Newsletter - April 17, 2019
The older generation has used up most of the lifetime emissions budget that the younger generation would need to survive in future, says a Carbon Brief study. So, a person born today will have only an eighth of the lifetime emissions to burn compared to that of a person born in 1950, under a warming scenario of 1.5C. By conflating historical data on emissions, population and location, each person’s lifetime “carbon budget” was calculated.
According to the study, the lifetime carbon budget of an average American born in 1946 is 1,551 tonnes compared to 197 tonnes for someone born in 2017. And just 18 tonnes for a child born in India in 2017, reported Gizmodo.
Latest research has warned that two-thirds of the ice in the glaciers of Alps will melt by 2100 as temperatures continue to rise because of climate change. Scientists said global warming will cause half of the ice in the 4,000 glaciers of the Alps to vanish by 2050. After that, even if the world manages to cut CO2 emissions to zero, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100, which would have a big impact on water availability, especially during droughts.
In a separate study, scientists found glaciers melting 18% faster than they calculated in 2013. Earth’s glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s and over half of that loss is taking place in North America, the AP reported.
Planet well into the middle of climate change era, time to get radical, says climate campaigner
Veteran climate change campaigner Bill McKibben has warned that the planet is well into the middle of the climate change era “with its epic reshaping”. Writing in the Guardian, McKibben pointed to two recent studies that showed “frozen portions of Earth in a dramatic flux”. The world should be immensely grateful to climate scientists for understanding and continuously alerting the world of the scale of the problem, said the author adding that it is not the time to get angry over schoolchildren’s climate strikes, or get shocked over Extinction Rebellion’s mass protests, instead people should be grateful to them.
Earth’s species may take millions of years to recover from climate change
Earth will take millions of years to bounce back from the manmade mass extinction of species, says the latest study. Scientists say, according to the speed of the rate of evolution, it will take at least 10 million years for the diverse life of the planet to return to pre-human levels. The new study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, measured the diversity of the species using the remains of plankton called foraminifera, which are well-preserved throughout the fossil record, reported the Independent.
‘65% chance of weak El Niño’, but India forecaster expects ‘normal’ monsoon
The US state weather forecaster said there is a 60% chance of weaker El Nino conditions continuing through the northern hemisphere summer this year, with above-average sea surface temperatures expected across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño can affect rainfall patterns and trigger droughts and floods. However, in its first long-range forecast for the south-west monsoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the monsoons will be near-normal this year: 96% rainfall of 89 cm expected in 2019. In short, no bad effect of El Nino is expected. According to Skymet Weather, the monsoon is likely to be “below normal” to the tune of 93%. Journalists pointed out the discrepancy. “17% probability of deficient rains, 32% probability of below normal, 39% probability of near normal. IMD prefers calling it near normal monsoon….”, an HT journalist tweeted.
Seychelles President’s underwater plea to protect oceans
The president of Seychelles, Danny Faure, made an underwater speech from 406 feet below the Indian Ocean calling on the world to protect the seas. One of the small island nations most vulnerable to rising sea levels because of climate change, Seychelles aims to protect 30% of its ocean space by 2020. Last year, Seychelles protected 210,000 sqkm of ocean in exchange for getting some of its national debt paid off, reported the BBC. Oceans are one of the seven main themes of the UN climate meet in Chile in December.
Climate change threatening future of 19mn Bangladeshi children: UNICEF
Recurring environmental disasters linked to climate change will affect the future of over 19 million children in Bangladesh, according to a recent UNICEF report. One of the major threats — families are increasingly pushing their daughters into child marriage, the report said. The report states that frequent disasters, most recently the flooding of the Brahmaputra river in 2017, has led families to migrate to the country’s capital, Dhaka, along with other major cities, where parents struggling to make ends meet are forcing children into manual labour and child marriage.
The report breaks down the demographics of the 19 million children — 12 million of them, it says, live around river systems that frequently burst their banks, 4.5 million live in coastal areas that are hit by cyclones often, while another three million live inland, where farming communities are grappling with drought.
Water crisis hits Arab states, UN calls for urgent action
Arab states need to respond urgently to its bubbling water crisis, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned. It predicted that per capita resources will fall by 50% by 2050, Reuters reported.
FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva said the Middle East and North Africa have been worst hit by desertification and water scarcity, problems that have been compounded by climate change. Therefore, these regions need to upgrade irrigation techniques and come up with better water management strategies immediately, Reuters reported. To compare, the region’s per capita share of water availability is 10% of the global average, FAO said, and agriculture consumes 85% of the available resources.
