Vol 1, April 2022 | IPCC report on mitigation zeroes in on options to limit warming to 1.5-2°C

Now or never: The IPCC report states that current policies aimed at controlling climate change are woefully inadequate. Photo: India Today

The report evaluates a range of emissions pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C and 2°C, all of which require a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, and some amount of reliance on carbon dioxide removal. While possible on paper, how politically expedient will such options ultimately be?
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Now or never: The IPCC report states that current policies aimed at controlling climate change are woefully inadequate. Photo: India Today

IPCC report signals rocky road ahead to mitigate warming

The report evaluates a range of emissions pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C and 2°C, all of which require a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, and some amount of reliance on carbon dioxide removal. While possible on paper, how politically expedient will such options ultimately be?

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third part of its Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6 WG3). This final installment of the current scientific assessment cycle evaluates options to mitigate climate change, which at present is set to lead to warming of about 3°C over this century.

Although the report highlights that there is still time to avert the worst impacts of climate change, it also states the sobering reality that current policies aimed at controlling climate change are woefully inadequate in terms of temperature reductions they will deliver. Pursuing the 1.5°C or 2°C warming limits conscribed in the Paris Agreement would entail a massive scale up of ambitions and actions, leading to a net-zero emissions scenario latest by the early 2070s to achieve the latter target.

The IPCC’s latest offering evaluates a range of emissions pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C and 2°C, all of which require a rapid shift of the world’s energy systems away from fossil fuels, and almost all of which entail some degree of negative emissions and carbon dioxide removal (CDR).

What options does the world have?

IPCC assessment reports are essentially exhaustive reviews of existing scientific literature in order to draw degrees of scientific consensus on various aspects of climate change and its impacts. For the report on mitigation, the IPCC consolidated over 1,200 emissions pathways (whittled down from a database of more than 3,000 scenarios) in order to generate eight warming scenarios through the current century. The report also presents separate illustrative pathways to reflect warming projections from current policies, including with moderate increases in climate action, and five ‘deep mitigation strategies’ that could limit warming to the 1.5°C and 2°C targets. Together, these scenarios paint a comprehensive picture of how rates of transition to low carbon energy systems affect future global emissions, including those where temperatures are stabilised following “overshoots” relative to the warming targets. These illustrative pathways, while consisting of a range of possibilities, are subject to broad uncertainties in actual emissions in the pathways as well as around the sensitivity of climate and the earth system in response to changes in CO2 and GHG emissions.

Scenarios where warming is limited to 1.5°C (listed under C1) include three illustrative pathways, namely “shifting development pathways” (SP), low demand (LD), and high renewables (Ren). While these describe scenarios with “no or limited overshoot”, the C2 pathway details how the world can bring warming down to 1.5°C by 2100 following a “high overshoot” through a heavy dependence on negative-emissions technologies and carbon removal. Realising these pathways, however, hinges on urgent and rapid emissions reductions. According to the IPCC, meeting the 1.5°C warming target would mean peaking CO2 and GHG emissions within the next three years—an unbelievably tall order given the current rates of emissions increases, particularly in the developing world, which houses the majority of the global population. Pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C with little or no overshoot would entail GHG emissions to be cut by 43% by 2030 and 84% by 2050 compared to 2019 levels, while CO2 emissions would have to be reduced by nearly half by the end of the decade.

The C3 pathway describes the warming scenarios under current policies, which are gradually strengthened to hold at least a 66% chance of limiting warming to 2°C by 2100. If countries meet their 2030 NDCs and follow it up with little additional climate action, the world is likely to see warming between 2.5°C-3°C by the end of the century (scenario C6). Emissions scenarios describing effects of current policies show an end-of-century warming estimate of about 3°C, which are reflected in scenarios C6 and C7.

While not as severe as the 1.5°C pathways, limiting warming to 2°C would also require urgent GHG emissions cuts of about 14% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. The report states that CO2 emissions would have to be cut in half in the 2040s and achieve net-zero by the early 2070s. These pathways describe a gradual phaseout of fossil fuels as future energy demand is met dominantly by renewables, and includes the need to remove massive volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the end of the century.

