Vol 2, March 2023 | Reality check

IPCC-guided mitigation efforts are disproportionately shared between countries, only some of whom would be required to make historically unprecedented efforts.

Its climate models fail to reflect and preserve the principles of equity and rights to development while charting decarbonisation pathways. Read more

IPCC-guided mitigation efforts are disproportionately shared between countries, only some of whom would be required to make historically unprecedented efforts.

IPCC climate reports reveal an unequal science

Its models fail to reflect and preserve the principles of equity and rights to development while charting decarbonisation pathways

The pre-eminent authority on the science of climate change, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on Monday published the final report from its sixth assessment cycle (AR6). The Synthesis Report (AR6 SYR), which is essentially a compilation of the most requested hits from the three working group reports published in 2021 and 2022, reiterates warnings of a closing window for emission reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. While the concluding report of AR6 holds little in terms of fresh information, it comes at a crucial juncture in the charting of long-term climate action. The fact that this will be the last IPCC report for several years, before reports from the seventh assessment cycle (AR7) start rolling out, only adds to the significance of the contents of the report.

Key among these contents are the models described in the IPCC’s AR6 and the newly published Synthesis Report. Despite their appreciable importance to key climate policy questions of the day (or because of it), questions are being raised around the real-world feasibility and differential implications held by the models for developing and developed countries. How realistic are the futures described in IPCC’s models? To what extent do they reflect and preserve the principles of equity and rights to development while charting decarbonisation pathways?

The many inequities of modelling

Emissions from three fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas—have caused the climate havoc we see today. Since carbon is carbon irrespective of its source, one would imagine mitigation scenarios outlined by the IPCC to be agnostic to the source. The models, however, single out only coal, predominantly used in the developing world, for rapid and drastic declines. 

Questioning socio-political feasibility of the IPCC’s focus on coal phase-outs, a new study published in Nature on February 6, 2023, points to an underestimation of levels of reduction in oil and gas to limit warming within 1.5˚C. It finds that IPCC pathways require coal generation to decline in countries like China, India and South Africa “twice as fast as achieved historically for any power technology in any country.” And that if more realistic pathways are drawn up, it would require the Global North to cut emissions 50% faster. 

And while there is an argument that the climate crisis is unprecedented and so, efforts have to be more radical than in the past, the real weight of the burden and who ends up bearing it is the question. “Reducing oil dependence following the 1970s price spikes, or phasing out nuclear after the Fukushima disaster required huge policy efforts,” explained Greg Muttitt, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. There were also other factors at play in such energy transitions like the collapse of the Soviet Union and effects of wars and sanctions. 

Such IPCC-guided mitigation efforts are disproportionately shared between countries, only some of whom would be required to make historically unprecedented efforts. The median IPCC 1.5°C pathway reduces coal power globally by 87% by 2030 and by 96% by 2035. For South Africa, which is dependent on coal for around 80% of its power, this pathway entails replacement of an overwhelming portion of its power fleet within a decade. On the other hand, global gas power generation, most of which occurs in high-income countries, falls by just 14% by 2030 in the median pathway. And oil by just 10% by 2030. “An excessive focus on coal phaseout as the primary mitigation tool can create a perverse narrative that developing countries must contribute more to mitigation,” the paper states. 

A major implication of the paper is that if IPCC pathways do not describe a realistic future, they become less useful as policy guides. For example, to point to required levels of emission cuts in the Global North. Consider how the US emits more CO2 from oil than India does from coal, but there is virtually no discourse calling for a scale down of such production that can correspond to the global recognition to do the same for coal. India’s per capita coal consumption is also only a little more than half the world average, lower than in countries like the US and Germany. 

In their case against the oil giant Shell, the Dutch environmental organisation Milieudefensie, too, notes that IPCC pathways calling for faster phaseouts for coal than oil and gas stem from “theoretical assumptions” that are “somewhat at odds with the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities”. Globally too, the oil and gas sector is responsible for 25% more CO2 emissions than coal. 

In their “more societally feasible” scenarios, the authors note that countries in the Global South would still have to reduce coal power generation by a third by 2030, and give it up fully by 2050. But they call for more drastic reductions in oil and gas in the Global North to make up the difference. More broadly, they outline higher Global North emission reductions across all sources of emissions: oil, gas, coal, cement and land use change. But the biggest changes i.e. departures from scenarios outlined by the IPCC, occur in the transport and industry sectors, and in emissions from oil and gas.

Modelling efforts can be inherently inequitable

IPCC pathways are generated using global integrated assessment models (IAMs), which combine information from various scientific disciplines, taking into account both human and earth systems and interactions between the two. In essence, IAMs are complex models that examine possible futures of energy and climate systems and also the economy. The aim is to provide policy relevant insights. 

