Vol 1, March 2022 | The IPCC and resurgence of the politics of science

Act now: The latest IPCC report states that there is clear evidence that across Asia, climate-induced loss and damage is already occurring. Photo: IPCC

India’s positions during the IPCC plenary sessions have seen alignments with “problem” nations such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. But for now, these alliances are more incidental than political
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Act now: The latest IPCC report states that there is clear evidence that across Asia, climate-induced loss and damage is already occurring. Photo: IPCC

The IPCC and resurgence of the politics of science

India’s positions during the IPCC plenary sessions have seen alignments with “problem” nations such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. But for now, these alliances are more incidental than political

Adapt now or never—that is the gist of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, finalised and approved by 270 authors and 195 governments released this week says. The Working Group II report clearly outlines the grim reality that climate change is impacting us faster than we are adapting to it. The report still gives a glimmer of hope by stating “near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and Ecosystems”. But it won’t eliminate them completely. 

For the Global South, which is at the forefront of this battle, the time to adapt seems to be narrowing much faster than the North. For example, the report states there is already evidence of regions in South Asia, especially households in low-lying coastal areas (which are sinking) — reaching soft adaptation limits due to financial, institutional and socio-economic constraints. This means even though there are available pathways for these regions and communities to still adapt to the changing climate, resources to do so don’t exist. Development in the Global South is already a challenge thanks to legacy issues such as poverty. The lack of financial aid, especially from developed nations, who are still reluctant to admit that their past emissions have caused the situation the world is facing now, has left developing nations in a tight spot. This theme continued on from last November’s COP into the plenary review of the IPCC report before its release.

The IPCC report states that there is clear evidence that across Asia, climate-induced loss and damage is already occurring, and is likely to increase at higher warming levels. India is already facing food insecurity, with its crops being damaged by extreme weather events, such as droughts, extreme rainfall events, heatwaves and floods. Add sea-level rise to the mix, and the country’s growth story is at high risk of coming to a grinding halt sooner rather than later. 

The International Energy Agency’s Indian Energy Outlook 2021 did suggest a way out. It estimated that since nearly 80% of India’s infrastructure in 2030 is yet to be built, the country had a unique opportunity to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure. In the IPCC report, climate-resilient development (CRD) has been mentioned frequently. But questions have been raised by the Global South about whether CRD takes on a rather blinkered view of what climate action should look like by conflating adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development. 

The axis of “obstruction”

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for the report was released on February 28. The run-up to the release though was not without its share of stagecraft. The IPCC approval mechanism involves a plenary discussion of governmental delegations to build consensus around the content and messages of the SPM and the report at large. The plenary, essentially, is intended as a global collaborative editing process for the exhaustive scientific review that the IPCC is charged with compiling. These discussions, like much of the UNFCCC negotiation process, dictate not just which messages of science are retained and which are left out, but also the framing and context of these messages. When viewed as a guiding document for larger climate negotiations, the relevance of the politics of science becomes clearer.

As climate action becomes central to development planning and strategy around the world, there has been a resurgence of the politics of science in the IPCC arena. And the schisms between priorities have become clearer over recent sessions of IPCC plenaries. For developed countries, a key focus has been on amplifying the potential of mitigation, while evading issues of adaptation and historic responsibility. Oil producers have an interest in protecting the future of fossil fuels. While Saudi Arabia has, on multiple occasions, asserted their objection to 1.5°C warming being used as the benchmark for emissions pathways, Russia has similarly put forth a contrarian and absurd position that “positive” implications of climate change be included in assessments of impacts. 

For developing countries like India, the tussle is between the clear vulnerability to climate impacts and pursuing existing developmental objectives.

The Indian delegation has traditionally been among the more active participants in the plenary process. Recent years, however, have seen a marked uptick in Indian interventions. India’s positions during the WG1 plenary session gained notoriety in the West, which reported a dogged assertion of historic responsibility and equity as part of an “obstructionist” agenda being shaped along with Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

Indian interventions at the WG2 plenary were a logical extension to the stance adopted in the previous plenary session and long-standing values. The apparent focus this time was primarily the establishment of some grounds for adaptation finance and protection of carbon space for development. According to those close to the negotiations, India’s positions have been crafted to reflect the needs of the larger developing world, rather than being purely nationalistically oriented. 