Interestingly, the WG3 report has incorporated current policies and possibilities of increased action compared to warming scenarios included in earlier reports. This has made the extreme warming scenarios described under the C7 and C8 pathways much less probable relative to similar assessments conducted in the past, underscoring the positive impacts of current policies in ameliorating future warming possibilities.

The great energy lock-ins

Throughout the exhaustive exploration of pathways included in the IPCC’s mitigation report, one clear message dominates the takeaways—an urgent and rapid shift away from fossil fuels is the only option that would realistically stabilise warming to under 2°C. The scale of the required shift, though, remains gargantuan no matter how you cut it. As stated in the IPCC, historic cumulative net emissions from 1850 to 2019 amounts to around 2,400 GtCO2. About 17% of this (around 410 GtCO2) has accumulated just over the past decade between 2010 and 2019. The situation is further exacerbated by non-CO2 GHG emissions, which have also registered growth in recent decades. While the rate of growth of emissions from fossil fuels has declined, emissions have continued to grow. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions grew by 4.6% between 2015 and 2019 (1.1% per year) and reached 38 GtCO2 per year. This number accounts for approximately two-thirds of annual global anthropogenic GHG emissions.

This rate of CO2 accumulation, particularly from burning fossil fuels, reflects the untenability of the current trends of emissions relative to the Paris Agreement targets. According to the chapter on energy systems of the WG3, “Based on central estimates only, cumulative net CO2 emissions between 2010-2019 compare to about four-fifths of the size of the remaining carbon budget from 2020 onwards for a 50% probability of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and about one-third of the remaining carbon budget for a 67% probability to limit global warming to 2°C.” The report continues with high confidence that if current emissions trends from the energy sector continue, the world will breach the 2°C warming threshold.

Between 2015 and 2019, coal, oil and gas contributed 44%, 34% and 22% of all energy sector CO2 emissions respectively. Additionally, fugitive emissions, primarily of methane, add considerably to the carbon footprint attributable to fossil fuels. Dependence on fossil fuels, which account for almost 80% of the world’s primary energy demand, will have to be cut by about half by 2050 to limit warming to 2°C. Further, the longer it takes to wind down fossil fuel demand, the steeper the required energy decarbonisation curve gets. The urgency is by far most pronounced in coal demand. According to the WG3 report, unabated coal consumption would have to be practically eliminated by mid-century, a far cry from current energy plans around the world, which include several hundred GWs of new thermal power. Even without new thermal power infrastructure limiting warming to 2°C, existing coal power plants would have to be retired 10-25 years earlier than their historic average operating lifetime. Building new thermal power capacity will contract viable lifespans by a further 5-10 years.

The report, however, also concedes that the rapid shift away from coal “will present economic, social, and security challenges. These will vary across regions based on the characteristics of existing coal infrastructure, the availability of alternatives, economic development, and technological and institutional lock-in.” The most quantifiable of these challenges presently are reflected in the economics of such a transformational shift away from fossil fuels. Notwithstanding the finance required to move to renewables and other low carbon non-fossil energy, the low-carbon energy transition is likely to create massive stranded assets. Limiting warming to 2°C implies that about 30% of oil, 50% of gas, and 80% of coal reserves will remain unburnable. Combined with premature closures, the economic impact up to 2050 from these stranded assets are estimated to be between $1-4 trillion, 60% of which is expected to come from the abandonment of unviable fossil fuel infrastructure.

Prominent among the options to prolong the use of fossil fuels is the deployment of carbon capture and sequestration and CO2 removal (CDR) technologies. Despite the text being peppered generously with these options, the viability of such technologies remain largely unproven and expensive, with current literature suggesting low emission reduction potential and high costs (see figure below). Further, while rolling back fossil fuel demand is imperative in the battle to avert the worst consequences of climate change, urgent scaling up of renewables and other non-fossil energy requires a carefully planned navigation of possible conflicts arising from pressures on environment, food security, land and economy.

More political division on the cards

The IPCC report on mitigation identifies GDP and population as the two major factors that influence carbon emissions from energy systems. While population growth tends to drive energy demand, the report admits that these implications from population are dwarfed by those attributed to economic growth. The correlation between economic growth, energy demand and associated carbon emissions are evidenced by the close correlation between energy system emissions with per capita GDP and emissions in practically every region of the world, complete with a pause in emissions growth during periods of global economic downturns, most notably in 2009 and 2020.

