these changes are not well represented in climate models, changes in mortality may have a larger influence on the carbon cycle than changes in productivity. 

The report further states that although increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere could lead to higher rates of metabolism and growth in plants, this will likely be hindered by limited availability of nutrients in the soil. The inadequacy of critical nutrients could further convert vegetation from being net carbon sinks to net carbon sources under future scenarios, further denting the reliability of forests as the dominant mode of carbon storage. Recent studies have suggested that climate pressures and unmitigated fires have rendered the Amazon basin a net carbon source, rather than a sink, reversing the historic trend of carbon absorption in the world’s largest rainforest.

Why India must rethink afforestation

Afforestation is one of the central planks of India’s commitments towards the Paris Agreement. Over the next decade, India plans to increase its current forest-held carbon stock of 26.12 Gt CO2eq by around 10%. The additional sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2eq is to come through the restoration of a mammoth 26 million ha of degraded land, including the creation of 2 million ha of additional forest and tree cover, by 2030. According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019, India is currently adding about 76.86 million tonnes of CO2eq every year, far below the rate required to meet its NDC. Interestingly, while India’s forest cover has been increasing gradually, much of the growth has come outside the Recorded Forest Area (RFA), which has in fact seen a decline in recent decades.

The growth of forest cover outside the RFA is a likely sign of expanding agro-forestry. Unsurprisingly, India’s plan to increase its carbon sink, too, rests heavily on a bet on agro-forestry and plantations to deepen the carbon sink.

On paper, the plan to expand agro-forestry is plausible and holds potential benefits beyond carbon storage. A recent study that looked at carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry systems concluded that a 30% increase in the area under agro-forestry by 2050 is likely to significantly offset India’s emissions, and create tradeable offset credits. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has in the past alluded to the utilisation of “wastelands” (a contentious category of public land, which constitutes around 15% of the country’s total land area) for the creation of this additional forest cover through restoration of open forests and plantations. 

The recent escalation of wildfires across the world challenges the realities of such a plan, particularly in arid and semi-arid zones in the country, which are more conducive for fire weather, and have soil nutrient profiles ill-suited for woody vegetation. The myopic view of forests and land as merely a store of carbon has its share of critics. “Afforestation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The dominant view that reduces carbon sequestration to afforestation, and forests as the dominant store of carbon, reflects insufficient understanding and a failure of imagination. Ill-suited afforestation can disrupt natural cycles in non-forest ecosystems, affecting interconnections with carbon storage, water, soil and biodiversity in these ecosystems. The risk is beyond just the afforestation project. It is also on the natural stability and productivity of these ecosystems,” says Ravi Chellam, a member of the Biodiversity Collaborative and CEO at Metastring Foundation, an organisation seeking to boost data-based decision making, particularly in the fields of biodiversity and health.

According to ATREE’s Krishnaswamy, moving beyond simplistic afforestation targets and diversifying the carbon sink potentials of other ecosystems offers the most resilient path to carbon sequestration. “At present, there is too much pressure on forests and trees to create carbon stocks. This can generate trade-offs with respect to local hydrology, biodiversity and livelihoods in some biomes. The more prudent way would be to diversify the strategy for carbon sequestration beyond just tree-based afforestation to a diversity of ecosystems with moderate to high sequestration potential in soils, sediments and vegetation such as wetlands, riparian zones, mangroves and grasslands, agro-forestry and in urban environments. The current situation necessitates a thorough spatial zoning of what kind of restoration and carbon sequestration can be achieved where.”

The lack of alternative nature-based solutions to deliver carbon sequestration boils down to a lacuna in imagination, according to Chellam. “The narrative that afforestation offers the fastest or easiest path to removing CO2 from the atmosphere is incorrect, particularly when all ecosystems have natural cycles that contribute significantly towards regulating and mitigating carbon. The urgent need is to shift from simplistic views of afforestation and tree cover, which do not respect natural constraints of growth or native biodiversity and benefits to local communities, towards a narrative of inclusive and participatory ecological restoration that carries the lowest risks and highest returns in terms of restoring natural cycles with the least amount of damage,” he adds.

