The biggest takeaway from COP26 might be the dilution of multilateralism

The climate conference saw an unprecedented reliance on the potential of private finance to fund climate action, which could ultimately undermine the collaborative spirit of the UNFCCC  Read more

Hit and miss: The UK Presidency of COP26 had one clear objective—to deliver a completed Paris Agreement rule book—which it did. Photo: Guardian

The biggest takeaway from COP26 might be the dilution of multilateralism

The climate conference saw an unprecedented reliance on the potential of private finance to fund climate action, which could ultimately undermine the collaborative spirit of the UNFCCC

The dust has settled on COP26, the climate change conference held over the first two weeks of November in Glasgow, UK. Most of the 30,000-odd people who had descended on the Scottish city have now filtered out after a fortnight of frantic activity in the once-industrial centre. The end of the conference has left behind a residue of mixed sentiments, with clear progress on one hand and a plethora of deep unresolved issues on the other.

With the conference commencing after a break of two years due to the global COVID pandemic, the UK COP Presidency was under immense pressure to deliver, while contending with challenging economic and geopolitical circumstances around the world. Meanwhile, climate change had hardly taken a breather over the past two years, with most regions of the world experiencing worsening climate impacts. 

Keeping the 1.5 degree goal alive, barely

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, provides a broad demarcation of ambition. The Agreement gave an overview of the different tasks and goals that needed to be pursued through multilateral cooperation from all 197 parties of the agreement, in accordance with national circumstances and developmental objectives. How this would actually be operationalised, though, was to be deliberated over following sessions of the conference as part of what is now known as the Paris Agreement Rule Book. 

While the agreement itself was supposed to be operationalised by 2020, completing the rule book proved far more complex than originally imagined, with several thorny issues. Two in particular remained far from any sort of consensus at the end of COP25, held in 2019 in Madrid. The first, around how market mechanisms for emission offsets would be developed, and the second on reporting modalities and standards that countries would have to follow in order to maintain transparency and coherence. With these two outstanding issues to resolve, and with the global pandemic forcing a cancellation of last year’s talks, the Paris Agreement was effectively on the brink of collapse before even becoming operational. 

The UK Presidency of the COP this year had one clear objective—to deliver a completed rule book for the smooth operationalisation of the Paris Agreement. And in as much as ticking that box, the COP delivered.

Particularly tricky was the infamous Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This part seeks to set out the modalities and a framework for the conversion of emissions reductions into tradable units, which can then be used to offset emissions through purchase. Carrying the added baggage of being the successor of a failed market structure that came out of the Kyoto Protocol, the article carried two major unresolved issues coming into COP26. After several rounds of fraught negotiations and numerous iterations of text, both of these were ultimately resolved while the conference went into overtime. 

According to Kelly Kizzier, vice president of Global Climate at the Environmental Defence Fund, “(The) agreement on Article 6 provides the rules necessary for a robust, transparent and accountable carbon market to promote more and faster climate ambition and create a further avenue for finance flows from developed to developing countries. The decision eliminates double counting for compliance markets and establishes a strong framework to ensure appropriate accounting for voluntary carbon markets that also supports emission reductions in countries hosting carbon market activities. The carry over of credits left over from the Clean Development Mechanism is not fully restricted with some 120 million tonnes carried forward, but their use is restricted to the first cycle of national commitments.”

Resolutions, however, came with concessions on all sides, which could ultimately dilute the true impact of the market mechanism. In addition, the number of carbon credits that will be reserved for cancellation has been set at 2%, markedly limiting the true mitigation impact of the carbon market that ensues. Critics have pointed out that instead of delivering real reductions in carbon emissions, the final version of Article 6 would simply offer an avenue to widespread greenwashing by allowing corporations and countries to continue emitting while depending on cheap carbon offsets.

“The agreement closes down some of the outrageous loopholes that had been considered, but the language remains unclear in some areas and we have much to do to stop companies and countries gaming the system. We have no room or time for Markets like buckets of water, with 100 tiny holes. It will spill out and dilute the Paris Agreement and make keeping warming to 1.5C that much harder. What the deal does do, however, is make it even more important that voluntary use of carbon markets is limited, high quality and used in specific circumstances. Science drives integrity and integrity may drive scale. That makes the job of the UN Secretary General’s export group on setting standards for corporate net zero commitments all the more important,” said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Tufts Fletcher School in the US.