The report, through a new chapter on Demand, Services and Social Aspects of Mitigation, advocates for transformative changes (particularly in urban settings) in infrastructure planning and deployment to generate the deepest emission reductions. Such a shift to more emission-efficient modes of planning and infrastructure deployment in construction, food systems, transport and industry, according to the report, holds potential to drive down emissions by an incredible 40%-70% by mid-century and practically ensure a fighting chance to limit warming to under 2°C.

Such measures, however, will not be painless. Lockdowns imposed around the world to contain the COVID pandemic, which resulted in a temporary collapse of energy demand and a pause in emissions growth in 2020, have been used in the report to highlight the potential rapid behavioral and societal change. Somewhat contradictorily, the report also concedes that the top-down imposition that made such a change possible was accompanied by widespread economic distress, which drove hundreds of millions of people below poverty thresholds and reversed decades of poverty alleviation accomplishments in practically every corner of the world.

While authors have leaned on the concept of Decent Living Standards to guard against the rapid deterioration of standards of living and the economic limitations, there is also recognition that such economic risks would make large-scale demand-side changes hugely unpopular. Authors of the report admit that the acceptability of collective social change over a longer term towards less resource-intensive lifestyles will heavily depend on social mandate building through public participation, discussion and debate—a process that could take several decades, far longer than needed to address urgent mitigation needs. The new chapter, which effectively calls for a much more distributed approach to mitigation, is in line with larger trends in climate action, which seek to blur the lines of responsibility towards climate action, and so are bound to be politically onerous.

Flashes of the growing chasm in the politics of climate action were once again evident during the plenary review of the report that immediately preceded the release of the report. Flashpoints included the long-divisive subject of finance for the required transformative changes, which the developed world has increasingly sought to redefine through and obfuscation of what “finance” entails. Among the most controversial aspects at the plenary dealt with mitigation investment flows due to absence of consensus around terms segregating developing and developed countries. While developed countries argued that including such classifications in the report would effectively politicise the scientific process and make the report prescriptive when the IPCC was supposed to be policy neutral, developing countries countered that such classifications are not just policy relevant, but also a significant finding of the underlying report.

Interestingly, the plenary session also provided a window into the growing discontent among emerging economies and developing countries with regards to the emissions modelling included in the report, which segregates the world in accordance with geographic boundaries rather than on socio-economic lines. 

While authors have claimed that the models reflect regional emissions projections and pathways, government-appointed reviewers of the report from the Global South have pointed out that such categorisations blur the lines on historic responsibility and equity as encoded in the UNFCCC charter and the Paris Agreement. These concerns were reflected most strongly in India’s closing statement at the plenary which included the lines- “The classification between developed and developing countries that signals the responsibility for emissions is sought to be removed using models as the basis for a different classification than has been signalled in various earlier IPCC reports.”

The politics of climate change and climate action is heating up, and divisions are likely to get further entrenched given ongoing geopolitical and economic realignments arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fears of further deterioration of security around the world and persistent supply chain disruptions, which have driven up prices of several commodities essential for decarbonisation. Notwithstanding the options for mitigation, consensus on climate action will ultimately depend on the maintenance of a political climate that is conducive for global collaboration as we move towards November’s COP 27—a prerequisite that seems more improbable with each passing day.

Rising tide: Mumbai's iconic structures such as the Bandra-Worli sea link are at risk of getting submerged by 2050 because of rising sea levels, according to a new report. Photo: Hindustan Times

Iconic properties in Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Vizag may submerge under sea by 2050

A new analysis by Indian scientists concluded that some major coastal properties and road networks in Mumbai, Kochi, Mangalore, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, and Thiruvananthapuram will be submerged due to the impact of rising sea level by 2050. Scientists quantified IPCC’s sixth assessment report that projected that the sea level around India will rise significantly by 2050. 

The analysis revealed that in Mumbai, around 998 buildings and 24km of road are at risk of impact by potential sea-level rise by 2050, and approximately 2,490 buildings and 126km of road will be affected by potential sea-level rise during high tide, reported HT. In Chennai, a 5km-long road and 55 buildings are at risk, of which a majority are residential and situated in low-lying areas. 

