Vol 2, Oct 2022 | Zero sum game

A majority of the models assessed in the IPCC reports are produced in the Global North, leading to the continuation of a specific development model which results in an inadequate representation of the Global South. Photo: Elsevier

Countries, especially in the Global North, need to formulate plans that are more objectively fair and realistic in their execution to effectively combat the climate crisis .Read more

A majority of the models assessed in the IPCC reports are produced in the Global North, leading to the continuation of a specific development model which results in an inadequate representation of the Global South. Photo: Elsevier

Net zero targets: A shot in the dark at mitigating climate change

Countries, especially in the Global North, need to formulate plans that are more objectively fair and realistic in their execution to effectively combat the climate crisis 

More than 128 countries, 235 cities and 702 publicly listed companies in the Forbes Global 2000 have already declared some form of net-zero commitments, a 2022 report by Net Zero Tracker noted. These declarations are a part of the efforts to control the negative impacts of climate change, or what is more commonly known as ‘climate change mitigation’ measures.

In June 2022, India emphasised at the Bonn climate conference that future climate mitigation efforts should respect the climate targets committed under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), following the 2015 Paris Agreement, reported the Third World Network’s climate update. 

The importance of India’s stand at Bonn needs to be understood in light of the race to ‘net zero’ that the world seems to have embarked upon, as part of their climate action plans.

A country or company can attain ‘net-zero’ emissions by removing the same amount of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions that it has produced. Simply put—the net difference between emissions removed and produced should be zero to claim ‘net-zero’ status. When applied to CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, this becomes ‘net-zero CO2’ or ‘net-zero GHG’ emissions.

According to the sixth assessment report (AR6) of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), attaining net-zero CO2 emissions can play a crucial role in restricting the rise in global average temperature to below 2°C.

The AR6 points out this could be achieved by using different methods of ‘carbon dioxide removal’ (CDR). This, however, is easier said than done. Although across the world different projects for CDR are being explored, as of now  the most feasible method for removing carbon dioxide at scale appears to be through afforestation. 

Given that a major share of afforestation potential lies in tropical regions, which is where most developing countries (sub-Saharan Africa and Asia) are located, the burden of implementing CDR is likely to fall on them. This is because the idea of ‘net zero’ would work only if it is implemented within a limited time frame, say 2050. And, waiting for CDR technologies to evolve before adapting measures for removing emissions would be a gamble—with the collective global future at stake.

Roots of net zero

The science of net zero was first mentioned in a 2018 report of the IPCC. This was followed by the sixth annual assessment (AR6) reports of IPCC in 2021, which details it further. The report of Working Group 3 (WG3) in AR6 focuses particularly on ways for attaining net zero.

The WG3 assessed more than 1,200 models, out of which five broad situations for mitigation action were assessed further. Each situation reflects the impact of factors like global population, economic growth, energy consumption, use of renewables, and CDRs, on environment and society.

With a huge number of variables involved, these models make certain assumptions to arrive at conclusions. The findings, therefore, should be viewed within the context of those assumptions. This is a fact that even the IPCC reports mention. But since it is not included in the summary for policymakers (SPM), it receives little public attention.

A recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health points to a crucial limitation of the models assessed in AR6. The models maintain existing global inequalities in energy consumption till the 21st century while calculating projections for the year by which net zero emissions should be achieved by different regions. 

For instance, countries in Africa and the Middle East are allocated 30 gigajoules of energy per capita per year. While OECD countries and Europe are allocated three times that amount, at 100 gigajoules per capita per year till the end of the century. 

“This happens because these models draw future energy growth projections on the basis of current usage levels,” explains Tejal Kanitkar, a specialist in energy and climate change policy, and associate professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru. “Due to which countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which are using low levels of energy now, are expected to continue with the same levels of energy use well into the century. While countries in the Global North are allowed to continue their high levels of energy use.” 

In short, the models are not only flawed, but could also be seen as problematic. 