Climate change is forcing people to migrate
Influential environmental broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has warned that mass migrations of climate refugees from Africa to Europe will increase if governments do not urgently invest in mitigating the impacts of climate change, The Sunday Times reported. Speaking at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington, Attenborough said: “People are coming from Africa because they can’t live where they are. If things go so more parts of the world become uninhabitable, that’s what will happen.”
Thousands of climate activists led by British climate group Extinction Rebellion brought parts of London to a standstill as they blocked major locations in a non-violent protest. They are demanding that governments declare climate and ecological emergency. Extinction Rebellion recently also staged a semi-nude protest in the British Parliament, and the protests could expand to 33 countries in the coming days.
Climate change could wipe out $20 trillion of assets?
Sarah Breeden, the Bank of England’s head of international banks supervision, has warned that if institutions and companies fail to prepare now, climate change can potentially wipe out $20tn of assets leaving the global economic system devastated, reported the Daily Telegraph. “The shock could be so severe that it could trigger a “climate Minsky moment”, where asset prices suddenly become worthless, derailing global growth, Breeden told the newspaper.
WB-IMF meet: 23 finance ministers pledge climate action boost
At the latest meeting of the World Bank (WB) Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finance ministers from 23 developed and developing nations officially formed the ‘Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action’ and pledged to align fiscal policy with Paris Agreement targets, BusinessGreen reported. The ministers endorsed the Helsinki principles, which promise to align members’ tax and spend policies with the Paris Agreement. The ministers vowed to help countries organise the cash needed to fulfil climate pledges, as well as forge a blueprint for climate budgeting, green investment, and public procurement.
COP 25: Chile appoints ‘climate champion’ for Dec summit to be held in Santiago
The Chilean Presidency, which will host the 2019 UN climate conference (COP 25), has named recycling entrepreneur Gonzalo Muñoz Abogair “climate champion” for the December summit. He will be responsible for coordinating action by business, city and civil society leaders, alongside the formal talks, Climate Home News reported. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera revealed Cerrillos Bicentennial Park, Santiago, as the COP 25 venue.
Will new WB chief, Trump’s man, continue bank’s support to clean energy over fossil fuels?
President Donald Trump has appointed David Malpass as the new World Bank (WB) chief. But experts are worried if the bank will stay its course. Recently, the WB Group steadily cut lending to fossil fuel projects, yet it is still lagging behind in its transition to clean energy. Climate Home News warned that although Malpass has been making reassurances at spring meetings in Washington DC, the US’ political priority is economic growth. According to a recent analysis by German NGO Urgewals, in the past five years, the bank’s investments in oil and gas projects have actually increased.
45,000 Amazon staff push CEO Bezos to cut company’s emissions, ties with big oil
Over 45,000 employees of online shopping giant Amazon have written an open letter to their CEO Jeff Bezos saying they are not happy with the company’s trade with oil industry. The online shopping giant has investments in BP and Shell and it is now trying to sell technology to locate oil faster to other oil companies. Experts said the company has a massive carbon footprint as it depends on fossil fuels to power planes, trucks and vans to ship parcels around the globe, AP reported. Earlier this year, Greenpeace reported that Amazon has allegedly abandoned its much-hyped goal of running its data centres on 100% renewable energy.
US sanctions blocking flood-hit Iran from getting foreign aid
This week highlighted yet another example of geopolitics affecting victims of extreme weather events. Flash floods have engulfed major parts of Iran, killing at least 70 people, but the country hasn’t been able to get foreign aid relief to assist victims because of US sanctions, Reuters reported. The US has imposed sanctions on Iran’s energy and banking sectors, which have halved the country’s oil exports and also restricted access to foreign revenues.
“No foreign cash help has been given to the Iranian Red Crescent society. With attention to the inhuman American sanctions, there is no way to send this cash assistance,” the Red Crescent said in a statement. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, countered by saying Washington is willing to help through the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, while also accusing Iran’s clerical establishment of “mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness”. The floods, which arose after heavy rainfall on March 19, has left thousands homeless with aid agencies struggling to cope with more than 86,000 people moving to emergency shelters.
EU, China reach climate deal to back clean energy
After anxious discussions on trade and tariffs, the EU and China reached a last-minute deal to tackle climate change and promoting clean energy at a summit in Brussels. The joint statement, less detailed than a 2018 statement on climate change, stressed “the importance of showing resolve on the clean energy transition”. The leaders vowed to “reinforce cooperation” on green finance and mobilise successful outcome at a climate summit to be hosted by the UN secretary general in September.
Normalising climate change? Stop pushing business-as-usual scenario: Bizmen to IEA
Sixty business leaders and scientists have written to “the most influential” International Energy Agency (IEA) to stop “normalising” dangerous climate future.