In Kochi, around 464 buildings are likely to be hit by rising sea water by 2050 with the number rising to around 1,502 buildings during high tide. In Thiruvananthapuram, due to sea level rise by 2050 and sea level rise with high tide, 349 and 387 buildings, respectively, are likely to be impacted, the newspaper said, quoting the study. In Visakhapatnam, around 206 buildings and 9km of road network are likely to be inundated due to potential coastline changes by 2050.

The analysis of the IPCC assessment was carried out by RMSI, a global risk management firm, which pointed out that Haji Ali dargah, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Western Express Highway, Bandra-Worli Sea-link,and Queen’s Necklace on Marine Drive, all in Mumbai , are at risk of submergence.

At 42.4°C, Delhi records highest temp in first half of April in 72 years

Delhi recorded its highest temperature in 72 years in the first half of April. The mercury rose to a maximum temperature of 42.4°C on April 9, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated. This is eight notches higher than the normal temperature for the season. The IMD issued an ‘orange alert’ and warned of a ‘severe heatwave’ in parts of the Capital. The all-time highest temperature for the month of April in Delhi is 45.6°C, which was recorded on April 29, 1941.

Meanwhile, heatwaves across north India have affected wheat yields. Per-acre yields have fallen 10-15%, according to wheat cultivators. Farmers said heatwave conditions in March destroyed crops that were in the advanced ripening stage.  

Pre-monsoon cyclones that hit dry lands are less likely to cause severe flooding: Study

A recent study found that the severity of floods, caused by cyclone-induced rainfall, is formed by existing soil moisture levels of river basins. Scientists studied the impact of tropical cyclones on flooding in four major Indian river basins in India’s east coast from 1981 to 2019. Cyclones that make landfall in the pre-monsoon season are less likely to cause severe flooding. This happens because of drier land conditions, which prevent the cyclonic rain water from directly becoming runoff as the rainwater is sponged off by the dry land. Flooding is more likely when the cyclone system encounters moisture-saturated land during monsoons and immediately after the monsoon. Cyclone Asani, India’s first cyclone of the year, formed over southeast Bay of Bengal in March. However, it did not intensify and made landfall in Myanmar.  With intensifying cyclone risks, experts bat for monitoring soil conditions, such as soil moisture, to predict flood severity from cyclones.

Climate change threatening survival of medicinal plants in Himalayas: Research 

Medicinal plants in the Himalayas are under threat from climate change, according to two new research studies. The study observed 163 medicinal plant species in Sikkim, which is part of Eastern Himalayas biodiversity hotspot. The species were observed in both the current and future climates scenarios in 2050 and 2070. According to the analysis, a majority of the species is located in tropical and subtropical regions in the Sikkim Himalayas, at heights of 300m to 2,000m, respectively. Most of these species are likely to move further up in future scenarios, according to the research. Around 13-16% of these plant species are likely to lose their habitats by 2050 and 2070, the research also found. Species restricted to smaller areas or with height constraints are most vulnerable. The research concluded that current conservation strategies need to be urgently reviewed. 

Cactus’ extinction risk to rise by mid-century due to climate change: Study

The cactus plant is known to thrive in arid and hot conditions. But a new study suggested that global warming is likely to put 60% of cactus species at greater risk of extinction by the middle of the century. Human-caused threats, such as poaching and habitat destruction, were not taken into account for the study published in the journal Nature. It observed 408 cactus species under three different warming scenarios. The study found that even under the most modest warming pathway, the survival of many cactus species will be under threat because of loss of habitable territory. 

To grant or not to: Industry or projects that had started operating without procuring the green clearance can now be allowed to continue in exceptional cases | Photo: Pixabay

Supreme Court allows ex post facto green clearance in exceptional cases

Ex post facto environmental clearances can be granted in exceptional circumstances even after taking into account all environmental impacts, the Supreme Court observed. This allows functioning of an industry or project that had started operating without procuring the green clearance and disclosing the probable environmental impacts of the project. The defaulter industry may be penalised and environmental restoration cost may be recovered from it while also assessing its contribution to economy and employment. Lawyers said that this move nullifies the fundamental basis of environmental law, which is a precautionary principle and will open the floodgates for misuse.