This was evident in India’s strong objections to original framing that linked population directly with adaptation capacity and emissions. Stemming from the ideal of protecting demographic sovereignty, the Indian delegation pushed back on language that sought to draw Malthusian connections, attributing impacts and climate action limitations to population figures. The Indian stance reflects concerns that inclusion of circumstantial linkages to population will penalise demographic dividends in many developing countries. An added fear is that such assertions will be used to strong-arm developmental objectives and dilute the significance of bridging per-capita energy and carbon deficits in the developing world. India’s discomfort with the term Climate Resilient Development (CRD) also comes from a fundamental disagreement over the conflation of adaptation and mitigation for which CRD ostensibly advocates, and the differentiated responsibilities of developed nations towards those actions.

Another excerpt from the original text that evoked strong reservations from the Indian delegation were the direct linkages drawn between climate change and violent conflict. Strong connections between climate change and violent conflict presented in the draft was ultimately changed to a much weaker connection in the final text, mostly at India’s behest. India’s arguments to weaken the purported link was rooted in supplementary scientific literature that points out that while climate impacts and resource crunches can exacerbate societal instabilities and worsen conflict situations, these pressures are largely manageable in places where socio-economic indicators are good and governance capacity is high.

India’s strategy at IPCC plenaries and other climate negotiation forums have largely been consistent as far as pursuing equity and protectionism of developmental objectives go. This, however, in no way negates the deficit of trust at the root of the politics of climate science and climate action.

At this point, beyond the scope of amplifying negotiating power, India’s alignments with other “problem” nations such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia are incidental rather than explicitly political. But as climate becomes intrinsically linked to nations’ development and energy strategies, negotiation platforms are emerging as important arenas for geopolitical jostling. Given the palpable geopolitical churn currently in play, it would hardly be a surprise if geopolitical alliances become increasingly tight (and fraught) in the arenas of climate negotiations.

Negotiating a global shift

The fallouts from ongoing territorial conflict in Ukraine, following an invasion by Russia in the last week of February, are gradually becoming clearer. Beyond the devastating loss of life and direct economic damage, response in the form of widespread sanctions against Russia has sent oil and gas prices through the roof. While oil and gas exports from Russia have thus far mostly been spared (with the exception of newly placed sanctions in the US and UK) due to Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, the conflict has invariably amplified calls for protectionism and energy independence in Europe. 

The invasion prompted an immediate cancellation of the controversial Nordstream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. In his first public response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a rapid expansion of gas and coal reserves, and search for alternate sources, in order to separate itself from Russian oil and gas. Executive vice-president of the European Commission announced earlier this week that the EU will be devising a new immediate energy strategy that will reduce Russian energy imports to just a third of current levels by the end of the year. Other European nations are also charting similar plans to wean off Russian oil and gas over the next decade, a plan that has also been included in EU’s 2030 energy decarbonisation plans.

At present, strategic reserves chalked out to replace Russian exports to Europe will help shore over the few remaining weeks of the current winter, but not much beyond that. Inability to consistently replace supplies from the world’s third-largest oil producer will likely have a knock-on effect on energy transition plans across Europe and extend the life of coal in the bloc, particularly in coal-dependent economies such as Poland and Romania. An all-out war in Europe at this stage is sure to topple all other priorities, including climate action, which runs a real risk of sliding back decades on the back of increased military conflict and prolonged supply chain disruptions that started with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The effect on mitigation of climate change, however, is likely to spill far beyond the uncertainties of oil and gas supplies, with Russia and Ukraine accounting for substantial supply of elements such as aluminium, nickel and neon gas. These are vital for the new energy economy dependent on renewables, energy storage and smart processing capacities. On the adaptation front, Russia and Ukraine are also important in global food supply chains and fertiliser supply chains. Even the setting up of manufacturing capacities domestically, as India has stated is its ambition in several sectors, hinges heavily on sustained global supply chains of critical materials. Commodity prices of critical exports from the region, such as wheat and sunflower oil, have raced upwards in the past two weeks, and analysts fear that a continuation could trigger a spiralling out of food prices and severely worsen inflationary pressures across the world. Fears of aggression from Russia’s close ally China towards Taiwan have further complicated calculations on how this would further disrupt global supply chains.

The global alignment of power is undergoing a churn, and challenges to existing economic systems and security arrangements are evidently underway. With climate increasingly becoming an extension of energy, trade and security concerns around the world, a rise in the political significance of climate negotiations is imminent at the COP27 later this year, especially if tensions remain escalated. The coming weeks and months will be telling in how economic ramifications of the conflict in Ukraine play out and what implications they would hold for the calculations dictating climate action. The third installment of the IPCC AR6, focused on mitigation pathways, is due to be released in less than a month, and it will come as little surprise if alliances start becoming political rather than incidental.

