Stressed Out: India in groundwater catch-22

Newsletter - August 6, 2019

Here today, gone tomorrow: India’s groundwater conservation efforts offer little hope no chance if not accompanied by systemic changes in agriculture | Image: Down To Earth

Stressed Out: India in groundwater catch-22

An alarming report on India’s groundwater reserves has been submitted by the expert committee formed under the National Green Tribunal (NGT). 54% of the groundwater monitoring wells across India have reported a decline — most notably in Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Close to a third of the 6,584 wells assessed are in over-exploited, critical or semi-critical areas, and only about 10% of these have been notified by India’s Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA). 

With climate change driving increasing uncertainty around rainfall and availability of surface water, agriculture has become increasingly dependent on groundwater which meets 62% of India’s irrigational needs. India also extracts 25% of the world’s groundwater reserves by volume – which is the world’s highest. A new analysis zeroes in on poor agricultural efficiency as a primary driver of water stress in India, despite relatively high volumes of rain. The KUSUM scheme, through which the government plans to add 1.75 million stand-alone and 1 million grid-connected solar pumps by 2022-2023 may further increase stress in drought-prone regions if not planned in conjunction with supplementary sources and micro-irrigation.

Prominent among the recommendations for the agricultural sector made by the expert panel is introducing registration of agricultural groundwater extraction devices such as borewells, ostensibly as the first step in regulating water use.

Such measures, however, run catastrophic risks if not accompanied by systemic agricultural changes. Indian farmers have already been bleeding losses each year due to unpredictable weather. Yields of major crops are also expected to fall in future decades while efforts to climate proof India’s agriculture remains in limbo.

It should only be a matter of time before these recommendations make it to the government’s guidelines regarding groundwater. But a dearth of reliable data or scientific assessments of groundwater and climate change impacts, and the lack of coordination between agencies and departments (as noted in the committee report), could end up adding nutrition to India’s list of stressed resources.

Climate Science

Swept away: As extreme events continue to rise, India’s population vulnerable to floods is set to balloon in coming decades | Image: Network18

Unprepared nation: Rain-related natural calamities kill 2,000 Indians every year

A government reply in the Indian Parliament’s lower house (Lok Sabha) this fortnight revealed that at least 6,585 people were killed in rain-related natural calamities in the three years ending July 18, 2019 – an average of 2,000 every year. Bihar lead the toll list at 970 (15% of the deaths) followed by Kerala at 756, West Bengal at 663, Maharashtra at 522 and Himachal Pradesh at 458.

What’s worse is that India could see a six-fold increase in the number of people facing the risk of severe flooding by 2040 – 25 million people compared to the 3.7 million between 1971 and 2004.

IPCC land report warns of dire desertification, carbon storage in soil pores offers glimmer of hope

A leaked draft of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on land and climate change, due to be formally released on August 8, has claimed in no unclear terms that humans have contributed to the degradation of a quarter of the world’s ice-free land including through urban expansion which has reportedly eaten into 35 million ha of forests and 22 million ha of shrubland between 1992 and 2015. The IPCC report further asserts that climate change has been increasing land degradation and desertification evident by the fact that populations living in desertifying areas stood at up to 620 million in 2015, up 300% compared to populations in 1961. The findings are especially ominous for India and other South Asian countries where about half of the vulnerable population resides. Assessments of desertification in the country have revealed that nine-out-of-ten Indian states are undergoing desertification, covering up to 30% of India’s total geographical area. 

While the report advocates for a shift in agricultural practices to focus on sustainability and reduction in emissions, it also notes with concern that prioritisation of afforestation to increase carbon sequestration potential of land could end up increasing food prices and food insecurity. Interestingly, a study released this week could show how soil pore structure influenced by microbial and plant diversity may help design agricultural systems that maximise soil sequestration and reduce agricultural emissions.