A key assumption in the above example is that developed countries can continue to have high levels of emission now and remove emissions from the atmosphere using technological innovations like CDR at a later point of time to attain ‘net zero’. 

The problem with this is that they need to begin removing their emissions now as they have already consumed their share of the global carbon budget, or the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that the globe can withstand to keep temperature rise below 2°C. A 2021 study in the Economic and Political Weekly arrived at a similar conclusion. 

However, global policy discussions tend to pay very little attention to the assumptions and flaws of those models. Neither do they consider the fact that 49% of the mitigation scenarios assessed in AR6 come from a single study. A majority of the models assessed in the IPCC reports are produced in the Global North, with assumptions that are suitable to the developed world, leading to the continuation of a specific development model. While the realities of the Global South find inadequate representation in those models.     

The illusion of CDR technologies

The AR6 reports mention that net zero emissions can be achieved by 2050 by adopting certain supply and demand strategies. On the supply side, it includes shifting to non-fossil fuel-based energy sources, while on the demand strategy it requires an increased use of CDR to reduce CO2 emissions.

If implemented well, these strategies might make it possible to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

But the big assumption here is that technology to implement CDR on a large scale is available right now. This is not the case.

“On paper, multiple methods of CDR are available, many of which could be implemented on scale if resources and political priorities were in place. In practice, however, afforestation is perhaps the CDR option that is closest to actually being scaled, because we already have a very substantial forestry industry around the world. But it’s also the technology that most clearly comes with significant challenges if scaled,” explains Wim Carton, a specialist in negative emissions, and a senior lecturer at the Sustainability Centre, Lund University in Sweden. 

There is, for instance,  “a clear risk that most of the burden for afforestation would fall on the tropics, and therefore the Global South. That has historically been the pattern and it is also the assumption that is made in many [IPCC] models, both for biophysical and for economic reasons. Clearly this would lead to significant climate justice concerns—it could mean that industrialised countries outsource much of the responsibility for removals to the developing world,” adds Carton. 

A large-scale afforestation programme, if implemented, would involve planting trees on lands that have historically not been forests, resulting in a massive land use change. Furthermore, afforestation offers no guarantee that carbon will remain stored in perpetuity, especially as incidences of forest fires (and landslides) continue to increase in a warming planet.

This will have implications for food security, which again will have a greater impact on developing countries, as many of them still struggle to deliver sufficient food security. It will also impact water availability and global rainfall patterns. According to a 2022 study in Nature Geoscience, planting trees on a large scale has the potential to reduce water availability in the regions they are planted in and disrupt global rainfall patterns. Another method of CDR is carbon capture and storage (CCS), which, as the name suggests, involves capturing carbon and storing it such that it is removed from the atmosphere. However, CCS, too, does not look like a promising option. A 2022 study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis  examined 55% of the world’s existing CCS programmes, and found “failed / underperforming projects considerably outnumbered successful experiences.” 

No equity in net zero targets

The gaping question of who will bear the cost of technological innovations for implementing CDR, too, remains unanswered.

The AR6 models consider only the cheapest ways of implementing CDR, but do not address the matter of who will pay for those technologies. Developed countries, too, have avoided making any commitments. Neither are they likely to face any pressure for taking the lead on afforestation, as their geographic locations do not make them a suitable candidate for undertaking large-scale tree plantations.

The issue is compounded by the fact that most emissions pathways modelling efforts originate in the developed world and pay little heed to incorporating parameters that would ensure equity. “The fact that most models originate in the Global North should not be a reason for there to be a lack of equity. After all, are equity and justice not universal concepts? These are also concepts that are central to the UNFCCC which the developed countries have accepted. But the exigency of their operationalisation is clearly not felt by academics in developed countries who work on these models. Equity is absent across the scenarios. Not only is there no historical responsibility in these scenarios, but inequalities are projected to continue far into the future. These are least cost models, i.e. they minimise global abatement costs, but pay no attention to the developmental needs of the poorest regions of the world,” explains Kanitkar.

