92% of World inhaling pollutants way above WHO levels

Newsletter - April 3, 2019

Rare good news: China’s war on air pollution seems to be paying off with improving indices, while air quality deteriorates elsewhere | Image credit: HuffingtonPost

Study: 92% of world inhaling pollutants way above WHO levels; South Asia tops list

In 2017, 92% of the world’s population was breathing air replete with PM2.5 at levels much higher than the WHO guidelines – this is just one of the many shocking conclusions reached by a recent study. The State of Global Air 2019 report, which was released this week, ranked air pollution as the fifth-leading risk factor for mortality worldwide, beating more traditionally known risks such as malnutrition, alcohol use and obesity. The report stated air pollution was the leading cause for 5 million deaths in 2017 – that’s 1 in every 10 people.

The report, which studied the effects of both indoor and outdoor pollution, concluded that toxic air had shortened human lifespan by 1 year and 8 months, a loss ranking just below smoking. The beacon of hope, however, comes from the least expected place – China. The country, which often finds its name in the most-polluted list thanks mainly to its large population, seems to be benefitting from some major regulatory reforms that have brought down PM2.5 levels considerably.

The study painted a bleak picture of conditions closer home, however, with South Asia topping the list of most polluted regions in the world, where, lifespan has shortened even further than the global average – by 2 years and 6 months. In India alone, air pollution contributed to 1.2 million deaths in 2017 – a sharp increase from the 1.1 million in 2015 – according to the study. China and India were responsible for over half of the world’s total attributable deaths in 2017, says the study. But what’s even more concerning for India is that the PM2.5 levels found in the country (91 μg/m3) were much higher than that of China (53 μg/m3) and second only to Nepal (100 μg/m3). Just a word of warning: Staying indoors won’t prevent exposure to toxic air with the study opining that half of the world’s population—a total of 3.6 billion people — were exposed to household air pollution in 2017.

Climate Science

The impacts of climate change could get a lot worse if urgent measures are not instituted

Extreme weather: India faces ‘unusual heat wave’, records year’s hottest days

Parts of India are suddenly in the deadly grip of an “unusual heat wave”. Experts have warned there will be no relief in the coming weeks. In Kerala the heat wave, caught “forecasters by surprise”. Four people are dead and almost 300 people have suffered from sunburns. Heat is expected to worsen in New Delhi, which recorded 39°C on Saturday (a maximum of 33°C is more common in Delhi in early April). “Dangerously high” temperatures of 40-43°C are expected in Rajkot, Ahmedabad and Nagpur this week, AccuWeather reported.

Times of India quoted an official from a local Surat hospital as saying that the number OPD patients has shot up from 350 to 430 with most complaining of headache, vomiting and uneasiness. Such high temperatures are usually expected in late April or May ahead of the monsoon, reported Indian Express. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and eastern Maharashtra are expected to be affected the most with the highest temperatures ranging between 43 to 46°C.

Finally, IMD has declared weak El Nino conditions (unusual warming of equatorial Pacific Ocean). El Nino triggers heat waves and decline in the monsoon rain, which mostly leads to droughts. Experts say the current heat wave conditions are actually not so sudden. Down to Earth reported that weather agencies in other countries had declared weak El Nino conditions in January 2019. In India, the El Nino impact was evident early March, when Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri recorded a temperature of 40.2°C, Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati and Cuddapah touched 40.4°C and 40°C, respectively.

The heat wave has also spread to Gujarat and Maharashtra, with Pune recording 40.8° C. Vidarbha was worst hit with temperatures soaring to 44°C in Akola, 43°C in Nagpur and Amravati and 43°C in Yavatmal. Heat waves are the third-highest cause for deaths among natural disasters in India, after lightning strikes and earthquakes; but the Indian government does not consider it to be  a natural calamity.

Leaked report: Canada warming at twice the global rate

A leaked government report says Canada, on an average, has warmed twice the rate of the rest of the world, and northern Canada has warmed nearly three times the global average. The report, Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR), which was slated to be released on Tuesday, says that since 1948, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7°C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia, reported CBC news.

In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3°C, according to the report. The study says because of this heating, Canada is experiencing an increase in precipitation mainly in winter, “extreme fire weather” and water shortages in summer, and the country is at risk of coastal flooding.

The leak has surfaced amid Canada’s implementation of carbon-pricing plan in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Ottawa has imposed a fuel levy in these provinces as a backstop because they don’t have carbon-pricing schemes of their own in place. The report blames the warming mainly on greenhouse gas emissions saying “human factor is dominant” in the temperature increases.

The grim predictions in the report warn that the only way to keep the warming to Paris accord targets is for “global emissions to peak almost immediately, with rapid and deep reductions thereafter.” The report also predicts that under a medium-emission scenario, glaciers in Canada’s west will lose between 74% and 96% of their volume by 2100.