However, IAMs also have limitations given how they represent the world from purely technical and economic perspectives. Coal delivers the least energy per tonne of CO2 emitted, and clean alternatives are available. Costs of labour and land are cheaper in the developing world so running these new technologies would be cheaper than in the developed world. No wonder then that IAMs, which prioritise least-cost pathways, rely very heavily on a coal phase out to achieve emission reductions. But this ignores socio-political equations like the burden of energy transition on poorer countries and also economic costs like interest rates. For instance, consider how clean energy financing in developing countries can be up to seven times higher than in the US or Europe. But IAMs assume that all capital required is available. 

Aayushi Awasthy, PhD Economics (energy), University of East Anglia, explains that when looking at an analysis from an implementation perspective, a model can, for example, say that costs of setting up a wind farm in India are low. But, she adds, this does not account for India-specific problems on how the farm would be set up, apart from overnight capital expenditure. So we need coordination between global, national and state-level modelling to be able to adequately address ground realities. 

IAMs also have blindspots when it comes to their assessments of gas. Methane has a higher warming potential than CO2 but a shorter lifespan. So the use of 20-year vs 100-year equivalencies determines how much gas you should or shouldn’t use. “The short run implications of gas are far worse than normally modelled,” says Rahul Tongia, senior fellow at Centre for Social and Economic Progress. There are also other issues like the underestimation of methane leaks

The other issue that is rarely noted are grid-specific implications of high renewable energy and corresponding needs for storage. Each country is different and India is coal-heavy. “This makes renewables-based flexibility harder [than in countries which have gas as a backstop] because India would need more storage to allow more renewables than most countries or even the global average,” Tongia notes. But it remains unclear if IAMs are coupled with country-specific grid modelling. 

IAMs also do not consider past emissions. Modellers find it “challenging to envision truly equitable emissions pathways because that would mean high-income countries would have to reach net-zero immediately,” explains Aljoša Slameršak, PhD researcher at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. High-income countries like those in Europe and the US have used more than their fair share of the global carbon budget and are still emitting high levels of CO2— both in absolute terms and on a per capita basis. But because such high mitigation burdens on these countries are considered infeasible, “IAMs resort to the “practical” solution where emissions burdens are distributed cost-effectively,” she adds. 

But such cost-effective pathways entail stark trade-offs between equity and economics. Tongia points out that “even small shifts in economic efficiency can have 10x shifts in equity.”

It is this same emphasis on cost-effectiveness that allows for a problematic reliance on tree-planting efforts. “Because it’s impossible to scale up existing technologies at deployment rates that could be considered reasonable, vegetation models are coupled with IAMs,” explains Tejal Kanitkar, associate professor at National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore. And because afforestation efforts, especially those carried out in developing countries, are assumed to be cheap, IPCC scenarios emphasise the role of land-based CO2 sequestration and even technologies such as bioenergy and carbon capture in the Global South.  

“IPCC pathways often get used uncritically as policy guides, which can give a distorted picture of what is needed to achieve climate goals. A modeller based in Europe will tend to have the barriers to electrifying the car fleet more present in their mind because they hear and talk about them every day than the barriers to replacing power infrastructure in the Global South.”

– Greg Muttitt, International Institute for Sustainable Development

And while modellers may well be aware of all such limitations, “IPCC pathways often get used uncritically as policy guides, which can give a distorted picture of what is needed to achieve climate goals,” Muttitt said. Also, even though IAMs are largely considered to be objective, modellers and researchers are still human with their own biases. “A modeller based in Europe will tend to have the barriers to electrifying the car fleet more present in their mind because they hear and talk about them every day than the barriers to replacing power infrastructure in the Global South,” Muttitt notes. Hence, we end up with models that better reflect real-world difficulties where the IAM modellers are based, which is mostly in the Global North.

Then there’s the fact that IAMs do not take into account failures of the developed world in mobilising climate finance for energy transition in the developing world. So one could argue that IAMs, which play a big role in shaping climate debate, provide quantified guidance on mitigation action alone but not on climate finance. 

“IAM models don’t claim to be fair,” Awasthy points out. They only claim to present the cheapest option, assuming that a single global government is in-charge of mitigation action. The analogy in economics is a ‘socially benevolent dictator’ assumption. “It’s when economists don’t want to think about politics, geopolitics and other considerations. It has merit in its own right but can’t dictate the actions of developing countries,” she adds. 

These limitations have not escaped the attention of IPCC authors. Following lengthy discussions at the plenary meeting for the Synthesis Report, a disclaimer was elevated from the footnotes to a box on modelling scenarios included in the report — “Modelled scenarios and pathways are used to explore future emissions, climate change, related impacts and risks, and possible mitigation and adaptation strategies and are based on a range of assumptions, including socio-economic variables and mitigation options. These are quantitative projections and are neither predictions nor forecasts. Global modelled emission pathways, including those based on cost effective approaches, contain regionally differentiated assumptions and outcomes, and have to be assessed with the careful recognition of these assumptions. Most do not make explicit assumptions about global equity, environmental justice or intra-regional income distribution. IPCC is neutral with regard to the assumptions underlying the scenarios in the literature assessed in this report, which do not cover all possible futures.”