Warning bells: The new IPCC report on the state of the climate stated that India should brace itself for more intense rainfall and heatwaves by 2030 | Photo: CBS News

1.5°C warming limit will be breached in next 20 years, warns IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed the world’s worst fears in a report released today–climate change has already begun and there is no going back. The IPCC’S Physical Science Basis report, which is the first instalment of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), has been backed by 195 governments. The report blamed human activities for the state of the climate. India will continue to see a rise in the frequency and severity of hot extreme events and rain, the report added. 

The report stated there are no pathways left that can limit warming to 1.5°C without crossing the threshold first. Warming beyond 1.5°C will be breached in the next couple of decades, the report warned. The only way out was to cut CO2 emissions that will bring temperatures down by the end of the century.

If sustained efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are undertaken, air quality will be the first to improve, while global temperatures would take 20-30 years to stabilise, according to the report.

Monsoon fury causes widespread flooding across India

After furious rains lashed coastal and peninsular states over the last fortnight, monsoon winds moved further inland towards central and northern India this fortnight. Heavy rains in the Gwalior-Chambal region incapacitated large parts of Madhya Pradesh. According to a statement by the state CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, around 1,171 villages in Shivpuri, Sheopur, Datia, Gwalior, Bhind and Rewa areas have been affected by flooding. Neighbouring Rajasthan too felt the brunt of extreme rainfall, as water levels in the Chambal river rose. The release of dam water from the Chambal, in conjunction with heavy spells of rain, has caused severe flooding in many parts of Uttar Pradesh where India’s Disaster Management Division has reported flooding in 466 villages across 21 districts, with at least 104,704 people affected. In the east, West Bengal faced a critical flood situation following spells of extreme rain that inundated large parts of Purba and Paschim Bardhaman, Paschim Medinipur, Hooghly, Howrah, South 24 Parganas and Birbhum districts. Twenty-three people have been reported to have been killed in the floods while 4,00,000 ha of agricultural land has been affected. With fresh spells of heavy rains lashing Himalayan states, several landslides with mass casualties in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have also been reported.

Population exposed to floods grew 20-24% between 2000-2015: Study

Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of the global population that was exposed to flooding grew by 20-24%–10 times higher than previous estimates–a new study found. The study used satellite imagery to observe 913 large flood events from 2000 to 2018. It estimated the total inundation was 2.23 million sqkm and the total number of people affected was 255-290 million. According to the study, climate change projections for 2030 predict that the number of people exposed to floods will increase. The changing data on where and how floods are being reported from and who is being affected is a result of rapid urbanisation, flood mitigation infrastructure and rising settlements in floodplains, the study stated.  

Drought in Assam: Climate change to blame?

Experts linked climate change to the drought-like conditions in the rainy state of Assam. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the state recorded 21% less rainfall in July. The state government already declared the regions of Sarupathar and Golaghat as drought-hit. Experts pointed to irregular rainfall patterns for the drought, which is compounded by the lack of infrastructure and insufficient compensation from the government to affected farmers. 

3 Americans create enough emissions to kill one person: Study

Three average Americans can create enough carbon emissions to kill one person, according to a recent study published in Nature Communications. The same study estimated that emissions from one coal plant are likely to lead to 900 deaths. The study, which analysed several public health studies, found that one person globally will die prematurely as a result of increased temperature for every 4,434 tonnes of CO2 produced beyond the 2020 rate of emissions. This is equivalent to the current lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans. The study’s authors said these figures were not definitive and could well be a “vast underestimate” because they take into account only heat-related deaths and leave out mortality from floods, storms and other climate change-related impacts. 

Gulf Stream likely to collapse, warn scientists

The Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points, is on the verge of collapsing, climate scientists warned. They found “an almost complete loss of stability” of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already on their slowest point in 1,600 years, but are nearing shutdown, according to new research. A collapse would severely affect rainfall patterns across India, South America and West Africa, increase storms and plunge temperatures.