With all eyes on how this tricky issue would play out, the spirit of compromise did shine brightest in the end. The resolution of Article 6 is critical for the completion of the rule book, which in effect saves the more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, even if only by the skin of its teeth.

Nowhere near enough

Despite the celebration of completing the rule book, the chances of actually translating the 1.5 degree ambition into reality remain minute. The world is currently on the path to increasing carbon emissions by 13.7% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, according to the UNFCCC’s NDC synthesis report released on November 4. By comparison, emissions must be reduced by a whopping 45% over the next decade in order to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.

According to Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, “Even if leaders stuck to the promises they have made here in Glasgow, it would not prevent the destruction of communities like mine. Right now, at 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming, drought and flooding are killing people in Uganda. Only immediate, drastic emissions cuts will give us hope of safety, and world leaders have failed to rise to the moment. But people are joining our movement. 100,000 people from all different backgrounds came to the streets in Glasgow during COP, and the pressure for change is building.”

In this regard, the outcome at COP26 offers little in terms of hope as it neither secured any definitive end to coal, nor any progressive steps on limiting further fossil fuel dependence. Last minute drama at the COP, in fact, saw language in the draft decision text watered down to reflect a reduction of coal rather than complete elimination, with coal being “phased down” rather than “phased out”. The difference is that while the former reflects an end to coal, the latter offers a mere reduction. 

This, reportedly, was done at the behest of India’s demands that language around coal be diluted. For much of the western press looking for a villain on which to pin the COP’s failures, India emerged as a clear scapegoat. This, despite the fact that the dilution had first been put forth jointly by China and the US in a joint statement that had been released days before the conference concluded. While China has struggled to cleave away from coal in recent years, consumption in the US is expected to be up by 20% this year over 2019. India, for its part, has also belatedly tried to distance itself from taking responsibility for environment minister Bhupendra Yadav’s statement that triggered the change in the final decision text.

In the larger scheme of things, this dilution holds little value as a phase-out will necessarily have to pass through a reduction first. The prescription for the overshot in projected emissions, however, is hitched more closely to the urgent ramp up of mitigation ambitions such as the deployment of low-carbon energy systems. How this will be funded and carried out, particularly in developing countries where eight out of every 10 people reside, though, remained unanswered. With the promise of $100 billion a year made over a decade ago by developed countries still remaining unmet, the developing world dug its heels in for better and bigger guarantees of financial flows in order to undertake more ambitious decarbonisation strategies.

“There is nothing much. There is no real commitment on part of developed countries to move ahead with serious & urgent domestic action let alone in terms of global collaboration and truly significant climate finance for tackling climate change,” reacted Manjeev Puri, distinguished fellow at TERI, at the outcomes of the climate conference.

The demands for increased financial flows, while vociferous, came to naught as developed country counterparts pushed back. According to estimates from the International Energy Agency, developing countries need anywhere between $2.6-$4.6 trillion per year in spending on adaptation and mitigation. On finance, the developed world has remained stubbornly reticent to even discuss the definitions of climate finance and terms of its delivery. Instead, developed parties have effectively thrown their hands in the air. Frans Timmermans, European Commission’s first vice-president, suggested that the pool of donors be expanded to include large developing economies, too, and forwarded “creative” financing options, seemingly in an attempt to downplay the value of equity in the response to climate change. His American counterpart, John Kerry, hailed the role of private finance in bridging the massive deficit.

A new narrative builds up

The fact that public disaffection with the UNFCCC-led multilateral process is growing by the day is no secret. As Kafkaesque negotiations at the conference seemed to be headed nowhere, protests and demonstration marches demanding climate action and not just empty words gathered crowds of over 100,000 people in Glasgow’s streets, forcing the world to take notice of the popular anger and distrust in those stalking the corridors of power mere kilometres away.