UN report: Extreme weather affected 62 million people in 2018

The UN weather agency has revealed the exact number of people directly bearing the brunt of extreme cyclones, floods and droughts caused by global warming. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in 2018, 62 million people were hit by extreme weather resulting from climate change, while two million people were forced to leave their homes worldwide. The WMO said the trend of man-made extreme weather has accelerated because of warming. Scientists said the deadly trend has  continued into 2019, killing hundreds of people, most recently in floods and a cyclone in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The WMO report also said sea levels reached the highest point on record in 2018.

Cyclone Idai rings ‘alarm bell’ on climate change: UN chief

UN chief Antonio Guterres has said “an uncommonly fierce and prolonged storm”,

Cyclone Idai, which  flattened the city of Beira in Mozambique, rings “yet another alarm bell” for  climate change. Scientists say global warming is causing more extreme rainfall and storms, sweltering heatwaves, shrinking harvests and worsening water shortages around the world. The storm unfolded in the backdrop of the Africa Climate Week in Ghana, where the delegates acknowledged that the storm highlights an urgent need for  climate finance and countries need mechanisms to deal with extreme disasters, which will become more frequent because of climate change.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) says the cost of financing these solutions is $23 trillion by 2030, estimating the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of 21 emerging market economies, Down to Earth reported. Over 700 people have died because of the storm and survivors are facing deadly cholera and diarrhoea, reported Reuters.

Alaska hits earliest 70°F readings on record

The “Last Frontier” of Alaska continues to record its hottest days. Klawock, in southeastern Alaska, reached 70°F (21.11°C)  on March 19, the earliest ever high to have occurred at any site in the state, CNN reported. While the rest of America is witnessing a fall in temperatures, Alaska was sizzling with record highs. More records are expected to be broken with temperatures soaring as much as 10°C above normal in the fastest-warming state, Alaska. Boston, one of the northern cities of the US, which officially declared the onset of spring a week ago, has still not reached 70-degrees.

Town that houses ‘Doomsday Vault’ warming the fastest

The world’s northernmost town, Longyearbyen in Norway, located 800 miles from the North Pole, and is home to the doomsday vault’ which stores specimens of almost all the the world’s crop seeds, is warming faster than any other in the world. The Norwegian town is built on permanently frozen ground called permafrost. The town’s rising temperature is causing the permafrost soil to melt, damaging buildings as they sink into the ground, CNN reported.

The annual mean temperature in Longyearbyen in 1900 was -7.8°C. Since then, it has risen by 3.7°C – more than three times the global average of around 1°C, CNN reported. Experts say the Svalbard seed vault was built to protect the seeds in the event of war, famine, disease and climate change.

Killer frog disease ‘part of Earth’s sixth mass extinction’

Latest research has revealed that the disease chytridiomycosis, has killed a large number of frogs, toads and salamanders over the past 50 years, and led to the extinction of 90 species. Researchers say a fungus that kills amphibians is responsible for the biggest documented loss of nature from a single disease, reported the BBC. Scientists say the world urgently needs to improve biosecurity and wildlife trade restrictions are needed to prevent more extinction.

The killer disease has spread to over 60 countries, mainly in Australia, Central America and South America, the study said.

Melting glaciers on Mount Everest expose dead bodies

Human-induced global warming that is melting the Himalayan glaciers has now begun to expose the bodies of mountaineers who have died on Everest over the years. Ever since the first attempt to scale Mount Everest, 300 climbers have died on the peak and two-third of the bodies are still believed to be buried under the snow. As the glaciers melt away, Everest expedition operators are concerned with the number of bodies that are becoming exposed, reported the BBC.

Researchers in 2018 drilled the Khumbu Glacier and found the ice to be warmer than expected. “The ice recorded a minimum temperature of only −3.3°C, with even the coldest ice being a full 2°C warmer than the mean annual air temperature,” the report said.

Study: Climate change is killing India’s crop productivity, labour efficiency

Latest research by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, has warned that climate change is reducing India’s crop productivity and efficiency of labour. The research says that India’s duration of cropping season is increasing, but it cannot be correlated to increase in crop production since the temperatures are rising quickly. Scientists said the summer season is encroaching into the winter season, which is causing a sharp drop in the length of “pleasant comfortable days”, especially over the northeast and southern India (warm-humid) regions, reported the Hindu.

The newspaper quotes the researches saying: “The drastic and joint increase in the day and night temperatures will be a major threat to crop cultivation in India. Especially the largest wheat production states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will be severely affected due to the increase in night-time temperature, particularly in winters.”

Climate change 50-75 years out, says EPA

Contaminated drinking water is a more immediate environmental threat than climate change, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler. While speaking to the American broadcasting network CBS last week, Wheeler said the climate change threat was “50 to 75 years out”, while unsafe drinking water is “killing 1,000 children every day worldwide”. “That’s a crisis that I think we can solve. We know what goes into solving a crisis like that. It takes resources, it takes infrastructure, and the United States is working on that,” Wheeler said.