Mapping danger: ISRO’s flood hazard atlases are the need of the hour for states such as Assam, which witnessed devastating floods last year | Photo: The Weather Channel

ISRO develops flood hazard atlases for Assam, Bihar and Odisha

The states of Assam, Bihar and Odisha are all set to get flood hazard atlases courtesy the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Union minister of state for Jal Shakti (water resources) and Food Processing Industries Prahlad Singh Patel told the Lok Sabha that the atlases will divide the flood hazard levels into three categories – very high, moderate, low and very low. These categories will be based on the number of times an area has been inundated in the past 20 years, the minister said. The aim is to ensure better flood management and coordination between the concerned departments and agencies.

Oman pledges to reduce emissions by 7% from business as usual by 2030

The Gulf sultanate of Oman, which has seen its oil revenue plunge in the COVID-19 pandemic, submitted its upgraded climate plan to the UN. It committed to reducing its emissions by 7% from business as usual by 2030. This is slightly more than the 2% it had committed to reduce in 2015, but Oman will still remain one of the highest emitters per capita in the world despite the upgrade. According to the plan, around half of the emission reductions are conditional on international finance.   

Water Resources panel urges Indian govt to renegotiate Indus treaty with Pakistan

India’s Standing Committee on Water Resources recommended the Indian government should renegotiate the Indus Water Treaty it had signed with Pakistan in 1960 keeping in mind the current challenges of climate change. The panel’s report stated that factors such as climate change, global warming and environmental impact assessment, which are pressing issues today, were not taken into account when the treaty was signed. The panel recommended establishing an institutional structure or a legislative framework to address these issues such as the impact of climate change on the water availability in the Indus basin. 

Airshed moment: The Parliament has approved the setting up of a new commission to monitor and regulate air quality management in the National Capital Region | Photo:

Buck stops at Centre: Parliament approves all-powerful Air Quality Commission

Parliament approved the setting up of the Commission for Air Quality management in the National Capital Region and the Adjoining Areas Bill 2021 that for the first time formally considers air pollution on ‘airshed’ basis, i.e. the entire area over which the pollutants disperse due to meteorological and geographical factors, beyond state boundaries. 

The buck will stop at the Commission which will have the veto power over other pollution control agencies and will have the power to punish polluters with a maximum fine of Rs 1 crore and maximum 5 year jail. The Commission has decriminalised stubble burning

The Commission will include members from ministries of Environment, Road Transport and Highways, Power, Housing and Urban Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Commerce and Industry, secretaries from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, a joint secretary, an expert in air pollution, a member each from the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Space Research Organisation, three members from NGOs, one representative of the National Institution for Transforming India, three members from sectors such as agriculture, industry, transport or construction and representatives of any association from the commerce or industry sector. Experts point out that the top-heavy body of around 20 members requires a large ground staff to implement orders or it will have to depend on existing state agencies which will be counter productive.

IPCC report: SO2, NO2, ammonia, PM2.5 levels highest in India  

The latest report on the climate crisis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s declared that air pollutants continue their meteoric rise across India. The report stated that the levels of deadly air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ammonia (NH3), ozone (O3) and Particulate Matter 2.5 are the highest in south Asia compared to other parts of the world.

Chapter 6 of the report, titled Short-lived climate forcers (SLCF are gases different from CO2), says a major geographical shift had taken place in SLCFs from the 1950s to the 1980s. According to the report, NO2 concentrations have grown 50% over south Asia due to the power sector growth  in India. The report noted that NO2 concentrations had started decreasing since 2011 due to a slowing economy and implementation of cleaner technologies.

The report said north India or specifically the Indo-Gangetic Plain was one among three large agricultural regions along with the US Midwest and Central Valley, where high ammonia concentrations were seen due to large-scale burning of biomass.

Uttar Pradesh to breathe cleaner indoor air ahead of polls, Centre launches free LPG cylinders drive under Ujjwala 2.0 

With elections round the corner in Uttar Pradesh, families will breathe cleaner indoor air in the state. The Centre launched Ujjwala 2.0, which is the second phase of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and handed out free LPG gas connections in the state’s Mahoba district. 