Private sector, not govt, will drive India’s carbon transition: Moodys

Ratings agency Moodys predicted that India’s economic development needs will hinder the amount of financial support the government can extend towards the country’s carbon transition. This will make way for the private sector to step in and drive emissions reduction, the agency predicted. This prediction is in line with the way things are currently going in India. The net-zero goals announced by the private sector are more advanced than those made by government-linked companies.  

India plans massive plantation at 13 river basins to meet climate goals

India intends to grow plantations over 4,68,222 sqkm in 13 major river basins by 2027 to meet India’s international commitment to sequester carbon emissions, as per an overview report  released on March 14. Environment minister Bhupender Yadav released the 13 project reports for Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Luni, Narmada, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Cauvery.

These plantations will include riverfront development programmes, afforestation, and agroforestry schemes. The proposed rejuvenation of major rivers through forestry interventions is expected to sequester 50.21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 10 years and 74.76 million tonnes by 20 years. The report also estimated that the project reports of the 13 river basins will likely increase the country’s cumulative forest cover by 80.85 sqkm to 1,813.52 sqkm. The government is yet to prepare similar plans for the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins. However, experts warned that the planned plantations could infringe on existing habitation, rights of local people and ownership of land.

Indian finance sector unprepared for climate challenge, bankers and insurers rank poorly: Studies

Indian insurance companies are among the worst performers in the world when it comes to climate-linked losses, according to a recent analysis by Climate Trends. About 70% of total claims worth Rs2,559 crore made under various catastrophes in India in 2020-21 remain unpaid. Insurance companies from Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among the worst performers, scoring below 10% for the quality of their disclosures. India also has the lowest rate of insurance penetration across Asia. 

India’s banking sector is also grossly unprepared for the financial impact of climate change, according to a recent analysis. The report ranked the 34 biggest banks in the country, based on market capitalisation, to find that most banks have not even begun to factor climate change into their business strategies. YES Bank, IndusInd Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank were the top-ranking banks overall and have started to consider the climate issue, while SBI landed in sixth place. 

Centre’s Arctic policy aims at energy security, climate change and mineral wealth

India’s Arctic policy, released by the Centre, aims to strengthen national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, use of mineral wealth and maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region. The policy will also help in better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.

India is among the 13 nations that are observers in the Arctic Council, which include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, China, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. This council is a high-level intergovernmental forum to address issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the region.

Green Climate Fund may reject emission cutting projects owing to US’ unpaid debt

The UN’s flagship climate fund, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) warned that it may have to cut some climate mitigation projects, because of lack of funding from donors. Campaigners said if the GCF is compelled to limit its operations in the near future due to lack of funding, it would be hard to find any single country more at fault than the US. The country owes the GCF $2 billion. In 2014, then president Barack Obama promised the fund $3 billion, but granted only $1 billion before the end of his term. His successor Donald Trump did not give any money to the GCF and, so far, neither has Joe Biden. Last month, the US Congress approved a 2022 spending bill with a mere $1 billion for international climate finance and no money for the GCF. Biden had requested Congress to approve $1.25 billion for the fund, but negotiations brought the amount down to zero.

Brazil updates it NDC, still not aligned with the Paris Agreement

The Brazilian government updated its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement earlier this month. The update discloses up to a 37% reduction in the country’s greenhouse gas reduction by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030 compared to 2005, in addition to also including “a long-term objective to achieve neutrality”. The new submission, however, does not increase the country’s climate ambition in relation to the contribution previously submitted in 2016, notes an analysis produced by Talanoa Institute and the ‘Política por Inteiro’ project. The update rather allows more emissions relative to its 2016 commitment—314 million tonnes of CO2eq extra for 2025; and 81 million tonnes of CO2eq for 2030. Further, the 2022 NDC does not internalise the commitments made by Brazil at COP26 in relation to zero deforestation by 2030 and reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Biting dust: Air pollution has blocked the prospects for India to achieve the target of generating 100 gigawatts of solar power in 2022 | Photo: MoneyControl

Air pollution clouds India’s 100GW by 2022 solar energy target

A new study by IIT Delhi found that between 2001 and 2018, India lost 29% of its solar energy potential as a result of atmospheric pollution—equivalent to an annual loss of $835 million. According to an assessment by Mercom, by March 2022, India had only reached the halfway mark of 50 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, and air pollution has blocked the prospects for India to achieve the target of generating 100 gigawatts of solar power in 2022. 