According to American newspaper and website, The Hill, however, Wheeler’s comments contradict an October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicted the atmosphere will heat up by 1.5°C by 2040 and that countries had 12 years to stop greenhouse gas emissions to prevent irreparable effects of climate change.

The comments also come at a time when extreme weather events are wreaking havoc, more recently in Mozambique where a cyclone is reported to have killed more than 1,000 people, and the floods in mid-west America.

Climate Policy

Shrinking, yet propped up: Coal power is facing increasingly tough conditions in India, with its pipeline having shrunk by 37GW in 2018 alone | Image credit: IBTimes

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2018: IEA

Carbon emissions (CO2) from the global energy sector touched a record high in 2018, mainly in Asia, because of the increase in energy demand and the use of coal – that’s the damning report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Reuters reported. CO2 emissions from energy rose by 1.7% to 33.1 billion tonnes compared to 2017.

The IEA report said, “The US emissions grew by 3.1% in 2018, China’s rose by 2.5% and India’s by 4.5%. China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand. Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3% and Japan’s fell for the fifth consecutive year:.  According to IEA’s research “CO2 emitted from coal use caused warming of over 0.3°C of the 1° rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times.” Global energy demand grew by 2.3% last year, because of a strong global economy and higher heating and cooling demand in some parts of the world, the IEA said.

Earth Hour: Landmarks plunge into darkness, UN chief calls for urgent climate action

The world marked Earth Hour on March 30 by  switching off lights at the world’s most famous landmarks, to create awareness about the deadly impacts of climate change. UN Secretary-General António Guterres used the occasion to once again remind countries about the urgent need for climate action. He said,“We can see the worsening impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean pollution, soil degradation and water scarcity.” He called for urgent action adding: “I am convening a Climate Action Summit in September. And I am telling global leaders to bring concrete plans.”

Trump “circumvents” court, allows Keystone XL oil pipeline work

US President Donald Trump bypassed court orders and issued a permit for a “controversial” oil pipeline. Last October, the work on Keystone XL site came to a halt after a federal judge grounded the project over violations made in the government’s environmental review, Oil Price reported, adding that “The 8,30,000 bpd pipeline will run from the Albertan oil sands through Montana and South Dakota, ending in Nebraska, where it would connect to the existing pipeline network that goes on to the Gulf Coast.” Experts say, if allowed, the project would ruin land, drinking water and communities from Montana and Nebraska to the Gulf Coast, aside from precipitation and deadly impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, in a major presidential setback, a judge in Alaska blocked Trump’s reversal of the Obama era’s ban on offshore drilling in Atlantic Ocean. US district court judge Sharon Gleason said Trump exceeded his authority when he reversed the ban through an executive order. The judge said presidents have the power to remove the lands from development, but they cannot revoke those removals, reported the Guardian.

Australia won’t set targets to cut vehicular emissions at all?

Is Australia completely giving up on setting carbon emission standards for its vehicles? The Guardian reported that the Australian transport ministry said the government had not made a decision on “how or when” standards to cut carbon pollution from vehicles might be implemented. Latest data shows Australia’s vehicular emissions are projected to be 82% higher in 2030 than they were in 1990.

Australia had released a graph in 2015 indicating it expected to achieve cuts of about 100 million tonnes between 2020 and 2030 through vehicle emissions standards. “The government’s latest climate proposal contains no mention of this, and projects only about 10 million tonnes of abatement through an electric vehicle strategy, with no reference to vehicle emissions standards,” The Guardian reported.

US senate rejects Green New Deal resolution

US senate Republicans have rejected the Green New Deal, which sought a legislation to create a state-backed fund for clean energy like wind and solar power, infrastructure and social programmes. The plan was voted down over Republicans’ allegations that it would devastate the American middle class by killing jobs and raising electricity bills across the country.

The result comes despite Democrats’ urgent pleas to take climate change more seriously, and with the US’ emissions having risen by 3.1% last year.

Democrats introduce climate change legislation

Two days after the senate rejected the Green New Deal, US senators introduced legislation to cap carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Healthy Climate and Family Act proposes to cut CO2 emissions in the next 20 years by imposing fines on companies that violate the pollution regulations and donate all the proceeds to American families in the form of dividends, the Hill reported. The legislation has a target of capping CO2 emissions 50% below the 2005 levels by 2030 and then 80% below 2005 by 2040.

EU leaders push for net-zero emissions without setting target date

Campaigners are angry over the EU draft policy that pushes for net zero emissions without actually setting a target date. The leaders pushed the resolution following massive protests by thousands of students who took to the streets across Europe to protest against their governments’ inaction over global warming. However, the leaders only emphasized on submitting an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 for climate neutrality.

The EU executive, last year, had set a goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the mid-century target in a non-binding resolution last week, Reuters reported.