Down, under: 1,500 people were evacuated after torrential rains triggered flash floods in northeastern Australia. Photo: AP

Flash flood triggered by torrential rain kills 20 in Australia; thousands evacuated

A flash flood following days of heavy rain in northeastern Australia killed at least 20 people at the end of February. According to reports, Queensland was the worst hit as images showed a swollen Brisbane river and flooded streets that caused damage to roads, buildings and vehicles. Authorities said around 18,000 homes have been affected and 1,500 people were evacuated. Residents were asked to work from home as schools and offices remained shut.

Large-scale zero-budget natural farming may lead to major drop in yield, production: Report

A new report by state-run Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) revealed switching on a large-scale to zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF)—which the Indian government is pushing for—could lead to a drop in productivity. India is already grappling with food security issues, and this method would only work to exasperate them, according to the report. Researchers said ZBNF should first be tested on rain-fed or non-irrigated lands, which produce smaller yields unlike irrigated land.

The technique was introduced by Maharashtra-based Padma awardee Subhash Palekar, who was aiming to cut input costs by making farmers move away from agricultural chemicals and rely on natural inputs. The study claimed to have arrived at its conclusion after studying several papers and interviewing farmers who have switched to this method in seven Indian states. 

New study provides CO2 emissions database from more than 100,000 European cities

A new study published in the journal Earth System Science Data worked on a CO2 emissions database for more than 100,000 cities across Europe. The study used “spatially disaggregated” nationally reported emissions data and also created an interactive map of the data. The study found high emissions in coastal Netherlands, which is a hotspot for marine activity. Another region with high emissions was the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, primarily because of a large cement treatment facility. France’s emissions were concentrated mostly around a few coastal cities, the study found. 

New research shows a doubling of carbon loss due to deforestation in the 21st century

According to a new study, carbon loss from tropical forest deforestation has doubled between 2000 and 2020. Researchers used high-resolution satellite datasets to show that tropical forest carbon loss worldwide increased from 0.97 ± 0.16 PgC yr−1 in 2001–2005 to 1.99 ± 0.13 PgC yr−1 in 2015–2019. A majority of the increased carbon loss has been attributed to large-scale commodity or small-scale agriculture activities. Researchers have acknowledged that these new estimates are higher than conventional bookkeeping models described by statistical land-use data, which show no trend or a slight decline in land-use emissions in the early twenty-first century.

Employees accuse top climate research publisher of helping expand oil and gas drilling

Scientists working for a leading climate research publisher revealed the company was working with the fossil fuel industry to increase oil and gas drilling, according to a Guardian report. The Dutch company called Elsevier, which publishes journals such as The Lancet and Global Environment Change, is also a leading publisher of books on fossil fuel production, according to the scientists. 

The publisher commissions authors, editors and journal advisory board members working  for leading oil companies, the Guardian report alleged. Elsevier also sells its research portals and data services to these companies in order to increase chances of exploration success, according to the story. Employees who spoke to The Guardian anonymously said they have repeatedly tried to push Elsevier to cut its ties with the fossil fuel industry. 

Human-induced carbon pollution could shrink Antarctic snow by 23mm every summer: Study

According to new research, human-produced carbon pollution could shrink the Antarctic snowpack by 23mm every summer in the most impacted areas. The study observed black carbon (soot) levels from 28 sites across the northern Antarctica Peninsula. It found that black carbon levels in the snow surrounding research facilities and popular tourist-landing sites are “considerably above background levels measured elsewhere in the continent”. According to the study, approximately 53,000 tourists visited Antarctica over 2016-19. It estimated that each tourist contributes to 83 tonnes of snow melt on average each summer.

Already, the Antarctic sea ice has fallen to its lowest level in the past 40 years, according to satellite data. While climate scientists haven’t yet linked the drop to global warming, they called for immediate research to determine why the region has broken a record that was set only five years ago. 

Warming increasing intensity, duration of night-time fires: Study
Hotter and drier nights have led to an increase in night-time fire intensity, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. Across nearly one-fifth of burnable lands, flammable nights increased by at least one week between 1979 and 2020. Globally, night fires have become 7.2% more intense from 2003 to 2020, as per satellite record the study found. As night-time warming increases, the world should expect more intense, longer-lasting and larger fires, the study concluded.