Speaking to SciDev.Net. one of the authors of the study, Sagnik Dey, said aerosols containing PM, dust, mist and fumes suspended in the air, significantly reduce incoming solar radiation in what is called the ‘atmospheric attenuation effect,'”  which must be factored in when undertaking large solar energy projects.”

Scientists said solar projects are also failing to account for the “soiling effect” of aerosols depositing on panels, blocking solar radiation from reaching the photovoltaic cells. “Since air pollution over South Asia has been on the rise, both effects need to be addressed and mitigation steps taken to maximise benefits from solar power installations,” he added. Particulate matter can cause a drop in photovoltaic solar power generation by over 50%. Most of it caused the soiling of panels, according to a previous study. 

Unusually high levels of ozone detected in Delhi-NCR air

Central forecasting body System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) found unusually high concentrations of ozone in parts of Delhi between April 1 and April 11. The concentration was higher than the national standard of 51ppb. The AQI of ozone is calculated on the basis of eight sunshine hours daily, TOI reported.

SAFAR’s leading scientist Gufran Being said ozone pollution was high due to high temperature and a rise in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Ozone pollution is not directly emitted from any source, but chemically produced from NOx (nitrogen oxide) and VOCs in the presence of sunlight, Beig said, adding that VOCs can also be emitted from natural sources, such as plants. Scientists said ozone is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. It not only builds up in cities, but also drifts long distances to form a regional pollutant that makes both local local and regional action necessary. This can inflame airways, make lungs prone to infection, aggravate asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis and increase the frequency of asthma attacks, leading to increased hospitalisation, Beig added.

‘Air pollution worsened in India in 2021’, breaking 3-year stint of improving air quality

Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) rose in 31 cities in 2021 compared to 2020, the government informed Parliament. The fine particulate matter decreased in 96 cities and remained unchanged in four, according to the analysis of ambient air quality data from 132 non-attainment / metropolitan cities.

Meanwhile, a world air quality report by Swiss firm IQAir found India’s air pollution worsened in 2021, breaking a three-year trend of improving air quality. The average count of the lethal PM2.5 pollutant is 58.1 micrograms per cubic metre—10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines. Delhi was named as the world’s most polluted capital for the fourth consecutive year, with pollution rising almost 15% compared to 2020. Air pollution levels here were almost 20 times above the WHO’s safety limits, with PM2.5 clocking in at 96.4 micrograms per cubic metre for the annual average.

Bihar bans diesel vehicles in Patna and adjoining areas, 12,000 buses, 200 autos off road

To fight air pollution, the Bihar government banned diesel vehicles in Patna and neighbouring areas of Danapur, Khagaul and Phulwari Sharif  from April 1. Commuters in Patna were badly impacted as the ban forced out 12,000 diesel auto-rickshaws and more than 200 diesel public transport buses off the road. Auto-rickshaw drivers failed to fit CNG kits because of their high prices. Bihar decided to stop diesel vehicles in 2019 in a bid to check rising air pollution, but the same could not be made effective at that time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noida-Delhi residents brace for air pollution as 32-storeyed twin towers await demolition on May 22

The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) asked for periodic air quality reports at the site of the ongoing demolition of the massive 32-storeyed Supertech twin towers in Sector 93, Noida. The towers have to be raised on May 22 as per the Supreme Court’s February 7 orders.

Noida authorities have been asked to keep mechanical sweeping machines ready while residents in the neighbourhood have been advised to keep all doors and windows closed, switch off their ACs and cover the external units of their ACs so that the dust is not sucked in.

According to the HT report, the wind direction during May-June is usually easterly, which would mean that the wind will travel from Noida towards Delhi. Experts told the newspaper that the wind speed on the day will decide how far it will travel.