Europe to set aside 35% of research budget for clean tech

The European Union has decided to allocate 35% of the bloc’s research funding for climate-friendly technologies, despite ongoing doubts about the overall size of the EU’s future budget after Brexit. The proposed Horizon Europe programme expects the funding to grow dramatically under the Commission plan, with a proposed budget of €100 billion during 2021-2027 – this despite the Brexit scenario – up from €78 billion in the current seven-year period, which included the UK as a full member, reported Euractiv.

Climate change could spur financial crisis: US federal bank researcher

Losses from natural disasters that are made worse by higher temperatures and rising sea levels could lead to a financial crisis – this was the conclusion reached by a researcher working for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In his paper published last week, Glenn Rudebusch, the San Francisco Fed’s executive vice president for research, warned that such disasters could lead to ‘elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis.’

He also pointed out to more direct effects in the form of macroeconomic shocks due to infrastructure damage, agricultural losses and commodity price spikes in the event of droughts, floods and hurricanes. Rudebusch wrote banks need to take into account damage caused by climate events when considering the economic outlook in the long term. A possible solution put forth in the paper is levying carbon tax, a plan that has been dismissed by US president Donald Trump in the past.

Italy, Britain bid for 2020 climate talks even as domestic uncertainty looms for both

Days after Santiago, Chile, was officially announced as the venue for this year’s United Nation’s (UN) climate summit (COP 25), comes news that Britain and Italy have put forth their bid to host next year’s summit (COP 26). But how both countries will be able to cope with hosting pressures is a big question mark especially because of the domestic uncertainty that looms large over them, Climate Change News reported.

Italy, for example, faces early general elections next year, with public opinion polls indicating a resounding win for the right-wing League party, which currently shares power with the populist 5-star movement. The issue here is that while the 5-star movement, which currently runs the country’s environment ministry, has pushed for tougher climate change measures, the League has mostly stayed out of environmental policy matters.

The UK, which has been strongly pushing for an opportunity to host, is grappling with Brexit and a possible early election next year. Between the two, experts pointed out Britain would be a better choice given “the diplomatic network to pull off the significant outreach that will be required of the Cop26 presidency”, said Jennifer Tollmann, a policy advisor also at E3G. A host is likely to be announced in June this year at the UN meeting in Bonn.

Britain’s Labour party pushes for UK to get its own Green New Deal    

US Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement’s push to decarbonise the US economy by adopting a Green New Deal has inspired politicians across the pond, mainly the UK’s Labour Party.

Members of the political party launched a grassroots campaign called Labour for a Green New Deal, which urges the government to take radical action to tackle climate change, The Guardian reported.

This not only includes decarbonising the UK economy within a decade, but also region-specific green job guarantee, mass investment in public infrastructure, expansion of public ownership and democratic control of industry.

Air Pollution

Soon, everywhere: India’s appalling air quality means half the country’s population could grapple with heavy PM2.5 pollution by 2030 | Image credit: HealthcareinIndia

670 million Indians to breathe poor quality air in 2030: Study

Latest research has warned that even if India successfully implemented its current pollution control policies and regulations, around 674 million Indians may end up breathing air with high concentrations of PM 2.5 in 2030.

“Only about half of India’s estimated population in 2030 – about 833 million citizens – would be living in areas meeting India’s air quality standards in 2030,” the research by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) explained. The research said, “The Indo-Gangetic plain, covering parts of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, have the highest population exposure to significant PM 2.5 concentrations.

According to the report, solid fuel and biomass burning was the largest contributor of air pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plain. But in Delhi and Goa, NOx pollution from vehicles were the major poisoners of air. SO2 emissions from power plants were dominant contributors to air pollution in Haryana and Maharashtra, the study said.

Ahead of Indian elections, Congress promises environment, clean energy reforms in manifesto

The Indian National Congress, India’s main Opposition party, released its manifesto days ahead of elections, which highlighted environment and climate change as a key issue. The manifesto called air pollution “a national public health emergency” and pledged to strengthen the National Clean Air Programme by setting sectoral targets for emission reductions. It has promised to constitute an independent, empowered and transparent Environment Protection Agency (EPA) “to monitor and enforce environmental standards and regulations”. The party has also promised to encourage investments in off-grid renewables as a way to improve rural electricity supply.  A land and water use policy has also been included, which the party claims will enforce measures to conserve bio-diversity and wildlife, without affecting local communities. The Congress also claims it will strive to increase forest cover, with the help of state governments, from the current level of 21% to 25% by 2025. A policy on clean energy for existing power plants has also been mentioned. The party manifesto also promised to implement Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit, and said “no forest dweller will be unjustly evicted.”

Need ‘Hum Do Hamare Do’ for cars to make Delhi liveable: SC

India’s Supreme Court said Delhiites should follow a family planning-like policy, of two children to a couple, while purchasing cars. The number of vehicles in Delhi has exceeded 10 million, with almost a million new vehicles being  added annually to Delhi roads. “There are instances when one person owns five or more cars in a family,” the court said.