Can’t project future sea-level rise until 2060 due to Antarctic instability: Study

We won’t know until 2060 by how much sea levels will rise by the end of the century – this scary outcome was explained in a detailed study on the instability of the Antarctic ice sheet by Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Researchers have so far pointed to two scenarios when it comes to sea-level rise by 2100 – the less-severe prediction is 2 feet and the high-end scenario is 6 feet. But these predictions have been made based on marine-ice instability, which has been studied for decades. There is another pathway that can lead to ice-sheet instability, which is called marine ice cliff instability – which most studies have not taken into account. This type of instability could drive global sea level much higher than projected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 2013 assessment report and in a 2014 study led by Kopp.

This, along with another study, which concluded that underwater glacial melting is occurring much faster than previously thought, has put a real question mark on the level of risk we should brace for in terms of rising sea levels.

As world sees hottest month ever, study reveals that current climate change unseen in past 2,000 years

July 2019 has been confirmed as Earth’s hottest month on record by EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). While scientists involved in the assessment claim that this is a sign of unprecedented warming, separate research has in fact shown that global climate is changing faster now than it has in the past 2,000 years. The unique study, based on data collected from almost 700 proxy records of ice cores, trees, corals, among other substances, which change their composition or appearance based on global temperatures, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

What the study found was that in the past, like during the Little Ice Age or the Medieval Climate Anomaly, temperatures rose and fell at different times in different regions or in other words the change was localised. Modern climate change, however, seems to be having a more global reach. “…for 98% of the planet’s surface, the warmest period of the Common Era occurred in the late twentieth century,” Scott St. George, a climate researcher at the University of Minnesota who wasn’t involved in the research, wrote in a news and views article for Nature.

200 reindeer in Arctic starved to death because of climate crisis: Researchers

The climate crisis has claimed the lives of 200 reindeer – an unusually high number – in the Arctic archipelago Svalbard, according to the Norwegian Polar institute. While conducting a census of the wild reindeer population in the region, three researchers from the institute found the carcasses of 200 deer they believe died because of starvation last winter. According to Ashild Onvik Pedersen, the head of the census, climate change has increased the amount of rainfall in the region, which forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions tough for animals.

Another study pointed out that animals in general are failing to adapt to the speed of climate change. This includes common species such as sparrows, deer and magpies.

Climate Policy

One nation, two faces: China’s energy investments in the Belt and Road projects across Central Asia remain coal-heavy, despite pledges to cut emissions | Image:

Greenpeace reports surge in China’s Belt and Road power investments from 2014-2019

Bittersweet news from coal superpower China. Environmental group Greenpeace said Chinese equity investment in solar and wind power projects in Belt and Road countries has surged between 2014 and 2019. According to the report, China’s wind and solar power investments in Belt and Road countries amounted to 12.6 gigawatts (GW) since the initiative was launched in 2014. It had invested in just 0.45 GW of solar prior to 2014.

Worryingly though, the lion’s share of the investments have gone towards coal. Greenpeace reports that China has invested in 67.9 gigawatts of new coal-fired power in Belt and Road countries since 2014, with coal still out-financing renewables by 6:1. Worldwide, China has been found to support more than a quarter of all new coal-fired plants worldwide, with its capacity expected to peak at around 1,300 GW this year, up from around 1,140 GW at the end of last year.

Climate battle’s success or failure depends on what happens in Asia: UN

Ahead of its key climate summit in September, the UN proclaimed that the battle to combat climate change will “succeed or fail” based on what happens in Asia. Officials pointed to the region because of its increasing dependence on fossil fuels to meet the demands of its growing energy needs. One of the main goals the summit aims to meet is to secure zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Showing the big guns at the summit how it’s done will be teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who is teaming up with the Monaco royal family and sailing to the New York summit in a ‘zero-carbon’ racing yacht.