The race to net zero by 2050 for all countries, without considering the full implications of CDR, could help developed countries evade their fair share of climate action. This is a concern that Bolivia, while speaking for the Like Minded Developing countries, raised in the Bonn climate meet as it felt the uniform imposition of net-zero targets lets developed countries get away with taking too little action.

While the ongoing conversation on achieving net-zero emission targets is an important one, the commitments will remain mere shots in the dark, unless there is an objectively fair and realistic plan for execution. 

Radhika Chatterjee is a researcher with Land Conflict Watch, an independent network  of researchers studying land conflicts, climate change and natural resource governance in India

Weather woes: India’s federally held foodstock declined to a five-year low primarily because extreme weather severely affected the production of wheat and rice.

India’s rice and wheat stocks take a plunge due to extreme weather

Data from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) revealed the country’s federally held foodstock declined to a five-year low primarily because extreme weather severely affected the production of wheat (winter crop) and rice (summer crop). This foodstock is supplied at subsidised rates to 800 million people. The data, however, also showed total stock of rice and wheat was at 51.4 million tonnes—66% above the mandatory buffer norm and strategic reserve stockpile that the government has to maintain towards the end of the year. 

According to the FCI data, the government has enough rice stock to meet domestic requirements, but wheat stocks are at a 14-year-low because farmers preferred selling their produce to private traders amidst high demand as a result of the Ukraine crisis. 

In several parts of Tamil Nadu, paddy farmers were severely impacted by heavy rainfall. The farmers were in the midst of harvesting and storing grains ahead of the northeast monsoon, which is expected at the end of October. But the untimely showers led to huge losses for the farmers. 

Southwest monsoon withdraws from northwest India; tropical storm brewing in Bay of Bengal

The southwest monsoon withdrew from northwest India after a 15-day delay and 346% surplus rain for the month of October. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the monsoon has beat the retreat in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Bihar and Maharashtra. 

In Kerala, the IMD stated that conditions were favourable for the onset of a normal northeast monsoon season. Last year, Kerala recorded the highest ever northeast monsoon rainfall in the state’s history at 1,026.3 mm against the long-period average (LPA) of 491.6 mm.  

Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of a cyclonic storm building in the Bay of Bengal, which is likely to make landfall on Sunday. If it doesn intensify into a cyclone, it is likely to be called Sitrang. Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are likely to be affected. 

Flooding in Nigeria kills 600 people, displaces 1.3 million others

Floods in Nigeria have killed more than 600 people and displaced 1.3 million people across 33 of 36 Nigerian states. According to officials, floods have inundated 3,400 sqkm of land. Authorities fear this will further exacerbate the country’s food supply chain, which is already stressed because of conflict in northwest and central Nigeria. While flooding at this time of the year is expected, 2022 has seen the worst floods in a decade. According to authorities, this is primarily because of extreme rainfall and the release of excess water in a dam in neighbouring Cameroon. 

Grazing animals play major role in stabilising soil carbon: Study

Grazing animals such as the Yak and Ibek are essential in stabilising soil carbon, a new study found. The 16-year study by the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) and the Divecha Centre for Climate Change (DCCC), IISc, found that removing these herbivores from grazing ecosystems, such as Spiti in the Himalayas, increased the fluctuation of soil carbon levels. This negatively impacts the global carbon cycle, the study found. 

These findings are important because the soil pool is considered to be a reliable carbon sink. Therefore, keeping soil carbon levels stable is essential to combat climate change, researchers said.

69% drop in wildlife population since 1970: WWF data

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index, there has been a 69% drop on average in wild animals on earth since 1970. This includes mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. Latin America and the Caribbean, monitored wildlife population dropped by 94% on average between 1970 and 2018, the data revealed. The findings are crucial ahead of the Convention of Biological Diversity COP15 to be held in December.