But in a parallel reality, COP26 had a multitude of progressive announcements of which to boast. Perhaps sensing popular disillusionment with the entire process of multilateral climate process that seemingly goes round and round each year without providing any real sense of progress in tackling climate change, the UK Presidency sought to come out ahead of the criticism. Over the first few days of the COP, in glaring dissonance with the public discontent, a barrage of climate responsive deals involving big money were splashed across media as a sign that things were finally changing. 

Take for instance the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which is chaired by Mike Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, and unveiled a finance pool of $130 trillion through a coalition of banks, asset managers, pension and insurance funds at the commencement of the COP. The message is clear, where big governments are failing to provide financial guarantees, private money will be the parachute the world so desperately seeks.

In the neoliberal economic agenda, however, money is the only motivator that moves money. Lending by GFANZ or any other private financial coalition will not be concessional and will be driven solely in pursuit of returns on investment. This is the basis of yet another alliance initiative launched by American President Joe Biden and US climate envoy Kerry, named the First Movers Coalition, which seeks to bring businesses that are looking to be the early birds in the emerging decarbonisation economy. 

But how exactly will money flow to poor and low-income developing countries that are most in need of financial support if returns on investment are the prime motivators in mobilising the required finance? The answer put forth by Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of world’s largest asset management firm BlackRock, is a bailout plan funded by multilateral banks such as the IMF and the World Bank to absorb the losses from investing in Africa, Asia and South America until markets for clean energy and carbon mature enough to sustain themselves.

While such bailout measures have been utilised before—most notably following the financial crash in 2008 and for recovery from the 2020 global COVID pandemic—it is far from the fool-proof system it is advertised to be. As historian Adam Tooze writes in The Guardian, “It is a neat solution, the same neat neoliberal solution that has been proffered repeatedly since the 1990s. The same solution that has not been delivered…Those (bailouts in 2008 and 2020) were desperate efforts, faute de mieux, to save the status quo at home. And that was toxic enough. Stretched to a global scale, it has zero political appeal.”

This is perhaps the reason that apart from the celebratory tone that has ushered coalitions such as the GFANZ, there is deafening silence around any concrete plans of action of finance mobilisation beyond large and abstract numbers. 

The neoliberal experiment with climate finance is unlikely to be any different from the larger economic experiment that has seen the proliferation of debt and unprecedented concentration of wealth through steady and gradual redistribution over the past 30 years. The narrative of our new financial saviours is well underway. Unfortunately, what it means in effect is an erosion of any semblance of public accountability that has persisted in the multi-governmental collaborative approach that was envisioned in the creation of the UNFCCC.

No respite: The IMD has predicted more rain in South India until November 20. Photo: PTI

Peninsular India inundated with rain; IMD predicts more wet days ahead

Rain lashed parts of peninsular India this past fortnight. Chennai surpassed its monthly average rainfall in the first week of November itself. Nungambakkam Observatory recorded a total of 464mm of rainfall from November 1-9, while Minambakkam reported 369mm of rain, as against the normal average of 374mm. In Andhra Pradesh, massive flooding in Tirumala, left several tourists in the temple town stranded. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted light to moderate rainfall in South India in the next few days. It also predicted bouts of heavy rainfall over isolated areas in coastal and south interior Karnataka, north Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema, and south Konkan and Goa till November 20.

The IMD made the predictions based on two low pressure systems that are currently forming in the Bay of Bengal and the North Andaman Sea. Fishermen have been advised to stay away from both water bodies for the next 2-3 days.

1 billion people will be impacted by extreme heat at 2°C warming: Study

Extreme heat stress is likely to impact a billion people if the warming limit reaches 2°C—a 15-fold increase in the number affected currently— according to data released at COP26 by the UK Met office. If the warming limit goes up to 4°C, half of the world’s population is likely to suffer from heat stress, the research revealed. Climate change is leading to a rise in a deadly combination of heat and humidity, the study stated.