India’s small hydro power projects getting by with a little help from the govt

Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects are being set up in both the public and private sector with assistance from government schemes, the Union Minister of State for New & Renewable Energy and Power, RK Singh told the Lok Sabha on July 25. As of June 30, 2019, the aggregate capacity of SHPs was 4604.81 MW, with 116 other projects, with the potential capacity of 589.99 MW, were under construction, the minister said. Apart from financial assistance, the government has also been providing support to carry out detailed surveys and investigations, renovating and modernizing existing government projects, apart from other assistance.

Population of tigers in India rises; forest reserves in danger of being railroaded  

The population of tigers has more than doubled in India over 12 years to 2,967 in 2018, official figures released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed last week. This data was collected as part of a government survey over 381,400 km of forested habitats across 20 states that are home to India’s tiger population. Meanwhile, another study valued India’s 10 biggest tiger reserves at over Rs5.96 lakh crore by the Centre for Ecological Services Management (CESM). Palamau, which is in Jharkhand, has not recorded the presence of a single tiger, but was valued the highest at Rs20,700 crore.  

While the tiger population may have risen, forest reserves, including tiger reserves, have not received the same care and attention. According to official documents accessed by IndiaSpend under the RTI Act, India’s environment ministry exempted 13 railway projects worth Rs19,400 crore from obtaining forest clearances. The projects are spread over 800 acres of land, which includes a national park, a tiger reserve, wildlife sanctuaries in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. Faster environmental clearances seem to have in fact become a point of pride for the government as Union Minister for MOEF&CC Prakash Javadekar claimed this week that waiting time for clearances will be cut to just 70-80 days. Although, the minister also attempted to distance the government from the controversial zero draft amendment of Indian Forest  Act (1927) which has raised concerns over the rights and wellbeing of forest-dwelling communities.

Maharashtra, Gujarat have most non-compliant polluting industries 

 According to the data released by the government in the Parliament, Maharashtra and Gujarat have the most number of polluting industries that have still not complied with the pollution control norms. Together, the two states account for over 53% of all non-compliant industries in the country. Maharashtra has 179 non-compliant factories, while Gujarat has 97. Tamil Nadu is the cleanest with zero non-compliant industries. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) figures revealed here were a total of 4,264 highly polluting industries in India. Out of these, 518 industries are still non-compliant. MoS for environment, Babul Supriyo also informed the Parliament that the CPCB had currently classified 2,743 industries as Grossly Polluting Industries (GPI). Of the 2,497 operational units, only 2,222 were reported as complying to environmental norms. 

Smoke-free by 2021? Maharashtra govt clears LPG subsidy scheme

With an aim to make Maharashtra smoke-free by 2021, the state cabinet cleared a scheme to provide a subsidy on LPG connections, similar to the Prime Minister Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). This will take care of those Below Poverty Line (BPL) families that have been left out of the central government scheme, which covers only a limited number of BPL families.

Indian govt announces ‘grand goals’ to achieve ‘green railways’ in 10 years

India’s railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced ambitious steps last week to help the country achieve the world’s first green railways in 10 years. These steps include setting up solar energy installations on unutilised land, electrification of tracks and moving away from coal and towards biodiesel. Goyal said the railways plans to 100% electrify all tracks by 2022.  

One environment activist dies every month on average in India: Report

India is the third-deadliest country for environment activists. According to a report by non-profit Global Witness, almost one person was killed in India every month in 2018 while trying to protect the land or the environment.

Globally, this number stood at 164 in 2018, with Philippines (30 deaths) replacing Brazil (20) as the deadliest country for environment defenders. Colombia (24) came in second on the list followed by India (23). Thirteen of the 23 deaths in India were reported when the police opened fire on people protesting the shutdown of Sterlite Copper’s melting plant in Tamil Nadu. 

Google aims to achieve carbon-neutral shipping, using recycled plastic for all its devices Carbon-neutral shipping of its electronic devices by next year and including recycled plastic in each of its products by 2022 – these are the two commitments Google announced this fortnight. Currently, Google has said its transport-related carbon emissions per unit fell 40% last year compared to 2017 after it began relying on ships instead of planes to deliver electronic devices from the factories to customers globally. Also, the company claims three out of nine Google products, such as Google Home speakers and Chromecast streaming dongles, currently contain some recycled plastic.