Finance first: Nirmala Sitharaman, the finance minister, said that India will prioritise climate finance during its G20 presidency next year. Photo: g20.org

India to talk climate finance during next year’s G20 presidency

India laid out its plans for its G20 presidency next year. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the country will focus on climate finance alone with multinational development banks and the debt situation. The minister, who was speaking at the recently concluded annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, emphasised the major role the UNFCCC has to play in moderating the debate on climate finance, but said multilateral bodies still had some role to play in it as well. 

Meanwhile, at the same event, Mohamad Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives announced that 20 countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, are considering stopping the repayment of their “unjust” $685 billion collective debt. A spokesperson of the World Bank acknowledged the disproportionate effect climate change was having on poorer nations, and emphasised banks’ commitment to bring comprehensive debt solutions that benefit these countries. 

Global aviation sector commits to “aspirational”net target by 2050

The global aviation sector agreed to support an “aspirational” net-zero goal by 2050. The goal was accepted by 193 countries at a meeting organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Montreal. Environmentalists, however, found the plan to be weak because it was not legally binding.

ICAO’s member countries also agreed that airlines will use the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). According to this scheme, airlines must agree on a baseline year and all future emissions above the level of that year must be offset. 

FSC agrees to give green nod to wood loggers who restore forests they cut down

The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) agreed to give certificates to logging companies for their wood products if they restore the forests they have cut down between 1994 and 2020 and compensate the affected communities. The international body currently does not give green certificates to companies that have cut down forests since 1994. The FSC will not allow any deforestation after 2020. The move has been welcomed by environmentalists who believe restoration is good for the climate. 

Countries strengthening NDCs but not at pace and scale required to combat climate crisis: Report

The World Resources Institute (WRI) published a report called the “State of NDCs”, which takes stock of the latest round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The report found that while countries were strengthening their climate action plans, urgent transformational change is the need of the hour to meet Paris Agreement targets. The report revealed that countries have to reduce their emissions at least six times as much as their current pledges to limit warming to 1.5°C. 

While adaptation plans have nearly doubled since the initial NDCs were announced with a stronger focus on equity, more work needs to be done to match the scale and speed of climate change, the report stated. Climate finance was still woefully inadequate to implement even a subset of the NDCs, especially those of developing countries, according to the report. 

Delhi-NCR air quality worsens, coal-based thermal power plants flout GRAP norms?

Coal-based thermal power plants around Delhi-NCR, with massive emission loads, are violating GRAP norms. Citing official data of Commission for Air Quality Management, Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), posted a Twitter thread on rising air pollution levels, which are expected to worsen in Delhi-NCR. The central panel has rolled out stage-1 and stage-2 GRAP notifications over the past 10 days, which included implementing stricter emission norms for coal-based plants. However, most thermal power plants (TTPs) have ignored the directions both times. The PM2.5 levels now are ~2.5 times the NAAQS and 9-10 times the WHO daily guidelines

According to Dahiya, without efficient pollution control, coal-based TPPs are generating more electricity this year compared to past years, therefore creating more emission load in Delhi NCR air-shed. Dahiya cited last year’s Business Standard report that showed how shutting down 6 TPPs significantly improved NCR’s air quality. 

Only Mahatma Gandhi STPP and Dadri TPP have implemented FGD norms, and apart from that only two TPPs in Punjab are closed last week. All others in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh operate without strict emission controls, he concluded. 

An HT report revealed how solutions offered to farmers to stop burning stubble do not even match with the rapidly changing sowing cycle, and “officials do not care”.

Nearly 60% of state pollution control board members in north India linked to polluters

A study by think-tank Centre for Policy Research revealed that 57% of members of 10 state pollution control boards that regulate the Indo-Gangetic plain, a hotbed of air pollution, are linked to potential polluters (local authorities, industries and public sector corporations), reported TOI. Only 7% members are scientists, medical practitioners and academics, the study stated. Most of the state boards do not meet the requirement of having at least two members with knowledge of air quality management, the CPR study said. 