Research predicts bigger floods, changes in flow in the Ganga basin

A new study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports has warned that the combined effect of climate change and human activity such as the building of large dams in the upper Ganga basin has modified water activity and sediment transport in the basin. This effect, studied over the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda tributaries, has already caused increased flow in the Ganga basin. The future is likely to see more devastating floods in the region due to the coupled effect of large infrastructure and climate change, the study predicts. According to lead author and researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Water Research (ICWaR), IISc, Somil Swarnkar, “We observed that Alaknanda basin has a high, statistically increasing rainfall trend, unlike the Bhagirathi basin. Most of these trends were observed in the downstream region of the Alaknanda. Therefore, we have also seen an increase in the magnitude of extreme flow in these regions.”

NASA’s new mission aims to help scientists better predict extreme weather events  

A new $177 million mission to be launched by American space agency NASA, in the latter half of the decade, will aim to observe tropical storms and thunderstorms and the impact they have on weather and climate models. The Earth Science Mission called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS), which is part of NASA’s Earth Venture Program, will launch three small satellites in 2027, which will be in tight coordination with each other. 

These satellites will try to understand the science behind why storms, heavy rainfall and cloud formations occur at a specific location. NASA scientists hope this information will help improve weather models and better predict the risk of extreme weather.   

Climate change affecting oceans’ ability to trap carbon: Study 

For centuries, the ocean floor has acted like a ‘buffer’ for the CO2 released into the atmosphere. One-third of the CO2 released into the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean. But a new study by the International “i-Atlantic” project, found that rising ocean temperatures may be diminishing the ocean’s ability to lock away carbon. The carbon buried in the ocean is most likely being released back into the atmosphere as a result of the rising temperatures, thereby causing more global warming, the study found.

Surprise move: Experts welcomed US-China cooperation on climate considering both countries have shared a strained bilateral relationship in recent years. Photo: Forbes

US, China to work together to accelerate emission cuts in next 10 years

The volatile US-China relationship took a turn for the better at COP26, with both countries announcing a deal to accelerate emission cuts in this decade. In a joint statement, both countries said they recognised the “significant gap” that remains between current pledges and policies, and vowed to step up efforts to close this gap. The announcement surprised climate experts as both countries have clashed repeatedly since the Paris Agreement, primarily over issues relating to trade and human rights.   

India scores high on climate change performance, medium on RE

India retained its 10th position on the annual climate change performance index for the third consecutive year. The Climate Change Performance Index 2022, released by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute & Climate Action Network, monitored the climate mitigation efforts of 60 countries plus the EU—covering 92% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). 

Rankings were based on four categories, including GHG emissions, energy use, renewables, and climate policy. India was preceded by six other countries—Chile, Morocco, UK, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The first three places remained empty. India’s performance was rated high in the GHG emissions, energy use, and climate policy categories, but was given a medium rating for renewable energy. The report said considerably more can be done to promote growth of solar power.

Saudi Arabia sets net-zero by 2060 goal, but won’t stop pumping oil

Saudi Arabia joined the list of countries that have pledged net-zero. It announced plans to achieve the target by 2060 along with strengthening its carbon target in the next 10 years. The plans, however, do not count the emissions from burning of oil that Saudi Arabia exports to several countries. 

According to the plan submitted by Saudi Arabia to the UN, the country will invest $187 billion in climate action by 2030, but will continue pumping oil and gas without an end goal in sight. The government said it would cut its emissions using the circular carbon economy approach, which means it will rely on carbon capture and storage in order to continue using fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.   

Australia tops list of highest GHG emissions from coal in world on per capita basis

Australia, not China, has the highest greenhouse gas emissions from coal power on a per capita basis, according to a new study released at COP26. In fact, the emissions are nearly double those of China, the study found. 

The analysis by British climate and energy think-tank Ember found Australia’s annual per person emissions five times greater than the global average and 40% higher than any other major coal power user. Since the Paris Agreement, the country has emitted 5.34 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year, ahead of South Korea (3.81), South Africa (3.19), the US (3.08) and China (2.71).

‘Beyond Oil’ alliance adds 6 new members, but no major fossil fuel producers on board yet

The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, led by Denmark and Costa Rica, got six new members during COP26. The alliance aims to put blanket policies and measures in place to end production of fossil fuels. It is not a surprise then that none of the new joinees—France, Greenland, Ireland, Sweden, Wales and the Canadian province Quebec—are major fossil fuel producers. COP26 host, the UK, also has not supported the alliance so far.