The top court judges were hearing a plea from auto giant Bajaj, seeking removal of cap on three wheelers, which restricts their numbers to 100,000. The auto giant is backed by the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), which argues that more BS IV fuel compliant, CNG three-wheelers would add to public transport and discourage people from owning cars, which  are the main cause of air pollution in Delhi.

Dusty winds from Afghanistan and Rajasthan increase air pollution levels in Delhi

India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said dusty storms blowing from as far as Afghanistan and neighbouring Rajasthan have increased air pollution in Delhi. According to CPCB data, the overall air quality index (AQI) of the city was at 232 on March 29, Friday, which falls under the ‘poor’ category. PTI reported that in June 2018, long-range dusty winds had increased the pollution level of the national capital by several folds, which had slipped to the ‘severe’ category.

Spike in PM2.5 levels post Holi burning festival

Meanwhile, air quality data analysis from Respirer Living Sciences revealed PM2.5 levels had shot up on March 21, after the Holika Dahan (festival of lighting pyres to mark the beginning of Holi celebrations) across India’s northern cities. A sharp spike was recorded on the evening of March 20, which lasted around noon the next day, after which most of the daily patterns largely resembled the earlier few days. Varanasi observed the largest deviation from its own daily patterns during this time, peaking at more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre, followed by Patna above 300, Delhi at 200 and Kanpur around 180. Mumbai maintained the lowest levels close to 50.

Holi at a glance

Delhi: Protest march against ‘hazardous’ waste-to-energy plant

Campaigners and residents of large and densely populated Okhla area in south Delhi took to streets against the alleged failure of authorities to shut down a waste-to-energy plant in Okhla. The protesters alleged that toxic emissions from the plant were polluting the area. The incinerator is close to populated areas of Sukhdev Vihar, Ishwar Nagar, New Friends Colony, Jasola, Sarita Vihar, Haji Colony and Ghaffar Manzil.

The protests said a joint panel of the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee had told the Supreme Court in September 2018 that the plants at Okhla, Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana were not complying with the emission standards, reported ET.

US: EPA rejects UN’s scientific consensus on health impacts of PM2.5

Science advisors of a special committee at the US EPA (Environment Protection Agency) are seemingly trying to overturn scientific consensus established by the UN that fine particulate matter PM2.5 kills people. In a harshly worded draft, Trump’s science advisors said the findings are based on “unverifiable opinions” and lacking in scientific support.

The draft document calls for “substantial revisions” to EPA’s assessment of PM2.5. The document also gives more weight to what it called the “discordant” evidence among the 2,800 published studies cited in the EPA’s 1,900-page science assessment, reported Inside Climate News.

Air pollution linked to psychotic experiences in young people

Latest research has shown that air pollution is harming the mental health of young people. Teens living under high air pollution are more likely to suffer from paranoia and face psychotic issues, says the first research of its kind. Over 2,000 17-year-olds were analysed for the study across England and Wales and researchers found that those living in areas with higher levels of nitrogen oxides had a 70% higher chance of symptoms such as hearing voices or intense paranoia, The Guardian reported. The report says psychotic experiences are far more prevalent in adolescents than in adults, but those having these symptoms when young are more likely to develop serious mental illnesses later.

Joanne Newbury at King’s College London, who led the research, told the Guardian: “[Nitrogen oxides] explained about 60% of the association between urban living and psychotic experiences.”

Air pollution reducing lifespan in Indonesia by over 5 years

Researchers have warned that increasing air pollution in Indonesia has reduced life expectancy of people by over five years in some of the country’s worst polluted regions, mainly southern Sumatra and Ogan Komering . Indonesia’s air quality has worsened from among the cleanest in the world to one of the most polluted over the past two decades, reports said. The University of Chicago study says an increase in coal-fired power stations, burning of land for plantation agriculture and the rising number of cars are the main causes for the worsening pollution in the world’s fourth-most populous country. The ambient pollution more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.

Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, choking with smoke from coal plants

Coal stoves, coal power plants and coal mines are choking the people in Mongolia. The capital of Ulaanbaatar is covered in a thick blanket of smoke and particulate matter, and the killer air rising from burning coal has caused the incidence of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses to spike in the Mongolian capital, especially among children According to reports, the levels of the tiniest and most dangerous airborne particles, PM2.5, reached 133 times the World Health Organization’s suggested maximum.


Timely: India’s enormous fiscal stimulus to solar power has been long due, and hopefully proves effective | Image credit: OrnateSolar

India imposes anti-dumping duty on import of solar EVA sheets from 4 countries

India has imposed an anti-dumping duty from $537 to upto $1,559 per tonne on Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) sheets for solar PV modules imported from China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The duty will last for five years to protect the domestic manufacturing market. The duty will not restrict any imports from any country and won’t affect the availability of the products, reported Mercom.

The petition was filed by RenewSys, Vishakha Renewables Private Limited, and Allied Glasses Private Limited. In the petition, it was mentioned that there is no known difference between the EVA sheets imported from the countries mentioned above and that produced by the petitioners, and the consumers can use the two interchangeably.