IPCC projects inequities far into the future

On November 3, 2022, research that shows how IPCC pathways project global inequities far into the future was published in pre-print form. Conducted by scientists at NIAS in Bangalore and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, the study found stark differences in both per capita GDP and per capita energy consumption that maintain existing inequities between the developed and developing world even up to 2050. 

Weighted average per capita GDP and per capita consumption across models for scenarios compatible with 1.5°C (C1) and 2°C (C3). Reddish arrows show Annex-I parties (developed countries) to the UNFCCC and blueish arrows are used for non-Annex-I regions (developing countries) Source.

Except for China, “the per capita GDP, in the rest of the​ ​developing world in 2050 is​ ​restricted to USD 9,000 – USD 28,000 at the most and for South​ ​Asia and Sub-Saharan​ ​Africa at even lower levels of ~USD 18,000 and ~USD 9,000​ ​respectively,” the paper states. It adds that this is “lower than the current per capita GDP​ ​levels of​ ​developed countries as a whole and much lower if compared to the current per capita GDP​ ​of​ ​OECD countries​.”​

The projections for near-term emissions reductions are “even more egregious” from the standpoint of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities,” Kanitkar points out. Developing countries are projected to start reducing emissions, from their already low levels of per capita emissions, immediately and deeply. In fact, in some scenarios , Sub-Saharan Africa reduces emissions at rates faster in the near term as compared to developed countries. “There are serious questions about not only the equity, but also the feasibility of these scenarios, that become relevant given such projections,” she adds. 

The study originally was based on the 367 scenarios of one model intercomparison project. The final, however, is based on 556 out of 700 scenarios in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report on mitigation. All of them project an unequal future that perpetuates current developmental inequities. A crucial point here is that it’s not just fossil fuel use but even overall energy consumption, including from renewables and consumption of goods and services too are restricted for developing countries. 

“It’s an excellent paper and the finding is interesting because it proves that peoples’ aspiration is not built into any of the scenarios in the models,” Awasthy says. She added that more work needs to be done on the theme, “led by developing countries so they can shape the analysis. A balanced analysis has to be both realistic and aspirational.”

Projected average per capita energy consumption across regions and scenarios compatible with 1.5°C (C1 and C2) and 2°C (C3 and C4). All values are in Giga joules/person/year. Reddish bars/arrows show Annex-I parties to the UNFCCC and blueish bars/arrows are used for non-Annex-I regions Source

Across all scenarios, North America is projected to have the highest per capita energy consumption in 2050, which is about 6-8 times more than Sub-Saharan Africa and around 5 times more than South Asia. A question that arises here, Kanitkar said, is how countries in South Asia and Africa are supposed to achieve development at most with 35 gigajoules of energy per person. And if this is simply a result of end-use of energy, why don’t countries in North America have access to the same energy efficient technology given how they are still using more than around 120 gigajoules of energy per person in 2050.

Such inequitable projections stem from the fact that IAMs freeze income disparities at current levels because they do not consider distributive justice. What this means is that while individual incomes can increase, the differences between them cannot. So regions in the developing world will always be poorer relative to developed world counterparts. 

The scenarios also place the burden of carbon removal—both via land-based carbon sinks and technologies like carbon capture and storage—on developing countries because over 65% of CO2 sequestration happens in such countries, the paper shows. This is one reason why the scenarios envision Latin America as reaching net-zero far sooner than many developed countries.  

A paper released last year, too, pointed to trends in emission reduction pathways outlined by the IPCC that “perpetuate colonial inequalities. Slameršak is a co-author in this paper. 

A just transition away from fossil fuels would require energy convergence wherein reduced energy use in the wealthy countries could make space for higher energy consumption for developmental purposes elsewhere. But instead, the authors say, “existing scenarios maintain the Global North’s energy privilege at a per capita level 2-3 times higher than in the Global South.” IAMs have a blindspot here too given how they factor in only supply-side decarbonisation and do not account for demand reduction. 

This paper, too, noted the reliance on “risky” negative emissions technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage in IPCC pathways that result in an appropriation of land in the Global South “to support the Global North’s energy privilege” with other devastating consequences like on food systems, water and biodiversity. 

“It’s not that the models that are used to construct these scenarios do not make explicit assumptions about global equity, but that they in fact assume the perpetuation of existing inequities for decades to come,” Kanitkar says.

The dubious reflection of equity and ground realities in IPCC-curated models are likely to come up during the course of inter-governmental negotiations on the direction of climate action. While one can expect intense politicking as countries bargain for outcomes most favourable to them, the challenge confronting the IPCC is larger. The credibility of the panel rests on its ability to minimise ambiguities and provide policy guidance. The removal and remedy of inequities of accepted climate science will likely be key to maintaining this role, and failure to do so effectively could rapidly devolve into an existential threat for the body. As the IPCC closes the chapter on AR6 and begins charting a workplan for AR7, the scientific body will be acutely aware of the distance it must close to maintain its policy relevance. “There definitely is awareness now that things must change. What direction that will take for AR7 is yet to be seen, but the issue of problems with the models has been increasingly raised by India and many others. It is also no longer something that IAM modellers can dismiss,” remarks Kanitkar.