Fire and price: Farmers said they were forced to burn the stubble because of the unaffordable prices of crop residue machines. Photo: PTI

Despite subsidy, machines to tackle crop residue remain unaffordable for Punjab farmers

Despite state subsidy of millions of rupees and offers of crop residue management machines, Punjab farmers continue to set their fields on fire. Cultivators said they were forced to burn the crop residue, reported Gaon Connection. The report said super-seeder and happy seeder machines cost Rs2.5 lakh. Even if farmers take it on rent, they require a 55 hp (horsepower) tractor to run it, but most of them have a 35 hp one, which can’t be used to run these machines to tackle crop residue

According to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, Ludhiana, on November 10, Punjab had recorded a total of 55,573 cases of farm fires so far this year. Of these, 4,156 fire counts were recorded on that day itself and Sangrur’s contribution was the highest—566 (about 14%). According to SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune, on November 7, the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi air pollution (PM2.5) stood at 48%, which dropped to 26% on November 12.  

Delhi’s air quality to remain “very poor” this week

Air quality won’t improve over the next three days, said the central government forecasting agency SAFAR on Monday.  The transport-level wind speed is increasing, resulting in more intrusion of stubble burning-related pollutants into Delhi. On Monday, Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index stood at 353 at 4pm. The agency predicted that the air quality will remain in the higher end of the very poor category. 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in its hearing of the Delhi pollution crisis asked for the reconsideration of the work-from-home policy. The Centre told the top court that stubble burning contributes to only 10% of the Capital’s dirty air. This comes as the Delhi government told the Apex court that it is ready to take steps such as “complete lockdown to control local emissions”. The top court rapped the Delhi government for solely focusing stubble-burning as the cause of pollution in its affidavit. The SC has called for the shut down of six thermal power plants in the national capital region as an emergency measure to deal with the worsening air quality situation.

Experts have recommended N-95 masks in Delhi and schools and colleges have been shut because of “very poor” air quality. 

4 new pollution sites emerge, Delhi now has 17 pollution hotspots  

In the first week of November, four new pollution hotspots emerged in Delhi in the joint finding of the Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Board. The new locations that recorded alarmingly high levels of pollution included ITO, Sonia Vihar, Alipur and Nehru Nagar. 

Delhi’s 13 original pollution hot spots—identified first in 2018 for area-specific action, continue to record alarmingly high levels of pollution, data shows. Delhi’s original 13 hot spots were Jahangirpuri, Anand Vihar, Ashok Vihar, Wazirpur, Punjabi Bagh, Dwarka Sector 8, Rohini Sector 16, RK Puram, Bawana, Mundka, Narela, Okhla Phase II and Vivek Vihar. While locations such as Bawana, Mundka, Narela, Jahangirpuri and Wazirpur, Okhla-Phase II are largely dominated by industries, residential hotspots such as Dwarka’s sector 8, Rohini’s sector-16 and Punjabi Bagh have different sources of pollution. RK Puram and Anand Vihar are polluted mostly because of heavy traffic movement around them. Action can be taken only if agencies know specific sources of pollution in the areas experts said.

Humidity, low wind speed & traffic: Mumbai’s Colaba records air quality worse than Delhi

Mumbai’s southernmost point Colaba recorded an air quality index of 345 on Monday which experts said was worse than even Delhi’s (AQI 331) at a time when the capital is reeling under the worst air pollution. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR). Experts blamed the “lethal combination” of pollution and humidity on vehicular traffic and smaller ships as well.

Dr Gufran Beig, founder and project director of Safar told TOI that natural factors such as low temperature, low wind speed and high humidity had combined to keep more particulate matter suspended in air over Colaba, resulting in their concentration at higher levels.

Onwards and upwards: At COP26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India would raise the target of non-fossil energy to 500 GW by 2030 from the earlier 450 GW. Photo: PIB

‘Easily achievable’: India increases non-fossil energy target from 450 GW to 500 GW by 2030

At COP26, India raised the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target of non-fossil energy to 500 GW by 2030 from the earlier 450 GW. India also said it will achieve net-zero by 2070. India’s power minister said it was ‘easily achievable’ adding that India will have around 450 GW from solar and wind, while 70-100 GW will be from hydropower. India plans to extend the renewable purchase obligation from 2022 to 2030 to achieve the 500 GW target, of which 70-100 GW would be hydro. 