Government blacklists Chinese solar gear company after failing to honour contract

India is set to blacklist leading Chinese solar manufacturer China Sunergy (CSUN), after the solar module supplier failed to meet its contractual obligations with local project developers, the government said. This is the first time the government is considering such a step against a foreign solar equipment supplier. The ministry is also planning to prepare a list of approved suppliers to shield Indian companies from the risk of dealing with unreliable suppliers, ET reported.

Solar project developers Acme Solar, RattanIndia and Refex Energy had complained to the ministry about CSUN failing to maintain supplies. Acme Solar’s plea at the International Arbitration Centre, Singapore, said the Chinese firm had agreed to supply it solar modules of an aggregate capacity of 30MW. Acme paid an advance of $2.95 million (30% of the purchase price) but CSUN failed to dispatch 9W of modules by the agreed deadline, and did not return the advance either, it alleged. The Singapore arbitration court upheld Acme’s appeal.

Climate change may hit India’s wind power

Electricity production of Indian windmills is falling by 13% over the years because of the impact of warming of the Indian Ocean and the resultant weakening of the Indian monsoon – that’s the finding of a recent study. The Hindu reported that researchers from Harvard University and the National Climate Center in Beijing, based their conclusions on the analyses of wind and atmospheric data from 1980 to 2016. This trend may continue, the researchers warned, as they showed a decline in electricity production in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka. Tamil Nadu wind farms, located on the east coast, did not show any significant decline. Meng Gao of Harvard University, and lead researcher on the study, told The Hindu: “The government could concentrate on setting up more projects in Tamil Nadu as the lifetime of wind turbines is 20 to 30 years. We need to look at long-term goals.”

Researchers in India questioned the findings. Dr. K. Balaraman, Director General, National Institute of Wind Energy, Chennai, told The Hindu: “The data used by the team does not correlate with the live data we have. We have started additional studies to validate these results and will publish the findings soon.”

India’s shift towards renewable energy could dent US coal exports: IEEFA

India’s rapid transition to renewable energy over coal coupled with Europe’s phasing out of coal will hit the US export of the fuel, said the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The report said the US exported 115 million tonne (MT) of coal in 2018, 15% of the total domestic production of 753 MT. The US exports metallurgical coal used in the steel industry. IEEFA said, over the past decade, the US has exported an average of 58.3 MT, with the largest share going to European steelmakers, while other major importers were  Canada, Brazil, Japan and India.

According to IEEFA, the “mini-export boom” of the past couple of years has hit its peak as  European countries are phasing out thermal coal. Also, even as India plans to drastically reduce its reliance on coal-fired generation, US exporters face intense competition from Australia and other closer-to-market suppliers, the IEEFA report said.

India seeks bids for $5 billion in transmission lines to fuel renewables growth

Come June, India will seek bids for $5 billion of transmission-line tenders to integrate 175GW of renewable energy into the country’s grid by 2022. The target would require an investment in feeder lines and improvement of infrastructure. India has awarded tenders for 12GW of transmission lines since December, while bids for a further 16GW will be launched by the end of June. Another 38GW will be up for bidding before March 2020, ET reported quoting officials. Indian government said, since December, it has awarded tenders for 12 GW of transmission lines, while bids for 16 GW will be sought by June. Another 38 GW will be bid out before March 2020. Therefore, building transmission lines for 66GW worth of projects would need an estimated investment of Rs430 billion.

No ISTS transmission charges for solar and wind energy

India’s power regulator, in its latest modification to the law, has dropped charges and losses for the use of inter-State Transmission System (ISTS) network for generation of solar and wind power resources for a massive 25 years, both for private and public players.

Mercom reported the amended rules will apply to projects that meet certain conditions, which include the following:

Award of solar and wind projects should have been through the competitive bidding. Secondly, the commercial operation date (COD) for such projects should be between February 13, 2018, and March 31, 2022. And finally, a power-purchase agreement (PPA) should be signed with DISCOMs for the compliance of renewable purchase obligation (RPO).

Australia’s plunging wind, solar, storage costs stun fossil fuel industry

The Australian government this week dumped 90% of coal projects that  were submitted for underwriting programmes, and instead chose many renewable projects backed by battery storage and pumped hydro, and some gas and just one coal upgrade, reported Renew Economy. Experts say that given the elections are just weeks away, the choice may have been driven more by politics than economics.

Experts said developers were only asked to submit broad outlines, but once they send in detailed tender proposals later this year, “the economic case for favouring renewables and storage projects should be crystal clear, if the latest numbers from global analysts BloombergNEF are anything to go by” reported Renew Economy.