According to officials, under Ujjwala 1.0 launched in 2016, the Centre’s target was to give LPG cylinders to five crore women members of Below Poverty Line (BPL) households. The scheme was expanded in April 2018 to include women from seven more categories such as SC and ST communities and forest dwellers. The Centre had revised the target to eight crore LPG connections, which was achieved in August 2019, seven months ahead of schedule. Experts give Ujjwala major credit for the government’s victory in the 2019 general elections.  

Critics and Opposition point out that gas cylinder prices doubled in the last seven years, the price of the gas cylinder “shot up by Rs 240 in the year of economic crisis”.

Maruti urges govt to defer tougher fuel standards to help industry recover from Covid-19 linked slowdown 

Carmakers including Maruti Suzuki have approached the Centre to defer tougher “European-style” vehicular emission rules called Bharat VI standard by two years arguing that it will increase the cost further and dent car sales already hit by pandemic-linked slowdown. India’s biggest carmaker Maruti Chairman R.C. Bhargava warned against the launch of the new rules in 2022.

Automakers say it will be difficult for automakers to pour resources into the new technology considering the industry invested as much as 900 billion rupees to transition to current emission standards, which set out a 68% reduction in nitrous oxide gases.

According to the World bank, air pollution costs India 8.5% of its gross domestic product. According to Centre for Science and Environment estimate by 2025, India will have up to 20 million old vehicles ready to be scrapped causing huge environmental damage.

Biden to reverse Trump rules, will cut vehicular emissions by improving fuel efficiency to 52 mpg by 2026

US president Joe Biden’s government vowed to reverse the Trump-era loosening of vehicle emissions rules. The new plan will boost vehicles’ fuel efficiency 10% in the 2023 model year, aiming for a fleet average of 52 miles per gallon by 2026, Reuters reported. The plan is a big increase from Trump’s proposal for vehicle fuel efficiency of just 43.3 mpg by 2026.

In 2020, Trump rolled back Obama’s standards that had required a 5% annual increase in efficiency and made it only 1.5% through 2026. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) said electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric will account for 8% of new US vehicle sales by 2026. The agency said by 2050, the proposal would “reduce gasoline consumption by more than 290 million barrels”, which is a nearly 10% reduction.

France slaps $12 million fine, its highest ever, on Macron govt over rising smog

France’s top administrative court, the Council of State, slapped its highest fine ever, 10 million euros ($12 million), on president Emmanuel Macron’s government over its failure to reduce smog and air pollution levels. Last year, the court had given the government six months to take corrective action or face fines. Now the government is implementing its order. Air pollution is believed to cause 40,000 premature deaths in France per year.

The penalty would be shared among various anti-air pollution agencies. NGO Friends of the Earth, which launched the pollution lawsuit against the government, will get 100,000 euros, the judges said.

100 GW unlocked: India, in July, breached the milestone of adding 100 GW of renewable energy capacity after rooftop solar installations pick up speed | Photo:

India’s renewable energy capacity passes 100 GW milestone, excluding large hydro

India’s total renewable energy capacity reached 100 GW, excluding large hydro projects. Until July, 2021 the cumulative RE capacity including solar, wind, rooftop solar, small hydro, bagasse, biomass, and waste to power stood at 98882.73 MW. 

Rooftop solar sector witnessed a huge jump in the first quarter of 2021, when 1,924.44 MW capacity was installed, that is 96.2% of the annual target. Total grid connected rooftop installations stand at 5,099 MW, according to the Hindu. 

The country is chasing a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. According to the government press release 100 GW has been installed, 50 GW is under installation and 27 GW is under tendering. 

India’s target of 2 million solar power pumps by 2022 under threat, farmers fail to access bank loans : IEEFA report

A new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) stated India will fall way short of meeting its targets to install two million off-grid solar irrigation pumps in the agricultural sector by 2022. The reason: Farmers cannot afford solar irrigation pumps, nor can they access the bank loans. The PM-KUSUM scheme, set up in July 2019 by the central government, hopes to deploy 30.8GW of solar irrigation pumps by March 2022. However, only 246,000 of the proposed 2 million pumps were installed in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

Farmers are being denied bank loans to buy the solar pumps because banks do not consider farmers’ land to be strong collateral against a loan, IEEFA said. 