According to Mercom, India added 4.57 GW of solar capacity in the first half (1H) of 2021, a 251% year-over-year growth. The country’s cumulative solar capacity stood at 43.6 GW at the end of June 2021.

Analysts said to achieve just the solar target of 300 GW capacity by 2030, India needs to install 28 GW of new solar capacity annually from 2022 onwards, three times higher than the capacity installed in any given year. Solar developers believed that India needs to have clear execution plans, long-term policy stability, and financial infrastructure to achieve its target.

Gearing to export: India raises solar equipment manufacturing subsidy from Rs 4,500 cr to 24,000 cr

India aims to export solar equipment for which the government plans to increase the production linked incentive to domestic manufacturers to Rs.24,000 crores from the existing Rs.4,500 crores. Power minister said India’s current solar module manufacturing capacity is 8,800 MW and that of solar cell is 2,500 MW. He said India achieved 54,500 MW of solar equipment capacity from the Rs 4,500 crore incentive which the government sanctioned in April. The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme selects manufacturers through a competitive bidding process. It was brought to decrease dependence on imports.

Govt updates approved list of solar modules and manufacturers

The Centre updated the list of approved solar modules and domestic solar manufacturers to be used for state projects. An additional 1,767 MW module capacity has been included with Vikram Solar’s 972 MW capacity from its Chennai plant bagging major share, among new entrants, which include Pixon Green energy (Gujarat unit, 355MW), Alpex solar (UP unit 240MW), Pahal Solar (Gujarat unit, 110MW), and Novasys (Maharashtra, 100MW), reported ET. 

Coal India plans big diversification to RE

Coal India Ltd (CIL) is planning to set up solar projects and bid for projects under the PLI (Production Linked Incentive) scheme. At the latest COP26 climate summit, India said it would achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. Analysts said it’s possible if large miners such as CIL and generators such as NTPC diversify to RE. 

According to ICRA in FY21, nearly 75% of the total electricity generation came from thermal, while renewables accounted for around 11%. The share of thermal power is expected to come down to 70% and that of renewables is likely to increase to 16% by FY25, driven by an addition of capacity in renewables over the next three-to-four years, experts said. Nearly 60-65 GW of capacity is likely to be added in the renewable energy segment over the next 3.5 years with a majority coming from solar. Coal India is also looking at diversification into solar energy. They are also one of the bidders in the PLI scheme, ICRA experts pointed out. 

Adani to invest $20 billion to develop 2GW per year solar manufacturing capacity

Adani Green Energy Ltd (AGEL) set up a 45GW of renewable energy by 2030 and will invest $20 billion to develop a 2 GW per year solar manufacturing capacity. Adani is looking to increase the share of renewable power procurement from the current 3% to 30% by FY 2023 and to 70% by FY 2030. Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani claimed AGEL was very strongly positioned to produce the world’s cheapest hydrogen. 

Oil's a thing of the past: Ford's commitment to going 100% electric by 2035 marks a sea change in the automaker's product line-up, one that was well known for gas-guzzling, ICE muscle cars | Photo: Business Standard

Ford and GM join Glasgow Declaration on zero emission vehicles, along with major cities

The Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans saw Ford and GM commit to a transition to low-emission cars by 2040, along with major cities like Seoul (South Korea) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). The declaration urges signatories to “rapidly” phase out fossil fuel cars, and the other signatories included Leaseplan — that leases out 1.7 million cars in 30 countries each year — and India, which is one of the largest automotive markets and a fast-growing base for electric vehicles. However, although other prominent automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BYD and Jaguar Land Rover signed up as well, Toyota and Volkswagen were conspicuously absent, as were China, the US and even Germany as a whole. 