Britain’s CO2 emissions down 2.5% as renewables hit record

Thanks to a record renewable power generation, Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions have now fallen 43.5% since 1990, allowing the country to get closer to meeting a legally binding target to cut them by 2050 to 80% below 1990 levels. Government data showed that Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.5% in 2018, dropping for a sixth straight year, but more slowly than before, Reuters reported. UK’s carbon dioxide emissions came down 2.4% in 2018. Since the rate of decline was less than 2017’s 3% and 6% in 2016, campaigners said Britain was not reducing emissions fast enough to meet Paris targets.

Electric Vehicles

Public service only: India’s electric 3-wheelers must now be employed for public service alone to avail subsidies under FAME II | Image credit: Piaggio India

Govt. makes public transport permit mandatory for EVs to benefit from FAME-II sops

Electric three-wheeler and four-wheeler EVs will, from April 1, 2019, onwards, have to produce a valid government permit that states the vehicle will be only used for public transport only, if the owners want to avail the incentives listed under Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles FAME-II.

Some of these benefits include an incentive of Rs.50,000 each for e-rickshaws that cost up to Rs.5 lakh and a Rs.1.5 lakh each incentive for four-wheelers with an ex-factory price of up to Rs.15 lakh. The need to show a public transport permit arises from the fact that the scheme doesn’t allow privately-owned three-wheelers and four-wheelers to avail these incentives.

Delhi to get 131 EV charging stations, Goa calls for tenders for 100 e-buses   

In a major boost to India’s electric vehicles market, its Capital, New Delhi, will get 131 charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) this year. The aim is to encourage people to switch to EVs by providing easy access to recharging facilities, and the (chargeable) stations will be operational within three months.

Meanwhile, the state of Goa has called for tenders for 100 electric buses. The tendering process will be carried out through NTPC’s Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN) and the scope of work will be inclusive of maintenance of the fleet.

It’s China’s e-buses, not Tesla, that are denting oil demand

The oil industry needs to look beyond Tesla and recognise an even bigger threat – China’s e-buses. According to a BloombergNEF report, a total of 2,70,000 barrels a day of diesel demand will be displaced by electric buses, most of which are in China. This is more than three times the displacement by passenger electric vehicles across the world.

While the report claims the volume of oil displaced in 2019 is more than 14 times higher than what it was in 2014, it also concludes that this isn’t enough to create a sizeable impact on oil market. But experts call it a good start, with the EV market’s impact on the oil market only set to grow in the coming years.

China scales back on EV subsidies

China, which has been churning out electric vehicles by the droves, but without much innovation in technology, has now decided to cut subsidies awarded to these vehicles. The aim is to encourage local manufacturers to focus on quality more than quantity.

The country, for example, has cut the subsidy on pure battery electric cars with driving ranges of 400km and above by half (to 25,000 yuan ($3,700) per vehicle from 50,000 yuan), according to a statement made by the Ministry of Finance. Also, from now onwards, electric cars will need a range of 250km, much higher than the previous 150km, to benefit from any of the subsidies. Government support has certainly aided the rapid growth of China’s EV market, but at the cost of making better quality cars. Last week’s cuts were deeper than expected with shares of the country’s top EV makers sliding after the news broke.

Canada announces CAD 5,000 incentive for EVs

In a bid to encourage more Canadians to buy zero-emission vehicles, the Canadian government announced a 5,000 CAD for buyers of EVs costing up to 45,000 CAD in its federal budget released last week. The government’s push for such vehicles is significant as four Canadian provinces are all set to start paying a federal carbon tax on gasoline. It is also election year in Canada.

The budget also aims to expand EV infrastructure across the country by setting aside 130 million CAD over the next five years to build EV charging stations at convenient locations such as workplaces and public parking spots.

Buy EVs, save more: NYC shows world how it’s done

Recent New York City (NYC) government data on its electric vehicle fleet (NYCF) revealed a dramatic drop in operating expenses. According to the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), the city saved a considerable amount of money after it began switching to EVs as part of the NYC Green Fleet initiative, which has a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025. One of the major reasons for the savings – EVs don’t require oil change, air filter replacement, spark plugs or transmission servicing – which the DCAS is spending quite a bit on with its gas and hybrid cars.

The data reveals that in 2018, NYCF incurred a maintenance cost of $1,805.24 on 11 of its Ford Focus gas-powered vehicles (GPVs). In comparison, it spent just $386.31 on 7 of its Ford Focus EVs. The future looks even more green and pocket-friendly for NYC as the DCAS has pledged to add at least 2,000 plug-in EVs into service by 2025. As of January 2019, 1,756 of these were already on the road, with another 163 on order.

Oslo to become first city to install wireless EV chargers

Norway is more than keeping up with its tag of the fastest-growing electric car market. Its capital, Oslo, will now become the first city to install wireless, induction-based charging stations for electric taxis, The Verge reported. The country is doing all it can to reach its ambitious goal of getting a zero-emission cab system by 2023.