The state boards that were analysed included Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal. The CPR study also found that 40% of all posts have not been filled across nine states, nearly 84% of technical positions are vacant in Jharkhand, and 75% in Bihar and Haryana. The report concluded that although the Centre has made ambition targets under the National Clean Air Programme, achieving those targets will require “competent regulators and sufficient capacity”. 

Norms to promote use of paddy stubble to power thermal plants and industry released

The government released guidelines for one-time financial support to set up pelletisation and torrefaction plants to back use of paddy stubble in thermal power plants and industries. The Centre allocated ₹50 crore for the scheme, which is generated from the environment protection charge being collected by the Central Pollution Control Board following a 2016 SC order which directed that a charge of 1% of ex-showroom price be imposed on every diesel car with 2000 cc and above capacity in Delhi NCR, HT reported.

The one-time grant will cover 40% of capital costs of such plants, under which ₹14 lakh can be provided for non-torrefied plants and ₹28 lakh for torrefied plants, the report said, adding that the maximum support that CPCB will provide for such units under the scheme is ₹70 lakh for non-torrefied and ₹1.4 crore for torriefied plants.

Around 1.1 million MT paddy straw pellets can be produced per annum, if the corpus is completely utilised, according to CPCB’s estimates. State governments can also provide financial support to these plants if they want. According to the guidelines, the plants should be set up within 3 to 6 months of transfer of financial support under the scheme.

France fined again over air pollution in major cities

France’s highest administrative court slapped two new 10-million-euro ($9.75 million) fines on the country for failing to improve air quality in major cities. Last year, the same court imposed another 10 million euro fine for the same reason.

Five years ago, the Conseil d’Etat court ordered the French government to cut down nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels and fine particles in more than a dozen zones to comply with European standards.

“To this day, the measures undertaken by the state don’t guarantee that air quality improves enough to respect pollution thresholds as quickly as possible,” the Conseil d’Etat said in a statement. Reuters reported that the money would go to environmental groups that brought the case.

Fuel regulation reduced air pollution caused by shipping industry: NASA

Day-time satellite images of over 17 years have revealed that ship tracks, the polluted marine clouds that trail ocean-crossing vessels, have reduced in number. A global standard implemented in 2020 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)—requiring an 86% reduction in fuel sulphur content—likely reduced ship track formation. COVID-19-related trade disruptions also played a small role in the reduction, reported NASA. 

Scientists computed and created the first global climatology (a history of measurements) of ship tracks. They used artificial intelligence to automatically identify ship tracks across 17 years of daytime images (2003-2020) captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. 

NASA report said that ship tracks were first observed as “anomalous cloud lines” in early weather satellite images acquired in the 1960s. They are formed by water vapour coalescing around small particles of pollution (aerosols) in ship exhaust. The highly concentrated droplets scatter more light and therefore appear brighter than non-polluted marine clouds, which are seeded by larger particles such as sea salt. 

Strict norms resulted in drop of SO2 emissions by coal plants and construction industry 

Strict implementation of environmental laws and the adoption of effective control technologies such as ‘scrubber’ and ‘flue gas desulphurisation’, resulted in the drop of emission and concentration of SO2 in India, according to the study conducted by a team of researchers from the Centre for Oceans, Rivers, Atmosphere and Land Sciences (CORAL) at the IIT Kharagpur. The Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) levels in India dropped in the last decade significantly as compared to the previous three decades.

CORAL spokesperson said the study represents temporal changes in SO2 concentrations across India in the last four decades (1980-2020). The study revealed that while thermal power plants contributed 51% to SO2 concentration, the construction sector’s share was 29%, as per the estimate during that period. The temporal analyses reveal that SO2 concentrations in India increased between 1980 and 2010 due to coal burning and the lack of novel technology to contain the emissions during that period, reported the HIndu.