Hundreds of scientists took eight years to compile thousands of pages, but boiled down to one message: act now, or it will be too late.

Act now or it’s too late: IPCC ‘synthesis report’ gives final warning on climate crisis

World’s leading climate scientists who are part of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released the synthesis report giving a “final warning” on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert. The report said exceeding 1.5°C warming limit would lead to irreversible impacts for glaciers, extreme heat stress in tropics, which will impact those who have been least responsible for global warming. India’s environment minister Bhupendra Yadav said the report for policymakers endorses India’s call for equity and climate justice.

Hundreds of scientists took eight years to compile thousands of pages, but boiled down to one message: act now, or it will be too late, the Guardian reported. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”

The fourth and final installment of the sixth assessment report (AR6) by the IPCC, the body of the world’s leading climate scientists, is the synthesis report, so called because it draws together the key findings of the preceding three main sections. Together, they make a comprehensive review of global knowledge of the climate. The next IPCC report won’t be released until about 2030. That means AR6 is effectively the last IPCC report while it is still feasible—only just—to stay within 1.5°C.

2015-2020: Deforestation in India second-highest in the world, says new study 

Between 2015 and 2020, India lost the second-largest number of forests in the world, according to a new study, reported DTE. India lost 668,400 ha  between 2015 and 2020, compared to 384,000 ha of forests between 1990 and 2000. With a difference of 284,400 ha in forestry loss between 1990 and 2020, India has seen the biggest increase in deforestation, the document read. 

“As the country with the second-largest population in the world, India has had to compensate for the increase in residents—this has come at a cost in the way of deforestation,” it added. Brazil, which ranked first with 1,695,700 ha of deforestation between 2015 and 2020, mostly lost the forests due to climate change. However, this is much lower than the 4,254,800 ha it lost between 1990 and 2000. 

Palm oil cultivation in Indonesia led to the destruction of 650,000 ha of forests, making it the third-highest loss in the world, right behind India. Cattle rearing was the leading cause of global deforestation (2,105,753 ha annually) followed by the cultivation of oil seeds (950,609 ha) and logging (678,744 ha annually). While Brazil reduced deforestation by 2,559,100 ha from 2015 to 2020 and Indonesia by 1,876,000 ha for the same period, India’s figures have only increased significantly, the report stated. 

India witnesses rise in forest fires; govt to develop more effective early warning heat system

According to the satellite-based forest fire monitoring by Forest Survey of India (FSI), around 42,799 forest fires have been detected between March 1 and March 12. This shows a 115% increase in forest fires in the first 12 days of March, the Hindustan Times reported. According to the IMD, the average maximum temperature in February was the highest in recorded history at 29.66C. Also to mitigate the effects of heat stress, the central government is developing an early warning system for heatwaves that will notify people at specific places at least five days in advance.  

Concerns rising over increasing glacial melt in Indus river basin

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Science hfound that increased glacial melt in the Indus river basin due to global warming is likely to raise strategic concerns over water distribution in the region. The Indus River basin covering an area of approximately 1 million km is a transboundary region with multiple stakeholders – India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan – being dependent for their water security. India and Pakistan share an Indus water treaty (1960) for equitable distribution. However, there might be a need for relooking into some of the water-sharing practices in the basin as spatial variability in stored water and mass loss would affect the stakeholders differently. Except for the Upper Indus basin, all other sub-basins show a substantial rate of glacier mass loss which can affect future water availability. 

Tropical Cyclone Freddy looks likely to set a new record

Tropical cyclone Freddy is likely to be the longest lasting tropical cyclone to have ever been observed. Spanning over 36 days, the cyclone travelled more than 8,000 km and crossed the entire South Indian Ocean before . The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which acts as a WMO regional centre, named Freddy on February 6 a few hundred kilometres off the northwest coast of Australia. It first made landfall in Madagascar on February 21 and in Southern Mozambique on February 24. It tracked over Mozambique and Zimbabwe for several days, bringing heavy rains and flooding. It then looped back towards the Mozambique Channel and picked up energy from the warm waters and moved towards the southwestern coast of Madagascar and then back towards the province of Zambezia in Mozambique on March 11. The final act of the tropical cyclone has seen intense rains and flooding in Mozambique and Malawi which have left at least 522 people dead and millions more affected. Every year the oceans have been taking the brunt of the impacts of human-made global warming. It is known that warming due to greenhouse gases is absorbed by the oceans, increasing their heat content, thereby, helping strengthen cyclones. Over its lifetime, Freddy saw an astonishing seven rounds of rapid intensification, also a world record.