Air Pollution

COPD out: Inspite of increasing evidence linking air pollution to premature deaths, the central government has been hawkish towards the growing public health crisis | Image: Network18

COPD second most common cause of death in India; is govt in denial?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second most common cause of death in India after heart disease, but the country is yet to evolve a strategy to deal with its spread, says a new IndiaSpend study. COPD is caused by prolonged exposure to smoke from tobacco or coal, wood or cow-dung and other irritants. It usually surfaces in the people above the age of 40. There were 28.1 million cases of COPD in India in 1990, which increased to 55.3 million in 2016.

Delhi, which recorded a PM 2.5 concentration at 113.5 micrograms per cubic meter last year, recently reported a case of a 28-year-old non-smoking woman diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, a rare occurrence for someone that young.  

The government, however, is still unwilling to connect the dots completely. Union minister of environment and forest Prakash Javdekar recently repeated his claim that air pollution did not cause premature deaths. “Premature deaths are a serious issue. It is not happening only in Delhi, but in non-polluted areas also. Therefore there is no direct correlation [with pollution],” Javdekar said.

Massive growth in construction over the last 40 years made Mumbai’s air worse: Study

Mumbai’s air pollution shot up dramatically in the past 40 years, according to a new study by  Urban Emissions. The primary cause for this was that the built-up area for large-scale construction grew from 384 sqkm in 1975 to 885 sqkm in 2014. The PM2.5 concentration in the air also rose to 51.8μg/m3 in 2018 from 36.9μg/m3 in 1998, the research concluded, adding that PM2.5 emissions in the city will rise 23% — to 60,950 tonnes in 2030 from 49,600 tonnes in 2018. 

In neighbouring Pune, PM2.5 on an average remains at 56.3 micrograms per cubic metre, another Urban Emissions report found. The report says Pune’s air pollution is five times the WHO safe limit of PM2.5 at 10 micro-gm/cubic metre. The national standard is 40 micro-gm/cubic metre. Scientists said transport, industry and dust particles were the main causes of air pollution, and that 25% of PM 2.5 particles originated in the outskirts of Pune – from coal plants, rock quarries, brick kilns and industry.

Farmers’ attempts to save groundwater causing winter smog in northwest India?

Scientists from India, Mexico and the US have found a link between air pollution in northwest India and farmers’ attempt to save ground water. The study, carried in journal Nature Sustainability, reveals how water-conservation policies require farmers to push the sowing of rice crops later in the year, which in turn delays harvests and the subsequent burning of the crop residue in November, a month when the air is heavy and still leading to increased air pollution and winter smog.

Speaking of winter smog, a new computer model developed by scientists from the US and China can predict air pollution in north India a season in advance. The new statistical method uses climatic patterns related to the ocean, which impact wintertime air pollution in northern India, reports the journal Science Advances. Scientists said the new method allows to forecast aerosol pollution conditions in winter and accordingly improve plans for pollution control.

Kolkata: Municipality targets coal-fired ovens in battle against winter pollution

Kolkata Municipal Corporation has trained its sights on coal-fired ovens used by the city’s food vendors as it draws plans to tackle air pollution this winter. The civic body as sought Rs23.71 crore to replace open ovens with electric induction ovens, installation of fogging/mist machines at select traffic intersections and road stretches, and procurement of mechanical sweepers and road washers to reduce road dust. The city plans to cover 50% of the cost of ovens and expects vendors to cover the other half. According to a source-apportionment study by the National Environment and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), coal-burning (30%) is the biggest contributor to PM2.5 pollution in Kolkata followed by vehicular exhaust (26%).