Clean and cheap: Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of solar energy plummeted by 85%, wind energy by 55% and lithium-ion batteries by 85% | Photo: Pixabay

Since 2010, RE costs have declined up to 85%: IPCC report

The new IPCC report found the costs of renewable energy sources—solar and wind energy, plus storage batteries–have fallen drastically, making them more competitive with gas and coal (and in some cases, cheaper). Since 2010, they have shown “sustained decreases of up to 85%,” according to the report. Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of solar energy plummeted by 85%, wind energy by 55% and lithium-ion batteries by 85%. More affordable renewals should help lower the cost barriers associated with transitioning away from fossil fuels.

The report found a combination of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adopting innovative technology that prioritises renewable energy, as well as using carbon capture and storage will be necessary to meet climate goals. Land use changes in agriculture and forestry can help remove carbon from the atmosphere, but those alone won’t be enough without significant emissions cuts across sectors, the report added.

India at risk of missing 2022 RE target

Disruptions following from the global pandemic and persistent supply chain disruptions that have hit logistics hard are likely to cause India to miss its 2022 target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the end of the year, according to latest estimates provided by Bloomberg NEF. Structural problems that have manifested in financial distress among power producers and suppliers have scuppered India’s march towards energy decarbonisation, says the assessment, as several projects auctioned by the central government struggle to find buyers. The issue seems more protracted in some parts of the country than others as states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Punjab struggle to add to their renewable capacities, which currently lag far behind their targets.

Anti-dumping duty likely on Chinese fluoro backsheet imports 

The government is likely to impose an anti-dumping duty on the Chinese imports of flour backsheet. The Director General of Trade remedies (DGTR) launched the anti-dumping probe after the Indian module manufacturer RenewSys India complained saying Chinese flouro backsheet is similar to what is made in India. The probe revealed that the material was exported to India at a price below the normal value resulting in dumping at a large margin, Mercom reported. DGTR said the domestic industry was running into losses during the period of the probe. 

IEEFA: Solar plants to charge EVs is better use of land than growing ethanol crops for blended fuel 

According to a new report by IEEFA, generating solar power to recharge electric vehicles is a better use of land than using it to grow crops of ethanol. India has set a target of blending 20% ethanol by 2025. The report showed that matching the distance driven by EVs recharged from one hectare of solar generation would require ethanol derived from up to 251 hectare of sugar cane or 187 hectares of maize—even if one includes losses from electric transmission, battery charging and grid storage.

Burning issue: India's latest spate of EV fires has brought into focus the suitability of using li-ion batteries under high local temperatures, especially as the country heads into summer | Photo: Autobizz

Battery fires threaten to hinder India’s EV adoption

A father and daughter died of suffocation in Vellore, India, after their e-scooter broke out in flames while charging and engulfed the house in smoke. The vehicle was reportedly plugged into an old socket and the cause of the incident was traced to a short-circuit. The e-scooter was manufactured by Okinawa. 

The tragedy is part of a string of such incidents involving e-scooters in India—in Pune and Chennai, as well as 20 e-scooters catching fire near Nashik. The high ambient temperatures in the country are being considered as the probable cause and one of the manufacturers of the affected vehicles is Ola, which made headlines after unveiling the world’s largest electric scooter facility in India in 2021. Pure EV, the manufacturer of the other affected e-scooters, however, stated that its battery pack went through different phases before actually catching on fire, and that the company provides its customers with detailed manuals on the intricacies of the lithium-ion battery technology. The slew of incidents have forced manufacturer Pure EV to recall 2,000 units of two of its variants from the market in the first ever EV recall in India.

At the same time, India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES) ordered an investigation into the incidents and has called for “early action” to remedy the issue. The central government has issued warnings of penalties on manufacturers who fail to guarantee the safety of their products and has instituted a special committee to look into the matter of fire safety in EVs. 

India & Australia tie up for lithium, cobalt mines

India signed a commitment to invest $6 billion with the Australian government to explore the latter’s lithium and cobalt deposits in the next six months of 2022. The deal was signed with Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) and involves the exploration of greenfield and brownfield sites with some of the largest state-owned entities in India, including Hindustan Copper and National Aluminium Co. The deal is an extension to India’s efforts to secure deposits in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. 