Severe drought in Argentina threatening agriculture and economy 

The ongoing drought in Argentina is deepening the economic crisis, heightening default fears and putting at risk targets agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The country is battling 99% inflation where farmers are facing losses of $14 billion and 50 million tonnes less of grain output across soy, corn and wheat. The soy forecast is already at the lowest since the 1999/2000 season and the expected yield is the worst since 1996/97. If no rain comes, soy and corn forecasts could fall even further. The drought has been exacerbated by high temperatures linked to climate change and goes back in some areas to May 2022. 

Record amount of CO2 released in boreal forests wildfires 

Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the Boreal forests of Russia and Canada peaked drastically in 2021 to a record high of 1.76 billion tons. According to an international team of researchers led by Earth system scientists at the University of California, Irvine, the emission is 150% higher than annual mean CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2020. It is two decades of rapid warming and extreme drought in Northern Canada and Siberia. It is believed that if this scale of emissions from unmanaged lands becomes a new normal, stabilizing climate will be even more challenging. Boreal forests are high-latitude forests spanning Canada and Russia and make up around a quarter of the world’s forests and store large amounts of carbon in their trees and soil.

Methane super-emitters risk triggering climate tipping points 

Recent data has revealed that more than 1,000 human-caused “methane super-emitter events” were detected in 2022, mostly from oil and gas facilities. The sites which were detected with the help of satellite data found the US, Russia and Turkmenistan responsible for the largest number of leaks from fossil fuel facilities. The biggest one was a major pipeline leak of 427 tonnes an hour in August last year, near Turkmenistan’s Caspian coast –  equivalent to the rate of emissions from 67m cars, or the hourly national emissions of France. Future methane emissions from fossil fuel sites – the methane bombs – are also forecast to be huge, threatening the entire global “carbon budget” limit required to keep heating below 1.5C. Methane emissions cause 25% of global heating today and there has been a surge since 2007.

The alliance will also prepare climate vulnerable countries to handle loss and damage funds if and when they do come from developed nations. Photo: DFAT-Flickr

Poorest nations team up with researchers to formulate effective loss and damage plans

The world’s least developed countries along with small islands have joined hands to facilitate a better response to climate disasters. Countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Senegal, Vanuatu and Malawi have teamed up with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in the UK to help set up national facilities that will effectively disburse funds and resources for climate disasters. 

The alliance will also help communities inform their governments about local perspectives on climate shocks. It will also prepare climate vulnerable countries to handle loss and damage funds if and when they do come from developed nations. 

China gives judges guidelines on hearing climate cases in order to meet carbon targets

China’s Supreme People’s Court came up with guidelines for judges on handling climate-related cases. The guide document encourages judges to balance development with corporate emission reduction when giving their judgements on lawsuits. The document allows courts across China to hear cases related to low-carbon technology, energy conservation, carbon trading and green finance. It also encourages judges to promote climate adaptation and mitigation. According to the document, judges need to focus on the carbon trading market, which has led to a variety of lawsuits in the recent past.

EU reaches deal on first set of rules for green bond issuance

The EU agreed on the first set of rules to issue green bonds aimed at meeting its net-zero goals. Compliance of these rules, however, will be on a voluntary basis. The rules are designed to make it easier for investors to identify high-quality green bonds and companies that will ultimately reduce greenwashing. Among the rules is a clear reporting process on how the proceeds from a bond sale are used. Bond verification by external reviewers has also been standardised. The firms that are issuing the green bond will now have to show how the investments will aid their net-zero transition plans. The deal on the new rules will have to be formally stamped after which it will take a year for them to come into force. 

Australia supports Vanuatu’s climate change resolution

Australia supported Vanuatu’s bid for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the climate crisis. Vanuatu will soon put up its resolution to the UN general assembly seeking an opinion on the international legal obligations that nations have towards climate action. The small island country wants the ICJ to particularly focus on small island developing countries which are most vulnerable to climate change. The Guardian reported that Australia is likely to push for the inclusion of the obligations of all major emitters—current and historic—as this is the best way for the world to limit warming to 1.5°C. At least 69 other developed and developing nations, apart from Australia, have so far supported Vanuatu’s resolution. 

From April 1, vehicles will need to have an on-board self-diagnostic device to monitor the real-time driving emission levels. Photo:mukund76-Flickr

Prices of passenger, commercial vehicles to rise before April 1 emission norms deadline

The prices of passenger and commercial vehicles are expected to further increase as stricter second phase of BS-VI emission norms are set to kick in from April 1. The industry is making their four-wheelers meet the Bharat Stage VI Phase 2 targets (equivalent to Euro-VI emission norms). Costs will be passed on to consumers. From April 1, vehicles will need to have an on-board self-diagnostic device to monitor the real-time driving emission levels. The device will monitor the catalytic converter and oxygen sensors to check on emissions. Warning lights will indicate emission limits and time for a service. To limit the fuel burnt, vehicles will have programmed fuel injectors to control the timing and amount of fuel injected into the petrol engine. Semiconductors will have to be upgraded to monitor throttle, crankshaft positions, air intake pressure, temperature of the engine and the contents of the emissions from the exhaust (particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, CO2, sulphur), etc. Sulphur content is the major difference between BS-IV and BS-VI norms.