Reducing air pollution won’t increase global warming : Study

No, air pollution does not help reduce global warming, that’s the conclusion of the latest study dispelling the belief that it did. Scientists so far thought that reducing air pollution accelerated global warming because of the fact that polluted air captured more water droplets in clouds, making them thicker and more reflective of warming sunlight, throwing it back into space. Now the study says only some clouds become thicker, while others remain thin, leaving little impact on warming. Scientist said  they studied satellite data from clouds near sources of pollution and found not much difference in average content of water across all the polluted clouds, showing that pollution makes little difference overall to many types of clouds, researchers said.


In deep water: Wind energy producers in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have been asked to halt power production unless they slash their tariffs | Image: Mahaurja

PPA row: Stopped by court, Andhra stumps wind energy firms, curtails power in peak season

In a setback to renewable energy companies, Andhra Pradesh discoms curtailed wind power drastically when they are in their peak generating season of the monsoon. The curtailment comes after renewable energy companies won a HC stay on Andhra Pradesh’s  order seeking review of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). The newly elected CM Jagan Mohan Reddy wants companies to renegotiate all PPAs signed under the previous government of Chandra Babu Naidu, and get the tariffs down to Rs2.44 per unit. Discord over the state government’s decision to review renewable PPAs could jeopardise an estimated Rs21,000 crore in loans to generators of RE.

Experts said while the state has the right to renegotiate PPAs, the curtailing of power during peak season has left the companies in a shock. The companies have moved the high court over continued curtailment of wind power. The Union power minister has requested the CM to not scrap previous PPAs saying it would send a wrong signal that there’s no sanctity of contracts in the country. 

Ensure ‘must-run’ status for green companies, or cover their losses: Centre to states

Don’t cut down on wind and solar energy except to ensure grid safety, else you will be liable to bear losses incurred by generators, that’s the warning by centre to states. Honour the “must run” status of wind and solar plants, said the letter from the ministry of new and renewable energy to the chief secretaries of all states. This has been seen as a boost to a jittery sector, which has seen mounting debts and uncertainties owing to the ongoing saga in Andhra Pradesh. Amidst the current signals of distress, NITI Aayog chief Amitabh reiterated plans to expand India’s renewable capacity to 330GW by 2030. Speaking at the BNEF summit, Kant further hinged the success of these aspirations on the financial health of discoms and floated the possibility of privatisation in the power sector.

Solar federation to Centre: Lend Rs80 billion to discoms to clear dues 

Sanction funds to loss making state discoms so they can clear dues of renewable energy companies pending for as long as one year, National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) has requested minister of new and renewable energy. The solar federation said without payments the developers are forced to divert equity meant to fund new projects towards covering current operating shortfalls. 

NSEFI wants the Centre to give a one-time grant of Rs40 billion (~$0.58 billion) to Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA), and another Rs40 billion (~$0.58 billion) to be raised by IREDA from borrowings. A corpus of Rs80 billion (~$1.16 billion) for the state DISCOMs, with security safeguards, to clear their dues, Mercom reported. Additionally, the federation has proposed allowing termination of long-term PPAs if bills remain uncleared six months after the due date.

Renewable energy certificate sales down 61% in July

The sales of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) dropped by 61% to 6.29 lakh units compared to 16.18 lakh units july last year because of continuing inventory crunch since March 2019. Last month, sales registered a decline of 22%, according to Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange of India (PXIL), the two power bourses in the country, which are engaged in REC trading. As availability of power from solar and hydro projects contracted long term with discoms increases, availability of RECs on trading platforms has reduced. This has resulted in buy bids exceeding sell bids, and an increase in the value of the certificates. This does not bode well for growth trajectory of renewables in the country and indicates an urgent need to bring more projects under the REC ambit. 

EESL ramps up decentralised solar power initiative, close to achieving 100 MW

State-owned energy service company Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has begun utilising vacant plots meant for power sub-stations to set up decentralised solar power plants to provide energy for agricultural activities. According to the energy company, moving sources closer to the consumer can help minimise transmission losses and cut power costs by over half for farmers, thereby also relieving the need for power subsidies in agriculture estimated at Rs65,000 crore. “Thus far, we have set up about 35 MW and within days (before August 15) we will achieve 100 MW capacity, which we managed to do so within months of initiating the plan. Our target is to increase this to 500 MW by next year and possibly have a 2 GW (2,000 MW) within a couple of years,” said Saurabh Kumar, managing director of EESL.