Too much variable solar, wind power? Andhra DISCOMs resist increase in RE to avoid grid fluctuations

Andhra Pradesh DISCOMs are resisting attempts to increase solar or wind power generation as they fear that it would lead to severe fluctuations in grid maintenance. The DISCOMs said system planning has become almost impossible and system operators are forced to handle several uncertainties after the large-scale variable renewable energy (VRE) integration. The uncertainties of VRE are affecting the reliability of the conventional generators as well, DISCOMs stated in a filing before the AP Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The power utilities are wary of increasing renewable energy targets as they fear it would lead to severe fluctuations in grid maintenance. The state has an installed capacity of 7,500 MW of renewable energy and the state government is planning to add about 10,000 MW solar power to completely meet agriculture sector power needs in the next three years.

Recently, the Centre asked the state government to ensure addition of another 9,000 MW from renewable energy plants in the next four years, which is likely to take the capacity of the non-conventional plants to about 25,000 MW. The DISCOMs said this level of generation may cause severe fluctuations at the grid level.

Manufacturers Vs Developers: Supreme Court dismisses govt’s special leave plea for solar anti-dumping probe

The top court of India dismissed the special leave plea for a solar anti-dumping probe. 

The Indian Solar Manufacturers Association (ISMA) moved a petition with the Director General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) seeking an anti-dumping investigation on the import of solar cells from China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

ISMA had alleged that the dumping of imported solar cells from these countries was causing material injury to the domestic industry and had requested the Centre to impose an anti-dumping duty. Following this petition, the Solar Power Developers Association moved a counter-petition with the Delhi high court to quash the anti-dumping investigation. The Developers Association reasoned that such an investigation would cause harm to the solar industry.

In response to the Solar Power Developers Association petition, the Delhi High Court granted an extension for the submission of counter-affidavits from the government on this investigation until July 19, 2021. Meanwhile, the government took an extension of four weeks to file the counter-affidavits in the anti-dumping investigation while simultaneously filing the special leave petitions, which irked the Apex Court.

Solar power producer fined for missing renewable purchase obligation targets

Captive power producer in Chhattisgarh Indsil Energy & Electrochemicals was fined Rs1,00,000 for non-compliance of renewable purchase obligation (RPO). The Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission said the company failed to fulfill its solar and non-solar RPO of 5.1 million units in FY 2016-17 and 2.25 million units in FY 2017-18. It failed to procure a total of 7.26 MU, including 1.44 MU solar and 5.82 MU non-solar as per the RPO targets. The Chhattisgarh regulator proceeded ex-parte against Indsil as it failed to appear before the commission.

Indsil was ordered to maintain a separate fund for the amount determined by the commission based on a shortfall in units of RPO and the forbearance price decided by the central Commission. The company will have to open a separate bank account to maintain the fund. The commission also directed Indsil to deposit ₹7.26 million (~$97,500) as per the existing price of renewable energy certificates of ₹1 (~$0.013)/unit by October 11, 2021 as the respondent failed to procure 7.26 MU of renewable energy.

Govt launches interest subvention scheme for waste to energy biomethanation projects

The Centre launched a loan interest subversion scheme in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. The scheme also provides district level estimates of available urban and industrial organic wastes and their energy generation potential across India.

The scheme will enable SMEs to set up new waste to energy projects and may facilitate the growth of biomethanation in the waste-to-energy sector. The Global Environment Facility will also provide financial support for innovative waste to energy biomethanation projects. The geographic information based system provides district level estimates of available urban and industrial organic wastes and their energy generation potential in the country.

Setting new standards: The US could see a significant influx of EVs if Joe Biden's new executive order is taken up in earnest by carmakers and customers alike | Photo:

US to target 50% of all new auto sales as EVs by 2030

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order to target 50% of all new automobiles sales in the country to be electric by 2030. The announcement is part of Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will be tabled in the Senate this week, and is expected to make available $15 billion in funding for EV charging points and electric buses. The major decision is also expected to save 200 billion litres of gasoline from being burned and avoid 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. 