39 of the 50 most polluted cities in the world are in India: Report

India ranked the world’s eighth most-polluted country in 2022, dropping from fifth place the previous year, according to the Swiss firm IQAir in its ‘World Air Quality Report’. Of the 50 most polluted cities in the world, 39 are in India.

Chad, Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, India, Egypt and Tajikistan were the top 10 most polluted countries while Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, and New Zealand met the WHO PM2.5 guideline (annual average of 5 Aug/m3 or less). The data from 131 countries was taken from over 30,000 ground-based monitors (state and private).

The report stated that in India, the transportation sector causes 20-35% of the PM2.5 pollution, while other sources of pollution are industrial units, coal-fired power plants and biomass burning.

After the two top most-polluted cities, Lahore in Pakistan and Hotan in China, Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi is in third place and Delhi ranked fourth. According to the report, 31 cities, including 10 cities in Uttar Pradesh and seven in Haryana, have seen a steep percentage decline in pollution levels.  

Aaditya Thackeray writes to Centre over rising air pollution in Mumbai And Maharashtra 

‘Poor’ to ‘very poor’ ratings of air quality in Mumbai over the past six months prompted former environment minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray to write a letter to Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav expressing his concerns over construction activities in Mumbai happening without supervision. Aaditya demanded the relocation of refineries and fertiliser factories from the city to save the residents of Mahul and Wadala from pollution and the implementation of provisions under the climate action plan for the city.

Thackeray also posted his letter on Twitter. He said the BMC’s plans for a study committee and smog towers are only delaying tactics to benefit contractors. He requested the Union minister to direct the state government to set up a climate cell as suggested by the Climate Action Plan 2022.

Captive power plants in NCR get coal phase-down timelines

Early this week, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in the National Capital Region issued guidelines for captive power plants operating in the region to shift away from coal. Captive thermal power plants will have to ensure co-firing of biomass-based pellets of at least 5% by September 30 and at least 10% by December 31, 2023. A similar guideline was issued to thermal power plants operating in the region last year, with the deadline for 10% co-firing set to run out at the end of the month.

Green court sets up panel to study air pollutions around AIIMS in Delhi

India’s green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) constituted a seven-member joint committee to investigate and control air pollution around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi. The court passed the order on an application against the failure of statutory and administrative authorities to control air pollution, causing harm to the health of indoor and outdoor patients, doctors, and staff of AIIMS. The court was informed that the pollution around AIIMS Delhi is being caused by a significant number of hawkers and vehicles and the absence of an adequate green belt in the area is preventing the absorption of dust and carbon dioxide emissions, which is crucial to maintaining air quality within prescribed limits. The green court was also informed that the lack of proper measures to handle garbage and bio-medical waste scientifically was adding to the pollution. 

Air pollution ‘speeds up osteoporosis’ in women 

Air pollution is accelerating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, found a new study conducted in the US. Researchers scanned the bones of more than 9,000 women living in four different parts of the US. Each had a bone scan three times over a six-year period that was compared with the air they breathed. On average, air pollution accounted for a doubling of the speed of bone loss.

Osteoporosis weakens bones and is linked to more than 2 million fractures a year in the US, with a cost of more than $20 billion (£16.9 billion) annually. The study showed effects at air pollution concentrations that are well below the current limits in the US and Europe, and well below the UK government’s proposed limits for 2040.

The US researchers found the lumbar spine was most susceptible to air pollution-induced bone loss and especially from nitrogen oxides. These are a group of pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, that breach legal limits along many main roads in the UK and across Europe. These breaches have persisted since the start of the century, exposing many people to high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. This comes mainly from traffic, especially the large numbers of diesel vehicles that were manufactured to pass exhaust tests, but produced much more pollution when used on our roads. 

The government has suspended the 2019 and 2022 orders mandating ALMM for one financial year. Photo: University of Salford Press Office-flickr

Reliance, Tata, First Solar bid for PLI phase 2 subsidies, Adani ‘notably absent’

Reliance Industries, Hyderabad-based Shirdi Sai Electricals and the US-based First Solar bid for India’s phaser 2 solar Production Linked Incentive (PLI) of ₹19,000 crore subsidies, including ₹12,000 crore for end-to-end PWCM manufacturing, or sand-to-module manufacturing projects. ₹4,500 crore have been allocated for safe-cell-modules and ₹3,500 crore to cell modules. Maximum allocation is for the most cost-intensive part of the chain, Polysilicon Manufacturing, where India has no manufacturer currently and it is dependent on Chinese products, reported Saur Energy. Reliance, Adani and Shirdi Said were also the winners of Phase 1 PLI scheme with ₹4,500 crore of subsidies. IREDA was the nodal agency for Phase 1, while SECI has been appointed as nodal agency for the Phase 2 of the PLI scheme. Other bidders in Phase 2 are Tata Power solar, Vikram Solar, Ware Energies, ReNEw Solar, Avaada, JSW, Ampin, and Green Energy. Adani is “notably absent”, the portal reported. 