New benchmark costs announced for off-grid solar systems

India released drastically reduced off-grid benchmark costs for the financial year (FY) 2019-20. The new benchmark cost for solar study lamps is Rs160 (~$2.3)/W compared to Rs250 (~$3.6)/W in the general category states, solar street lights (with lithium batteries) will have the benchmark cost of Rs299 (~$4.4)/W compared to Rs435 (~$6.3)/W in 2018. The new benchmark cost for solar power projects up to 10 kW is Rs94 (~$1.4)/W, compared to Rs100 (~$1.5)/W last year. For a capacity of above 10 kW and up to 25 kW, this year’s benchmark cost is Rs84 (~$1.2)/W compared to Rs90 (~$1.3) set for 2018. The benchmark costs are inclusive of costs of installation, commissioning, transportation, insurance, five-year annual maintenance contract, and maintenance contract, Mercom reported.

Livelihood and land issues remain unaddressed as solar farms expand in rural India

Reportage by India Spend has revealed that non-recognition of community lands and local dependence during the land acquisition and the allocations of compensations for the Charanka solar power plant has led to widespread livelihood loss in the pastoralist maldhari community of northwest Gujarat. The Centre’s draft report “Economic Rate of Return for various Renewable Energy Technologies” factors in the cost of land acquisition in its calculations of compensation to farmers, but livelihood loss and social costs have been ignored, reported Indiaspend. 

Electric Vehicles

About to skyrocket: India will be one of the three key markets fuelling the mammoth 122X expansion in energy storage through to 2040 | Image: Mercom India

BNEF: Energy storage to multiply 122X by 2040, India, China & USA to fuel expansion

BNEF’s new analysis has estimated that the global energy storage market will expand by a whopping 122-fold by 2040, with India, China and the US as the leading markets. The expansion will see capacities rise from 9GW/17GWh in 2018 to 1095GW/2850GWh by 2040 and will require an investment of around $662billion. Further, EVs and utility-scale storage projects are expected to drive major demand for new capacities as more renewable energy is brought into the energy mix. 

BNP Paribas: Solar, wind produce 7X more useful energy for cars per dollar than oil 

A new study by BNP Paribas SA has found that dollar for dollar, solar and wind power provided seven times more useful energy for cars than oil at current prices. The study also claims that under current operating efficiencies, gasoline would have to retail at $9-$10 a barrel to remain competitive with electric cars powered by solar or wind. Diesel, on the other hand, would have to drop to $17-$19 a barrel. 

However, sales of purely clean energy-driven cars are miniscule when compared to IC engine variants. Their numbers are expected to improve on the back of calls for cleaner transport and global support mechanisms like carbon pricing.

Delhi slashes EV charging tariffs to boost uptake 

Delhi has slashed tariffs for EV charging at residential chargers to Rs. 4.5/kWh (Rs.5.5/kWh) and at public chargers to Rs. 4/kWh (from Rs.5/kWh). The move is aimed at boosting the uptake of EVs to help improve the city’s notorious air quality. 

SUN Mobility and Uber to launch e-autos with swappable batteries

EV services provider SUN Mobility has tied up with Uber to launch electric autos with swappable batteries in India. While the date of the launch is yet to be announced, the e-autos are expected to start service within 2019. Their key advantage will be much reduced downtime, as that the owner can purchase the auto without paying for the battery and swap a depleted pack for a fully charged one within minutes. Parking and charging an EV with fixed batteries usually takes several hours. 