Use of LPG by pregnant women to cook improved indoor air, but not birth weight

 A large global study found that the birth weight of infants did not differ significantly between those born to women who used Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) cook stoves, and those born to women who used biomass cook stoves. The study titled the Household Air Pollution Intervention (HAPIN) trial assessed the impact of an 18-month LPG intervention on health in India, Guatemala, Peru, and Rwanda among 3,200 pregnant women and 200 older adult women.

The study stated that while PM 2.5 exposures were significantly lower among the intervention group, they were still more than seven-fold higher than the recently issued WHO guideline values. Findings suggest that even lower levels may be needed to achieve benefits on birth weight. More than a third of the global population—about 3 billion people—rely on solid biomass (wood, charcoal, dung and agricultural residue) for cooking, reported the Indian Express. 

Better safe: To prevent disruptions, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) led by India and France and followed by 110 member countries, wants the supply chain to be diverse.

Countering China: India-led ISA pushes for diverse solar equipment market

To prevent disruptions, the supply chain for components needs to be more geographically diverse for countries to transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energies like solar power, officials said during a conference on solar energy in New Delhi. Right now, 75% of components needed for solar power are manufactured in China, reported the International Energy Agency. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) led by India and France and followed by 110 member countries, wants the supply chain to be diverse. 

Solar energy prices are reducing but freight prices are rising. ISA director Ajay Mathur said that to ensure that more nations benefit from the cheap prices of solar energy, multiple regions from which solar photovoltaic products can go from the producer to the supplier. The IEA said although China contributed to a cost decline of more than 80%, helping solar photovoltaics become the most affordable electricity generation technology globally, the country has also led to supply-demand imbalances. 

India projected to add 35-40 GW of renewable energy capacity annually to FY 2029/30

There are renewed efforts to expand domestic coal energy in India, but the country’s renewable energy capacity is projected to surge with 35-40 GW per annum by FY 2029/30, while thermal power will lose share, according to IEEFA. 

According to the report, India is projected to surpass its 2030 target of 50% generation from non-fossil fuel sources supported by renewable energy commitments from industry players and various potential demand- and supply-side triggers. The expanding use of domestically produced thermal energy amid the Ukraine war is likely to be a “short-term hiccup”, the report said.

In the utility-scale segment, the combined additional capacity targets through 2030 by some of the top players operating in the industry stand at ~231 GW. This includes commitments by state-owned NTPC at 60 GW, Adani Green Energy at 45 GW and Tata Power, ReNew Power and Acme Solar at 25 GW each.

In June 2022, India announced a green hydrogen target of 5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) by 2030. The report said the target will require additional renewable energy capacity of ~118GW.

Centre issue draft norms for repowering policy for wind turbines

The government issued a revised draft for National Repowering Policy for Wind Power Projects as most of the old wind power projects with sub-megawatt scale wind turbines are yet to be repowered. The government press release said that the repowering policy is being carried out for optimum utilisation of wind energy resources by maximising energy yield per sq km of the project area on shore. Representations from “various stakeholders” were included while redrafting the policy. Wind turbines below capacity of 2MW, turbines that have completed their design life and a set of existing wind turbines over an area will be considered eligible for repowering, reported ET.

Turbine sets up new 24-hour wind power world record 

The Spanish-German giant Siemens Gamesa’s 14-222 DD offshore wind turbine prototype set a world record for the most power output by a single wind turbine in a 24-hour period— 359 megawatt-hours. The company said this would be enough energy for Tesla Model 3—to drive around 1.12 million miles (1.8 million km). The SG 14-222 DD is a 14 megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine with a capacity of up to 15 MW with Power Boost.

According to the company, it features a 222-metre (728 feet) diameter rotor, 108-metre (354 feet) B108 blades that are cast in a single piece and can now be recycled, and a swept area of 39,000 square metres (419,792 square feet). The SG 14-222 DD delivers more than 25% (annual energy production) AEP compared to its predecessor.