The push for electrification comes as part of the Biden administration’s efforts for the US to catch up with the rest of the world in EV sales—particularly China—but the signing ceremony curiously did not have representation from the most popular EV manufacturer, Tesla.

Russia plans to subsidise 25% of EV purchase cost

The government of Russia announced that it would subsidise 25% of the purchase cost of any domestically manufactured electric vehicle, up to 625,000 rubles (~$8,570), in order to boost the share of EVs in its transport fleet. So far, the country only has 11,000 EVs (out of 45 million cars), but the country is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and is aiming to reduce its emissions to 70% of 1990 levels by 2030. Russia is also a major oil and gas producer, but is now targeting the sales of 220,000 EVs by 2030, and foreign players are reportedly keen to start production in the country. 

India may slash EV import duties by up to 40% after all 

After recent news that the Indian government had refused to lower its import duties for fully built electric cars, a new report from Reuters indicated that the government might after all lower them by up to 40%. This would mean that a car worth up to $40,000 would have its duties dropped from 60% to 40%, while a costlier car would have its duties reduced from 100% to 60%. The news is not confirmed yet, as Reuters’ sources did not wish to be identified, but it comes soon after Tesla and even VW having requested a scale-back of the duties to make their EVs more affordable for the Indian customer. 

Still going big on fossil fuels: Anticipating a big role for for fossil fuels in India's future energy security, Indian oil announced it is spending big on expanding its operations | Photo:

Indian Oil to invest $13 billion in expanding operations, says “fossil fuels are here to stay”

One of India’s largest oil refining and marketing firms, Indian Oil, announced that it would invest $13 billion in expanding its operations, amidst a larger plan for the country’s oil refiners to invest up to $27 billion to boost their refining capacities. Indian Oil’s chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, was confident that fossil fuels would have a role to play in the future, partly over “energy security” concerns. The country’s overall refining capacity is also expected to grow from 249 million barrels per day (bpd) at the moment to 298 mbpd by 2025.

US county becomes first to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure 

Whatcom county in the northwestern US state of Washington became the first in the county to ban any new fossil fuel infrastructure, and will require any expansion of current facilities to offset the resultant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The move comes despite the county being home to two of the state’s five oil refineries and a major hub for the transport of coal, oil, natural gas and propane. The new ban was instituted to prevent additional damage to the county’s air quality, aquatic ecosystems and for the larger goal of minimising the fuels’ climate impacts. 

Down south, Petaluma, California, became the first US city to ban the addition of new gas stations in March this year. It is encouraging existing gas station owners to switch to electric and hydrogen vehicle charging points in a bid to become a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

US: Oil and gas drillers spent $86,000 a day on Facebook ads to counter climate plan 

Data from Facebook’s ad revenues revealed the US oil and gas industry raised its daily spending on ad campaigns to $86,000 (from an average of $6,700) as soon as Joe Biden announced his $2 trillion climate plan in 2020. The plan was announced as part of Biden’s election campaign, but 25 of the US’s largest oil and gas firms, advocacy organisations and industry lobby groups — including the American Petroleum Institute — posted numerous ads every day to rally support for natural gas pipelines. The content included misleading statements like “Natural gas is already clean, affordable and efficient — and it’s getting better every day”, and were shown mostly to men. 

Facebook, for its part, said it rejects factually incorrect advertisements (since natural gas is not considered clean by climate scientists), even though it earned $10 million in revenue from the campaign. 

UK: Private companies with little accountability taking over North Sea oil rigs

A new report by DeSmog found that privately-owned drillers are taking over ageing oil rigs in the North Sea, in sections that were previously explored by BP and Shell. The drillers are not as accountable to shareholder pressure or public scrutiny, and climate activists worry that they will not be as participating in the UK’s climate action goals. DeSmog uncovered a list of 506 North Sea blocks that were now operated by companies with opaque ownership structures, or ones that are owned by ultra-rich individuals and are registered outside of the UK’s jurisdiction. A number of them also had poor human resource records and were active in communities that deny/cast doubt over the science behind climate change.