Poor demand forces Centre to extend deadline on 10,000 EVs to Jan 2020 With only 652 electric cars taken up by state governments across India so far, the Centre has extended the deadline for 10,000 electric cars by a year to January 2020. EESL had invited the tender for the 10,000 e-cars back in January 2018 and had reported strong demand for around 19,000 units. But issues reported with the cars’ driving range and charging times have possibly been critical in their poor uptake. 

Fossil Fuels

Relentless: India’s coal imports are slated to breach 185 million tonnes this year – its highest ever, as the country notches up coal consumption to record highs | Image: IncoreInsights

India ratcheting up coal plants & coal imports, NTPC to unveil world’s cleanest coal plant

India is very likely to expand its coal power capacity by up to 22% — to 238GW (from 194.5GW today) — by 2022 to meet its burgeoning power demand. The statement was issued by the Ministry of Power and takes the familiar argument of falling back on coal to counter the intermittent power output of renewables. India’s top electricity planning body — CEA — had also recently announced that coal would power 50% of the country even in 2030, despite more renewables in the power mix, to meet rising peak power demands. 

Additionally, the country is expected to import a record 185 million tonnes in 2019 – up 13% y-o-y – as several power plants face acute coal shortages. The 2,102 million ton Deocha-Pachami coal mine in West Bengal, which is also India’s largest, will also be brought online soon, which could raise questions about India’s climate commitments.

Also, NTPC and BHEL are setting up an 800MW Advanced Ultra Super Critical (AUSC) coal plant in Chhattisgarh, which is designed to emit 20% less CO2 than existing sub-critical plants. NTPC claims the plant will be the world’s cleanest.

WoodMac: Fossil fuels to still power 85% of the world in 2040

Consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie has predicted that coal, oil and natural gas will power 85% of the world’s energy demand by 2040 — way beyond the 60% or so target that would be consistent with capping global warming to less than 2°C. The estimate is part of its Energy Transitions Outlook report, which says little progress has been achieved in major economies towards slashing emissions, but also highlights renewables-based hydrogen as one of the solutions to renining in emissions. 

EIB proposes 2020 fossil fuels pullout, Suncorp won’t cover coal beyond 2025

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has proposed that it will stop financing any fossil fuel projects after 2020. 5% of the bank’s total financing currently supports fossil fuel projects — which amounted to $13billion from 2013 – 2017 — and the proposal is yet to be ratified by its board. The EIB may eventually pivot half its finances to supporting green energy projects. 

Australia’s insurance giant Suncorp too has proposed that it will stop covering thermal coal mines and power plants after 2025. Thermal coal is a key commodity for the country’s power sector and exports, and it will also lose the support of Suncorp’s rival QBE after 2030. Suncorp, additionally, has been asked by environmental group Market Forces to phase out covers for all fossil fuels.

US Automakers to increase fleet fuel efficiencies in defiance of White House

Four major US automakers have agreed to voluntarily increase their fleets’ fuel efficiencies to nearly 51mpg (miles per gallon) by 2025, even though the White House has repeatedly tried to freeze the number at 35mpg. The agreement was reached between the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Honda, Ford, VW and BMW of North America.

The agreement could help the carmakers save money by manufacturing fleets with uniform fuel efficiencies across the US (California has its own standards). However, the White House claims that lower fuel efficiencies would help Americans afford less expensive and safer cars.  

Berkeley becomes first US city to ban natural gas, 50 other may follow

The city of Berkeley in California has become the first US city to ban the use of natural gas for heating and powering appliances in new buildings. The decision was passed with overwhelming support and underscores the city’s effort to help California achieve its target of zero-carbon power by 2045.50 other Californian cities are reportedly also mulling a similar measure, with concerns over the impact of natural gas drilling on the state’s propensity for earthquakes also being factored in.  Meanwhile, a new study has shown that the CO2 equivalent emissions from fracking for natural gas in Germany would exceed its current environmental standards. Fracking for shale gas is the US’ top new energy sector and the study — if taken note of — could force its drillers to undertake more stringent measures for emissions control.