Under threat: The Manipur government was allegedly pushing for eco-tourism and inland-waterways mega-projects on Loktak lake. Photo: The Sentinel Assam

Manipur govt breached green law for two mega projects around freshwater lake?

The BJP-led Manipur government has been accused of breaching the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 and misleading the high court while pushing for development projects worth Rs2,000 crore in and around Loktak lake. The water body is one of India’s largest freshwater lakes and the government was allegedly pushing for eco-tourism and inland-waterways mega-projects. Experts had spoken out against these projects saying they would damage the lake’s ecosystem and threaten the livelihood of 3 lakh people, most of whom belong to the indigenous communities. The litigation records came to the fore just as the state was to go to polls on February 28 and March 5. 

India looks get tech support from Malaysia to increase its palm oil plantations

India will seek technical assistance from Malaysia to expand its palm oil plantations. The country is looking to reduce its dependence on the import of oilseeds. Malaysia is the second-largest producer of palm oil, the largest being Indonesia. The central government had also introduced the National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) last year to boost domestic production. Experts, however, had criticised the move, calling it ecologically destructive. 

States demand central govt set up environment council similar to GST council

State governments in India are demanding the setting up of an environmental council, along the lines of the GST council, to help keep track of climate action across levels. This idea was mooted by states at the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS). They argued that implementation of climate action plans often falls on states, therefore it was important to have a body that included representatives from the central government as well as states and Union Territories. Maharashtra’s environment minister Aaditya Thackeray said that through this body, targets and policies can be set at a national level and implemented at the state level.

Climate change could jeoaprdise global fishery agreements

As oceans warm up, researchers have observed a general poleward shift of fish populations around the world. A new study flags the likelihood of dramatic changes in in fish stocks by as early as 2030. Depletion and atypical migration of fish populations could further lead to international disputes in exclusive economic zones- areas of exclusive fishing rights which fall within 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) of a country’s coast. According to the study, climate change will force 23% of shared fish stocks to move from their historical habitats and migration routes by 2030, putting fishery agreements at under considerable strain. This prportion could rise to 45% by the end of the century if GHG emissions are not cut urgently.

Clearing the air: The government hopes the new norms will reduce air pollution from brick kilns. Photo: Phys.org

New norms set technology and fuel standards for brick kilns

The central government released new norms for brick kilns after seven years of deliberations, which allow brick kilns to use only zig-zag technology or vertical shaft or use of piped natural gas (PNG) as fuel in the brick-making process. Brick kilns have been identified as a major source of air pollution in many non-attainment cities, DTE reported. The new notification sets the standard for PM emissions at 250 milligram per normal cubic metre (mg / Nm3). 

Approved fuel includes PNG, coal, fire wood and/or agricultural residues. Use of pet coke, tyres, plastic, hazardous waste is not allowed. There shall be a permanent facility for port hole and platform as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) norms. Brick kilns shall follow fugitive dust emission control state guidelines and owners shall ensure that the roads utilised for transporting raw material or bricks are paved.

Air quality commission shut 392 units over non-compliance since Dec 2021

India’s Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) inspected 4,800 sites since December 2021, and issued closure notices to 407 sites out. Of these, 392 sites have been confirmed to be shut, Outlookindia reported. Of the total closures, 264 are industries, 99 construction and demolition (C&D) sites and 44 are DG Sets. Of the 407 closure notices issued, 94 sites are in Delhi, 92 are in NCR of Haryana, 173 sites in UP and 48 sites are in the NCR Region of Rajasthan.

Air pollution, heat impairs cognitive ability, high impact in rural India, China: Study

According to a new study, polluted air and extreme heat impair the natural developmental processes that occur in the central nervous system throughout early childhood. The effect later affects cognitive ability, stated the research paper by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the intergovernmental agency originally formed to marshal American and Canadian aid. 

The study stated the impacts of high temperature are greater in the villages of China and India, specifically those who have not undertaken heat-resistant crops. In China and India, environmental exposures exacerbate cognitive losses partly via an income effect, which “overwhelmingly affects” poor agricultural households, the report said. 

Study: Early peaking of CO2 emissions in China could reduce over half a million air pollution deaths

A new study published in Nature estimated that carbon emissions in China are likely to peak ahead of 2030, and that an early peak before 2030 in line with the 1.5 °C target could avoid ~118,000 and ~614,000 PM2.5 attributable deaths under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 1, in 2030 and 2050, respectively. The study suggested that similar benefits may result from more ambitious climate targets in other countries. 