The country is working with Finnish utilities firm Fortum, which will, together with US firm Momentum Dynamics and the municipal government of Oslo, install charging plates in the road that will connect to energy receivers in the e-taxis in order to charge, according to Fortum’s press announcement. Norway can pull off such a major transition in such a short span of time primarily because it has a population of only 5.3 million people, The Verge reported.

UK firm to spend £1 billion installing solar-powered EV charging stations

Gridserve, a UK-based firm, has unveiled plans to install ‘electric forecourts’ to alleviate EV customers’ range anxieties. The project involves a capital investment of £1 billion and will install 100 such facilities across the country. The chargers will reportedly be capable of outputs as high as 500kW, and each forecourt may also be equipped with battery-energy storage.

Fossil Fuels

More trouble, yet again: Rising coal prices and costs of compliance with air pollution norms could render 70% of global coal plants uneconomical by 2040. | Image credit: Grist.org

Report: Drastic fall in number of coal plants in past 3 years, globally

Is coal going to be a thing of the past sooner than expected? It may just be if you go by the latest Boom and Bust report by Global Energy Monitor, which says there has been a drastic fall in the number of new coal plants over the past three years.

The report stated that since 2015, there has been an 84% drop in the number of new coal plants, 39% in 2018 alone. News reports are calling it a visible “peak coal”. In India, specifically, the report says the coal project pipeline has shrunk by 37GW – from 131.35GW in 2017 to 94GW in 2018. But the report’s authors warned that even emissions from existing coal plants were enough to breach the 2°C global warming limit.

China’s coal surge may spoil global climate targets

Can China single-handedly spoil the global coal-collapse momentum? Latest demands by China’s industry can. The country’s biggest power producers have asked Chinese government to allow them to develop between 300-500 new coal plants by 2030. This could mean China “could add a large coal power plant every 2 weeks for the next 12 years” reported Unearthed.

China is yet to adopt the industry’s proposal. According to the Global Energy Monitor report, China, last year, revived construction on several coal plants that it had previously shelved. Satellite images showed that China resumed construction on over 50 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants that had been put on hold in 2018, “ bucking a global shift away” from fossil fuels, reported Reuters.

The same survey also pointed out that  India had given approval to three major new coal plants ahead of the general elections next month. However, the report also stated that the capacity of coal projects in the pipeline declined by 37.4 GW. .

Report: Oil giants pumped a billion dollars in ads to undermine climate action

The five biggest oil giants – BP, Shell ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total – are spending around $200 million annually to block policies to tackle climate change, a new study has revealed. The five largest companies are using social media to oppose climate action. The study revealed that last year, ahead of of the US mid-term elections, the global oil giants spent $2 million on Facebook and Instagram ads to extol “benefits of increased fossil fuel production” The Guardian reported.

A $13-million campaign by BP and Chevron successfully blocked a carbon tax in Washington state, the research said, adding that a million dollars were spent on social media ads alone. The report’s author, Edward Collins, told The Guardian: “Oil majors’ climate branding sounds increasingly hollow and their credibility is on the line. They publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy.” Since the countries signed the 2015 Paris deal, the oil and gas majors spent $1 billion on “misleading branding and lobbying.”

Study: Fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind in US, coal to get out of race by 2025

According to a new study, around 75% of coal production in the US is more expensive than renewables to generate power for households. The study says the falling costs of solar and wind energy was enough to retire coal much faster than any policy change could. The study calculated the costs of coal power and compared it with that of renewables based on financial filings and data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA). The researchers found that 211GW  of current US coal capacity (74% coal fleet), is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar. The study says by 2025, wind and solar would  have “out-competed” the coal costs.

Carbon capture: Tata Steel, Shell, BP, and Drax join £1-million UK advisory group

The UK’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters Tata Steel, Shell, BP, Drax and Nation Grid have joined the country’s carbon capture and usage and storage group (CCUS) backed by £1 million of government funding. The CCUS technology is designed to capture CO2 emissions from the steel, cement and coal industry, before they are released in the atmosphere. Britain will also provide £170 million to develop “the world’s first net zero cluster of heavy industrial plants by 2040”. If implemented the plan is expected to cut out greenhouse gases from power plants and factories by the mid-2020s, reports says.

Czech utility CEZ to shut down 3 coal energy units mid-2020

Czech utility firm CEZ will shut down three coal energy units with over 1GW capacity in mid-2020 in order to phase out coal power plants in favour of zero-emission energy. Reuters reported: “The units account for around 5% of CEZ’s total annual capacity,”

Japan ministry vows to reject new coal plants after international criticism

Following criticism that Japan was not serious about curbing emissions and global warming, the country’s environment ministry said it will not approve construction of new coal-fired power plants to keep intact its international pledge of climate action.

Asahi Shimbun reported that since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, which resulted in the loss of nuclear plants, power companies mostly drew up projects to construct coal-burning plants to secure stable electricity supplies. This “faster-than-anticipated” transition by the Japan, which buys 39% of Australian-mined thermal coal, would affect future volumes and the viability of some new mines, The Guardian reported.