Centre exempts developers from acquiring modules only from ALMM list for one year

Solar projects commissioned by March 31, 2024 ,will now be exempted from procuring modules listed under ALMM (Approved List of Modules and Manufacturers). The government suspended the 2019 and 2022 orders mandating ALMM for one financial year. Earlier, India’s power minister had said that the domestic manufacturing capacity was insufficient to cater to the large planned solar capacity additions, and the national solar targets of 280 GW by 2030. Power minister RK Singh said he had expanded the solar project bidding so much that domestic supply could not meet the demand. Even then, a recent IEEFA report pointed out that India is not bidding enough to meet its RE targets. Developers were missing their deadlines because of domestic short supply and 40% basic Customs duty on solar imports, which made the cheaper Chinese modules economically unviable. =

China, meanwhile, complained against India’s ALMM mandate at the WTO saying the law that bars Chinese equipment was a trade barrier. China’s complaint comes days after India suspended the ALMM mandate by one financial year. China raised the issue for the fourth time when WTO members were discussing standards and ethical regulations that could contribute to addressing climate change challengers. 

Domestic supply shortage: 95% of Indian solar equipment export was to the US in 2022

Meanwhile, Indian domestic manufacturers of solar equipment made a record profit from its exports to the US, even as developers faced equipment crunch at home making the costs rise. Indian exports recorded a 321% rise amounting $561. 6 million, 95% of which was exports to the US. India has become the top supplier of modules after the US banned Chinese modules over the issues of forced labour law in Uyghur province. The US also imposed sanctions on Chinese products after investigations revealed that China was bypassing the US duties by shifting their assembling base to south-east Asian countries. Mercom reported that exporting solar modules and cells to the US was more profitable for domestic manufacturers than selling them in India. This has raised concerns that the shortage in supply was raising the prices in India. 

Tata Power to build 510-megawatt wind-solar hybrid project in Delhi

Tata Power Renewable Energy (TPREL) signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Tata Power Delhi Distribution (Tata Power-DDL), for 510 MW hybrid project. The project will save on an average of 1540 MUs of CO2 emissions annually for Tata PowerDDL, a joint venture between Tata Power and Govt. of Delhi, that supplies electricity to a populace of over 7 million in North Delhi, the Business Standard reported. The newspaper reported that the PPA has the capacity bifurcation of 170 MW solar and 340 MW wind power. Located in Karnataka, it is one of the largest hybrid projects in the country and will be commissioned within 24 months from the PPA execution date. Tatas won this project through a competitive bidding process, followed by the release of LOA by Tata Power-DDL.

EC to introduce market reforms to boost solar uptake to meet 240 GW by 2030 target

The European Commission will reform its Green Deal Industrial Plan (EU’s electricity market) to stabilise RE prices across the EU and boost the uptake of renewables to help European solar manufacturers get a level-playing field with other countries. EC will reform the Electricity Regulation and the Electricity Directive and the Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (REMIT) Regulation to incentivise longer-term contracts with non-fossil power production. The reforms will reflect the lower cost of renewables to boost the installation rate of solar PV as the EU aims to deploy 740GWdc of solar PV by 2030, as part of its REPowerEU strategy released last year.

Kadri Simson, EU commissioner for Energy, said: Driving investment in renewables will help us reach our Green Deal goals and make the EU the powerhouse of clean energy for the coming decades.

Auto PLI disbursals to be under scanner

Following the allegations that many electric two-wheeler makers have wrongfully claimed subsidies under its flagship FAME II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) initiative, the government is undertaking measures to tighten scrutiny prior to disbursal of incentives under the ₹25,938-crore Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the automobile and auto component sectors. The Economic Times reported that to qualify for incentives, businesses must add domestic worth of at least 50% to the invoiced bill of materials. The Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI), which is responsible for implementing the PLI scheme for the automotive sector, has also established standards for manufacturers to follow. Individual consultations with each chosen candidate have taken place to go over the standard operating procedures (SOPs). The government allocated ₹604 crore in the budget earlier this year for disbursal under PLI auto and auto parts. The incentive amount will increase as the plan expands over the next four to five years.