Record solar, wind energy production saves Europe 11 billion euros of natural gas

The impact of soaring energy prices in Europe post the Ukraine war has been tempered somewhat by record renewable energy production this year, mainly wind and solar power, reported energy and climate policy think-tanks Ember and E3G. According to the report covered by Fortune magazine, between March and September 2022, wind and solar were ramped up to provide 24% of the EU’s electricity, up from 21% over the same period last year. According to Ember and E3G, the increased production has saved the bloc the equivalent of 8 billion cubic metres of natural gas imports compared with the same period last year, worth around €11 billion ($10.8 billion). Total renewable energy production in Europe during this period is worth the equivalent of €99 billion in natural gas imports.

According to the research, Poland marked the highest spike in solar and wind generation compared with last year, around 48%, while Spain saw the greatest absolute increase in electricity generated from the two sources. The report estimated that if Spain had used natural gas to generate the electricity solar and wind have produced in the country since March, it would have cost €1.7 billion in imports. 19 of the 27 EU member states—including France, Italy, and Spain—hit individual records for solar and wind power generation.

Cleaner targets: India has advanced the target date for achieving 20% ethanol-blending in petrol by five years to 2025.

India’s first flex fuel-strong hybrid electric vehicle now launched

Toyota launched a first-of-its-kind pilot project flex fuel-strong hybrid electric vehicle (FFV-SHEV) in India. The car, Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid, can run on 100% ethanol and possesses a flex-fuel engine and an electric powertrain. This setup extends the dual advantages of higher ethanol use and greater fuel efficiency, as it can run in its EV mode for a good amount of time, while the engine stands shut off. The flex-fuel combination is stored in the same tank of fuel and is used by the engine as a blended fuel, unlike how CNG fuel systems store petrol and CNG in separate tanks and are used separately by the engine. 

Using ethanol—a complex derivative of biomass left by agricultural feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane, hemp (bhang), potato, rice, etc.—significantly lowers harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur, and carbon and nitrogen oxides. India is the fifth-largest manufacturer of ethanol following the US, Brazil, the European Union and China and the country has advanced the target date for achieving 20% ethanol-blending in petrol by five years to 2025.

High living costs in UK discouraging switch to cleaner vehicles

The rising cost of living in the UK is keeping drivers away from switching to a cleaner car, reported the Guardian. According to the report, one in seven drivers want an EV as their next car and one in three want a hybrid model. However, rising inflation, energy bills and  higher remortgage payments have halted the switch to a new, cleaner vehicle. The report noted a growing preference for cleaner vehicles and said that a record 14% of drivers say their next car will be electric, up from 10% last year and just 3% in 2018 and a further 29% said they intended to switch to a hybrid vehicle.

But as a result of rising costs, the proportion of drivers who now do not know when they will go electric has increased from 36% to 42% year on year. Nevertheless, it was found that the popularity of petrol vehicles is dropping with just 41% of drivers likely to choose one when they get their next car, down from 45% last year and 52% in 2018. 

New tech paves way for safer and improved batteries 

Researchers from Tohoku University, Japan created a hybrid electrolyte that could provide a safer polymeric solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are one of the most used batteries that support smartphones and EVs. Due to their voltage resistance and ionic conductivity, organic electrolytes such as liquid ethylene carbonate (EC) and their gels have been usually used as the Li-ion electrolyte. However, as the liquids and gels are flammable, switching to safer polymeric solid electrolytes is preferable.

The polymeric solid electrolyte not only shows high performance as an electrolyte, but is also expected to be effective in deterring the formation of Li dendritic crystals which can cause ignition. While using lithium ion in small single batteries for cell phones and laptops has been mostly safe, larger ones used in bunches in cars and buses have caught some fires. If the new solid electrolyte can scale up for manufacturing at low cost and offer a much safer lithium ion battery, it would significantly improve the prospects of the electric mobility and  information technology industry.