US approves $7.5bn funding to expand EV network to 500,000 chargers

The US House of Representatives approved a $7.5billion infrastructure package for e-mobility, under which the country will nearly triple its EV charging points, from 122,000 at the moment to 500,000 by 2030. The package includes provisions for chargers along highway corridors (to enable long distance travel) and for charging stations within communities to accelerate the US’s transition to EVs. A second bill soon to be tabled may also reinstate the federal tax credits for US-built EVs, a system that was nixed by the Trump administration. 

Meanwhile, a new report found that the number of EVs sold in the US had grown from 16,000 units in 2011 to 2 million at present, and a huge part of the uptake was enabled by forward-thinking legislation and the rise in popularity of Tesla.

Tesla Self Driving Mode causes crash despite driver’s attempt to course-correct
A customer in California reported that his Tesla Model Y crashed into another car while driving under full Self Driving Mode, despite the customer having been warned by the onboard controls about the car veering out of its lane and his attempts to course-correct. The accident adds to the 36 previous instances of crashes reported under Tesla’s target of futuristic, fully-autonomous vehicles, and while the accident is being investigated, Tesla was not immediately available for comments. The automaker’s full self-driving mode is an additional $10,000 upgrade on the standard Model Y and Tesla is targeting full self-driving (FSD) for all its cars to possibly increase on-road safety, but so far a full rollout of the technology has been hampered by “engineering realities”.

Quietly under the radar: Several countries underreport emissions from livestock (such as cows) in their annual reports to the UNFCCC, but it could severely impact global climate action. | Photo:

Washington Post: Countries significantly underreporting greenhouse gas emissions

An investigative report by the Washington Post found that several countries significantly underreport their greenhouse gas emissions to the UNFCCC, and the gap in the reported vs. actual emissions could be as high as 8.5-13.3 billion tonnes a year. The magnitude of the underreporting could have a telling impact on much further the planet will warm, and the results are derived from a study of 196 nations, which use different emissions tracking and reporting formats. 

Additionally, methane emissions from agricultural sources (cow burps), leaky natural gas pipelines and landfills are routinely undercounted or even ignored. And some countries like Malaysia have bizarrely claimed that its forests absorb four times more CO2 than its neighbours’, which has allowed it to lower its reported emissions to 81 million tonnes from the 422 million tonnes it reported in 2016. The argument is partly derived from the fact that large countries like Russia, the US and China are allowed to deduct a part of their emissions because of their vast land cover, which is assumed to absorb up to 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually. 

Biden govt to auction drilling rights in Gulf of Mexico close on the heels of COP26

The Joe Biden government came under severe criticism over its decision to auction oil and gas drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, close on the heels of COP26, where the US asked for “every nation to do its part” to fight climate change. If approved, the drilling leases would come into effect on January 1, 2022 and would allow for the drilling of 80 million acres of offshore sites and produce up to 1.12 billion barrels of oil and 4.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the next 50 years. However, climate activists say that this would also increase the risk of an oil spill — similar to Deepwater Horizon in 2010 — and that the development would amount to a “huge climate bomb”. Yet, the US oil and gas lobby has welcomed the news and has praised it for the opportunity to generate jobs and energy security for ordinary Americans. 

Australia amongst countries backing “zero emissions shipping lanes” 

Australia joined 19 other countries in a coalition under the Clydebank Declaration — signed in Glasgow at COP26 — that has promised to pursue zero-emissions shipping corridors between specific ports. The declaration will develop six such corridors by 2025, and it will possibly need additional infrastructure at the ports to fully decarbonise the routes. The international shipping regulator, the IMO, already has a target to cut shipping’s emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2030, even though the target is not binding and is not aligned with the Paris Agreement. 

Canada to stop direct public financing of fossil fuel projects after 2022

Canada joined a coalition of countries, including the US and the UK, in declaring that it would stop using any public funding mechanisms to directly finance new coal, oil and natural gas projects by the end of 2022. The move implies that the Canadian government will not be allowed to use taxpayer-funded grants, or loans and loan guarantees, or even share purchases and government-backed insurance coverage to fund new fossil fuel projects, and the restrictions could impact $22billion of the $78billion in global financing that makes it way to such projects every year. Instead, the funds will be mandated for investments in renewable energy. 

However, the development does include provisions for funding fossil fuel projects “under limited circumstances”, but does not include private financing mechanisms.