India reports 21.7 lakh registered EVs, over 10,000 public charging stations

According to Minister of State (MoS) for Heavy Industries Krishan Pal Gurjar, there are 21.7 Lakh registered electric vehicles in India. As per the information gathered up until March 6, Uttar Pradesh topped the rankings with more than 4.65 lakh EV registrations, followed by Maharashtra with 2.26 lakh. Bengaluru came in fourth with 1.83 lakh registrations, while Delhi stood third with 2.03 lakh. The information also showed that Delhi, with 1,845, had the most public charging stations nationwide. Maharashtra has 660 EV charging outlets, compared to 704 in Karnataka. India has 6,586 public charging outlets spread out over its entire landmass. Another report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) however showed that Delhi had the highest EV penetration in India at 8.3% between April 2021 and September 2022, the Times of India reported. The study listed Assam (5.91%) and Karnataka (4.85%) after Delhi in EV penetration. However, Uttar Pradesh topped the list in terms of total number of EVs sold, with 1,65,338 EVs with a penetration of 3.91%, the study added. 

Germany objects to EU’s ban on sale of new CO2-emitting cars

The European Union’s legislation to prohibit the sale of new CO2-emitting cars beginning in 2035 is being blocked by Germany to shield its top industry from the difficult transition of getting rid of cars with internal combustion engines. The legislation that would ban the sale of new CO2-emitting cars and vans starting in 2035 and mandate the use of electric vehicles instead was approved by the European Parliament and member states of the EU Council. EU ministers were supposed to grant their final approval, but Germany objected. This is because one of the three parties in Germany’s governing coalition, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), wants the European Commission to include a provision in the law allowing the sale of vehicles with combustion engines as long as they use so-called e-fuels. These synthetic fuels are climate neutral, but require a lot more energy to produce than charging an electric vehicle.

Biden, EU president to negotiate on EV subsidies

US president Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to negotiate the use of European minerals critical in the production of batteries for EVs that qualify for US tax credits. The two sides consented to begin discussions aimed at resolving disagreements between the US and the EU regarding the electric vehicle tax credits, which are part of Biden’s clean energy legislation worth about  $375 billion, and include incentives for the purchase of domestically manufactured vehicles. Critical raw materials sourced from the EU will be handled as if they were sourced from the US if the agreement is approved. 

Xi warns of oversight risk to EV battery industry in China

According to the Economic Times, Chinese president Xi Jinping said he was “both pleased and concerned” about the world’s largest battery maker CATL’s electric vehicle battery dominance. To prevent the current boom from crashing in an overcapacity bust, industry executives and regulators were warned to be prepared to slow down expansion. Last month, CATL joined hands with Ford to build a new factory in Michigan to produce lithium iron phosphate batteries for its electric vehicles. Xi responded to a presentation by the CATL team on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament and said that regulation had a place to guarantee that developing industries like battery production proceeded in a steady manner to avoid “a boom and a headlong rush that would dissipate in the end”. 

The Coal Ministry recently launched the auction of 29 coal blocks for commercial mining to enhance the average dry fuel output.

29 coal blocks auctioned for commercial mining

The coal ministry recently launched an auction of 29 coal blocks for commercial mining to enhance the average dry fuel output by an additional 7% in the next two years, as the combined peak rated capacity (PRC) of these reserves is around 91 million tonnes. The auction of coal reserves for commercial mining in the sixth round and the second attempt of the fifth round on November 3, 2022, was launched with the aim of starting production by 2024-25.

Coal returns to CPEC, puts a cloud over China’s climate pledges

A long-stalled coal 300 MW coal power plant linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar was finally green-lit by the government of Pakistan. The project will be financed and built by Chinese state-run entities. The coal power plant, which was conceived seven years ago, was halted as the Pakistani government, which was keen to renegotiate original terms of the agreement with China to change the location and shift to domestic coal from imported coal. Pakistan’s ongoing economic crisis, however, seems to have weakened this resolve with the government reportedly retracting these demands. The move brings fresh scrutiny on China’s role in the project, given the country’s 2021 pledge at the UN General Assembly to not build any new coal-fired power plants abroad.

In related news, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad is reported to have asked the Pakistan government to release overdue payments of about $1.5 billion to Chinese-run power plants in the CPEC.

EU open to support fossil fuel phaseout before COP28 approaches

Ahead of the COP28 climate summit, the European Union (EU) agreed to promote a global fossil fuel phase-out, in an attempt to boost a global deal that failed last year. A text on the diplomatic priorities was approved by ministers from the 27 EU member states in order to give a push to using renewable energy or energy savings—rather than fossil fuels—to replace Russian energy. “The shift towards a climate-neutral economy will require the global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels. The EU will systematically promote and call for a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050,” the EU text said.

EU expected to extend natural gas consumption cuts by another year

This week, the European Commission put forward a proposal to extend the ongoing cut in the bloc’s natural gas demand by 12 months. The 15% cut was put in place last year as a response measure following Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Extension of the emergency measure, to be decided on March28, will see cuts persist at least until the end of the 2023/2024 winter heating season. Although a milder-than-expected winter saw high levels of reserves across the EU, the European Commission expects a tight natural gas market amid challenging macroeconomic conditions and potential weather extremes.