European parliament members raise concerns of geo-strategic dependency stemming from the e-mobility shift

Fifty Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), all from the EPP group, have raised concerns over supply-chain bottlenecks and import dependency arising from the bloc’s plans to shift to shift to electric mobility. In their written submission to the European Parliament, the MEPs cited an April 2022 study conducted by the Belgian university KU Leuven to stress that unless new investments support domestic mines and refineries with urgency, raw materials lithium, nickel, cobalt will breed new dependencies. Similar import dependencies have also been flagged for rare earth metals dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium until adequate recycling capacities are set up. “The study concludes that bottlenecks are likely to develop for these raw materials and for copper without an increase in global mining investment, globally at least until 2030, and for some of these raw materials also until 2040.”
“How will the geostrategic dependency of the EU change as a result of the ban on the internal combustion engine and the switch to electro mobility only?” the MEPs ask in their submission.

Digging on: Despite making a pledge to become net zero by 2070, India is in the process of developing 99 new coal mines.

Biden plans release of 15 million barrels from US oil reserve

In response to the announcement of recent production cuts by OPEC+ nations, US president Joe Biden is set to release 15 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic reserve. He is likely to release more in the winter in order to keep prices down ahead of the mid-term elections. The 15 million barrels complete the 180 million barrels that Biden had authorised for release in March. The strategic reserve is at its lowest level since 1984, and contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil. The US has called the release a “bridge” until the country increases its domestic production. 

India plans 99 new coal projects despite net-zero by 2070 pledge

Research by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) revealed India is developing 99 new coal mines, despite making a pledge to become net zero by 2070. According to the study, the new mines risk displacing 165 villages and 87,630 families. These mines will be able to produce 427 million tonnes of coal annually. 

According to the GEM report, these new mines are unnecessary as existing coal mines already have 36% underutilised coal capacity, which, if used, can sufficiently meet the rising power demand. 

China won’t resell its LNG to gas-starved Europe this winter

In a setback for Europe ahead of a harsh winter, China’s state-owned energy companies will stop reselling liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the continent. The country’s planning body, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told LNG importers Sinopec, PetroChina, and CNOOC to reserve their LNG cargoes so that there is enough domestic supply during winter. In recent years, demand for LNG has been lacklustre because of a slowed down economy and the COVID-19 pandemic. This prompted these companies to resell their excess cargoes to Europe for major profits. 

Meanwhile, president Xi Jinping said “prudence” will govern China’s transition towards clean energy—in other words, it is in no rush to stop burning fossil fuels. The country, with its falling economy, is keen to make energy security its priority, especially against the backdrop of rising global energy costs brought on by the Ukraine war.  

Fossil fuel protesters spray paint Harrods, throw soup at Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ 

Dozens of fossil fuel protesters were arrested this week for spraying orange paint on the front of luxury department store Harrods in London. Some of the protesters also glued themselves to the road in front of the store. Earlier in the week, two other protesters were charged with criminal damage offences for throwing cans of tomato soup over Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting at the National Gallery in London. The painting is worth $84.2 million. All the protesters belong to a campaign group called Just Stop Oil. 

After throwing the soup, they glued themselves to the wall under the painting. Gallery officials confirmed some minor damage to the frame, but the actual painting remained undamaged. Protesters from the group have been targeting popular artworks for a while in order to highlight the role of fossil fuels in climate change. In July, protesters glued themselves to a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at another London gallery.

Diesel inventories fall to new low amidst rising demand in US, Europe

Global diesel inventories fell to a new low amidst the energy crisis. Demand, however, is rising, forcing US buyers to snap up diesel cargoes being shipped to Europe. According to a Reuters report, three diesel tankers on their way to Europe from the Middle East changed course mid-way towards the US. 

The desperation in the US stems from the closing of refineries during the pandemic and the anticipation of EVs flooding the market soon. In Europe, the French refinery workers’ strike and upcoming planned maintenance-related refinery closures have led to a severe shortage. Things will only get worse for Europe, which is currently buying Russian diesel to make up for the shortage. Next year, the embargo on Russian fuels begins.