It added that under the 2°C target, carbon mitigation costs could be more than offset by health co-benefits in 2050, bringing a net benefit of $393–$3,017 billion (in 2017 USD value).

Adding up: India’s cumulative installed solar capacity stood at 49.3 GW, while 53 GW was in the pipeline. Photo: Mint

10 GW new solar capacity installed in 2021 in India

According to Mercom, India installed a record 10 GW of solar capacity in 2021, which was a 201% rise compared to 3.2 GW installed in 2020. India’s cumulative installed solar capacity stood at 49.3 GW, while 53 GW was in the pipeline, Mercom reported. According to the study, utility scale projects accounted for 83% of the installations, while the remaining 17% installations were covered by rooftop solar. Rajasthan added the highest utility scale solar capacity with 4.5 GW, followed by Gujarat with 1.2 GW and UP with 885 MW.

CERC new draft proposes changes to the renewable energy certificates scheme

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) released draft norms that allow renewable energy generators, DISCOMs, captive power projects and open access consumers to issue renewable energy certificates. CERC will accept comments on the draft till March 15. 

Eligible parties will have to get accretions from state and central agencies to acquire the certificates. They will be issued based on electricity generated and injected into the grid. The issued certificates will remain valid until they are redeemed. 

LG quits solar panel manufacturing business 

South Korean electronic manufacturing giant LG Electronics is quitting the global solar panel business over issues of increasing material costs, increasing logistics costs, and supply chain constraints. Competition with Chinese rivals’ lower prices has made it hard for LG to stay afloat. According to the report, the decision to shut down solar manufacturing will impact around 160 employees and 60 contract workers at LG’s corporate campus in Huntsville, Alabama. The company has been assembling solar panels there since 2018. Employees working at the PV unit, which is part of the company’s Business Solutions (BS) division, will be offered transition support and severance packages commensurate with their tenure with the company.

America’s biggest coal mining firm Peabody Energy Corp enters renewables business, launches R3 Renewables

America’s biggest coal producer, Peabody Energy Corp, is entering the renewable energy business as it launched R3 Renewables to construct utility scale solar projects on or near their former coal mines. The firm will develop 3.3 GW of solar—enough to power about 2 million homes—and 1.6 GW of battery storage capacity over the next five years. R3 Renewables will develop on large tracts of land in Indiana and Illinois. Peabody has been coal mining for nearly 140 years and has operations in New South Wales, Australia, and the US states of Wyoming, Alabama, Indiana and New Mexico. President Joe Biden has pledged to wean the country off fossil fuels, creating a clean power sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.

Germany to meet 100% energy needs from renewable sources by 2035?

While quoting a draft paper, Reuters reported that Germany plans to meet all its power needs with supplies from renewable sources by 2035. Europe’s richest economy has been under pressure from other Western nations to become less dependent on Russian gas.

According to the draft, the German government is ready to amend the country’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the share of wind or solar power should reach 80% by 2030.  By then, Germany’s onshore wind energy capacity should double to up to 110 GW, offshore wind energy should reach 30 GW—the capacity of 10 nuclear plants—and solar energy would more than triple to 200 GW, the paper estimated.

Telangana authority rules liquidated damages claimed over project delays will attract 18% GST 

The Telangana Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) ruled that liquidated damages recovered by solar developers over delay in commissioning under an agreement constitutes “supply” under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) law and will be levied 18% tax. 

Solar developer Achampet Solar imposed liquidated damages on their client Belectric India to cover loss of revenue and costs borne due to delay in commissioning of the project. In another case, Karnataka regulators had ordered the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company not to impose liquidated damages on ReNew Wind Energy as the delay in projects was due to ‘force majeure’.

Gigantic find: China's newly-discovered lithium oxide deposits in the Himalayas may be its third-largest ever and would cement its position as the leading battery pack manufacturer even further. Photo: SCMP

China reports huge lithium deposit near Mt. Everest, may be country’s third-largest

Chinese scientists reported that a vast deposit of lithium oxide has been discovered near Mt. Everest, and the quantum of the deposit may be large enough for the country to produce 1.0125 million tonnes of lithium oxide. Discovered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the ore deposit may be China’s third-largest and may be relatively easy to extract lithium from—the demand for which has soared in recent years over the growing market share of electric vehicles. Also, the deposit is said to be that of spodumene, which is a rock that bears the mineral, and is very similar to what Australia exports in giant quantities every year—96% of which is consumed by China. 