Adani to install 1,500 charging stations, Ather partners with banks to offer EV financing 

Energy conglomerate Adani, through its city gas distribution entity Adani Total Gas, announced that it would install 1,500 EV charging stations across India. The first charger was installed at its Maninagar CNG station in Ahmedabad. Also, Ather Energy, one of India’s most popular electric two-wheeler manufacturers, announced that it has partnered with IDFC First Bank and HDFC Bank to afford financing for its customers. The loans will be disbursed instantly at low interest rates, and the offering comes at a time when Tata Motors has reported that li-ion battery prices have surged by 20% due to the global surge in the demand and prices of lithium. 

Govt of India releases winners of PLI Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) battery storage scheme

The Govt of India released the list of winners for its Production-linked Incentive (PLI) scheme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) battery storage, according to which Reliance New Energy Solar Limited, Hyundai Global Motors Company Limited, Ola Electric Mobility Private Limited and Rajesh Exports Limited will cumulatively manufacture 50GWh in storage capacity. The manufacturing facilities will need to come up within the next two years and the government will support the production with a budget of $18,000 crores to gradually lower the levelised cost of domestic battery manufacturing. 

Most importantly, the selected firms will be free to choose the technology and the raw material to achieve their targets.

It's time: "We'll need 4 months", says Chancellor Scholz, to wean Germany off of Russian coal imports as the EU prepares to further sanction Russia and Vladimir Putin | Photo: Reddit

EU bans Russian coal, oil embargo to follow?

The EU’s decision to extend sanctions and ban Russian coal imports into the bloc over alleged war crimes in Ukraine’s Bucha is likely to sharpen the sting of rising energy and commodity prices in the region. The bloc imports EUR 4 billion worth of Russian coal each year, but the decision may be passed despite energy costs already rising in the EU nations over the political situation with Ukraine. The pulling back from Russian coal imports will likely be followed by further sanctions on other goods, such as Russia-made chemicals, rubber and oil and gas. 

The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also supported the potential ban and said his country would need around four months (120 days) to wean itself off of the imports, even though it may lead to some shortages in the short term. The EU’s decision was followed by Japan’s announcement to do the same in its diplomatic stance against Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. However, a date for the same was not announced as 13% of the country’s coal consumption comes from Russia. The energy crisis in Europe has prompted European states to reopen coal projects that were set to be retired. While Germany was the first to hint at restarting coal operations to tide over short-term energy shortages, Greece has now also announced that it would be ramping up coal mining in the country as geopolitical tensions force the bloc away from their erstwhile commitments towards decarbonisation.

Coal shortages bear heavy on India’s power supply

According to latest data collated by The Hindu, more than 100 power plants in the country have coal stocks that have fallen below the critical mark of 25%, while more than 50 have seen stocks fall below 10%. The protracted supply crunch of coal, which is the second in six months, has scuppered power supply in several parts of the country as coal continues to meet almost 70% of India’s energy demand. Following distress signals from power producers and suppliers, Coal India Limited is scrambling to ramp up supplies, which it says is currently 14.2% higher than it was during the same period last year. The company added that it had raised its production to 26.4 million tonnes during the first half of April- a 27% year-on-year growth. Additionally, CIL announced that 8.75 MTs of coal will be made available to state and Central generating companies by the end of May to help tide over the shortage.

China grants licence to new coal mine that could run for 97 years 

The Chinese government granted a licence for a new coal mine — the Baijiahaizi mine in Ordos, Inner Mongolia — that could run for an estimated 96.8 years at an annual extraction rate of 15 million tonnes. The mine started operations in 2019 but the licence now makes its operations legal and it holds 2.03 billion tonnes of fuel. The region itself is China’s biggest in terms of annual coal output and is on pace to extract 1.18 billion tonnes of the fuel by the end of 2022. 

India: Coal demand may grow by 63% by 2030 but govt may lower coal power’s share to 30%

India’s new draft Economic Survey 2021-22 showed that the demand for coal in the country may grow by 63% by 2030 to reach 1.3-1.5 billion tonnes annually, which would imply that there would be no case for a transition away from the fuel in the near future. The findings of the survey were presented to the Rajya Sabha, but at the same time, the Ministry of Power will attempt to slash the share of coal power in the country’s energy mix to 32% (down from 52%) by 2030. The statement comes as the Ministry is reportedly ramping up its support for renewables over their very low tariffs — a low as Rs. 1.99/kWh for solar — and its support to the “Go Electric” campaign to provide cleaner power to India’s growing fleet of EVs.