India: Maharashtra environment minister launches special EV cell for Mumbai

Maharashtra’s environment minister, Aaditya Thakeray, launched the “Mumbai EV Cell”, under which the state government will work to quickly expand the share of EVs in the state. The plan was launched as the minister acknowledged the global “climate emergency”, and it will also assist in the rapid setting up of EV charging stations and the further electrification of Mumbai city bus network (BEST). Currently, BEST has 386 e-buses (out of ~2,000), but is likely to hit 100% electrification by 2027. 

World’s first electric, fully-autonomous cargo ship completes maiden voyage 

The world’s first all-electric, fully-autonomous cargo ship completed its maiden voyage in Norway (from Horten to Oslo), marking a step forward towards sustainable commercial shipping. Named the Yara Birkeland and powered by nearly 7MWh of li-ion batteries, the 80m long vessel weighs 3,200 tonnes and can be controlled entirely remotely via an assortment of on-board computers and sensors. Also, the lack of an on-board helps it reduce its staff costs and release more space for cargo, and the vessel has been tested for auto-docking — an incredibly complex manoeuvre. 

The Yara Birkeland is expected to enter commercial service within a few years and is expected to cut the equivalent of 40,000 trips by diesel trucks every year.

Almost cancelled: Germany refusing to award the permit for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may indefinitely delay the start of its operations and could even lead to the project being axed forever. Photo: The Telegraph

Germany, US halt Nord Stream 2 pipeline over Russia’s Ukraine aggression; EU looks to cut dependence on Russia

Germany halted the permit for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a diplomatic measure against Russia, as the latter continues its military aggression against Ukraine. The controversial, $11bn- pipeline was awaiting permits from the German government to allow Russia to export natural gas to much of the EU. The denial of the permit was also backed by sanctions by the US against the parent firm Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, even though last year US President Joe Biden had waived the sanctions. 

Surprisingly, support for Biden’s decision has come from Republican senator Ted Cruz, who said that approving the pipeline would have caused “multiple, cascading, and acute security crises for the United States and our European allies”. 

Following the breakout of conflict in Ukraine, the IEA has prepared an ambitious 10-point plan to rapidly reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas by the end of the year, while remaining on track to eliminating it completely by the end of the decade. The plan is likely to be used extensively to design near-term energy strategies in Europe in light of heightened tensions between continental Europe and Russia.

OPEC members to slowly increase oil supplies despite fears of shortage over Russia-Ukraine 

Members of OPEC announced that they would only modestly increase the supply of oil in the next few weeks, despite the fears of a global shortage of the commodity driving up oil prices to as high as $119/barrel. The rally comes as a result of Russia’s military action against Ukraine and the possibility of its oil and gas exports being frozen as retribution, which would take away nearly 8-10% of the global oil supply. IEA members are also reported to have agreed to releasing more oil — as much as 60 million barrels per day — and most of it is likely to come from the US, in a bid to prevent an uncontrolled rise in oil prices. 

Another factor in the works is reportedly a pending decision on Iran’s sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, which if waived in March, could unlock more oil from its wells and lower the price of the fuel in the immediate short-term. 

Russia, China to ink deal to supply 100mn tonnes of coal 

The Russian and Chinese governments were reported to be working on a deal that would see Russia export 100 million tonnes of coal to China every year in the near future. The deal stems from the apparent reduction in coal supplies — and extraction — from other countries, and the Russian energy minister backed the deal by saying that countries should receive “as much coal as they need”. Also, the country’s energy ministry is eyeing the growing energy demand from the Asia Pacific region and aims to supply more coal to the region through 2030. Incidentally, Russia’s share in the region’s coal supplies has grown from 4% in 2010 to 12% in 2021. 

HSBC announces target to slash emissions from clients’ projects by 34% by 2030

Leading financier HSBC announced on February 22 that it had adopted a new target: its clients would have to report at least a 34% reduction in emissions from their oil and gas projects by 2030. The decision will also stress absolute reductions in emissions, including a 75% drop in carbon intensity from the power sector (primarily coal power), and this could greatly influence fossil energy financing by other large banks. HSBC had previously committed to zet-zero emissions by 2050 amongst all its customers. 

Yet, Market Forces, an environmental campaign group, argued that the decision left loopholes for HSBC as it could still finance new oil and gas projects while only restricting financing for “on-balance sheet” emissions.