The leaders asked the IEA to clearly report that “[its] business-as-usual scenario… charts a dangerous course to a world with between 2.7C and 3C of warming”. The IEA’s energy outlook, released last November, focused on the “New Policy Scenario” (NPS), or business-as-usual case, over the “Sustainable Development Scenario” (SDS) intended to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. The authors said the IEA should bring its SDS in line with 1.5C of warming.
London implemented the world’s first round-the-clock Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) within which vehicles will have to meet tough norms or pay a charge. Described as one of the strongest measures yet taken to limit vehicular emissions, critics say the norms could be tougher if the government had banned polluting vehicles instead of just charging them. Polluters will have to pay a daily charge of around $16 for some cars, vans and motorbikes and $130 for trucks and buses.
Traffic pollution results in 4 million child asthma cases a year: Study
In a landmark finding, scientists said pollution from cars and trucks result in 4 million child asthma cases a year, which translates to 11,000 cases every day. The study says it’s not just children in China and India that were suffering, but in cities in the US and UK, traffic pollution was causing a quarter of all new child asthma cases.
Los Angeles and New York are among top 10 worst affected cities. Most worryingly, the study says most of the new child asthma cases are from cities where the air pollution level is already lower than World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, indicating that toxic air is even more harmful than we thought.
‘Tall promises in manifestos of India’s political parties, little action on the ground’
Climate Trends, a Delhi based organisation, released analyses of action taken by leaders against air pollution. Titled “Political Leaders’ Position and Action on Air Quality in India” the report highlighted that Members of Parliament in 14 Indian cities, tagged as the most polluted globally by WHO 2018, have done little to get their cities to comply with safe air quality standards locally.
The report says the manifestos of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and CPI (M), all mention air pollution, but none of them promise to do the job of cleaning India’s toxic air in the next five years.
Delhi firms losing talent due to pollution
Corporations in Gurugram, the polluted business suburb of Delhi, are finding it tough to hire and retain talent because of the city’s hazardous air quality attributed to vehicular pollution, construction and crop burning. Travel portal MakeMyTrip in Cyber City and software company Nagarro in Udyog Vihar carried out employee surveys and found that nearly half of them and their families had respiratory problems, 75% considered leaving, and 74% preferred cleaner air over an increment. An employee and their family spend ₹16,187, on an average, yearly to fight air pollution. A Greenpeace report published in March, said Gurugram was the most polluted city in the world in 2018.
According to latest Mercom analysis, the global solar sector received $2.8 billion in corporate funding globally – which was up 10% in Q1 2019, compared to Q1 of 2018.
Mercom CEO Raj Prabhu explained that the solar industry was on a much stronger footing at the start of 2019, compared to 2018, the year that witnessed tariffs, subsidy and installation cuts in China, and a module glut. “However, China is still a wild card, and depending on its 2019 policy direction, it could have a significant impact on the solar industry,” the CEO said.
2019: Drastic drop in solar auctions, but solar announcements soar
Mercom’s analysis of India’s solar sector says auction activity in March drastically dropped to a meagre 750 MW, almost one-fourth of the capacity auctioned in February. The auctioned capacity in March 2019 was also lower when compared year-over-year with 1 GW of solar auctions conducted in March 2018, reported Mercom. But last month also witnessed far better solar announcements with 5.3 GW of solar capacity tendered through the month, 1 GW higher than the capacity tendered in February 2019, according to Mercom’s India Solar Tender Tracker.
Developers upset, govt says auction cancellations saved them money
Solar auctions for around 8,000 MW capacities worth Rs40,000 crore were cancelled last year, leaving investors and developers in the lurch. In 2019 as well, developers are facing uncertainties as central and state governments as well as a private distribution companies cancelling bids.
The report said, India could add only about 8,250 MW of solar capacity in 2018, which was 15.5% less than 9,775 MW added in 2017. ET quoted top government official saying the cancellations of solar projects helped governments in the states and at the Centre save over Rs 3,000 crore.
Centre to make recycling of solar waste mandatory
The Indian government finally proposed to make it mandatory for solar developers to recycle glass PV panels. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed the government to prepare norms to manage Antimony present in solar glass panels. The government concept note says that developers will have to ensure safe handling of used solar waste, as it should never be disposed or dumped in open landfills. Meanwhile, energy consultancy firm Bridge to India, in its latest report, flagged the urgent need for India to have a solar waste management policy to help avoid potentially hazardous end-of-life module waste in India.
Wind energy firm Suzlon sells solar assets
One of the largest Indian wind energy company Suzlon Energy, has sold its solar assets to CLP Wind Farms Limited, a subsidiary of Chinese company CLP. Since the beginning, Suzlon was doubtful about its future due to the alleged policy bias towards the solar power sector, reported Clean Technica. The company also had millions of dollars of debt, the report said.
Electric two-wheelers in India, which used to sell at around Rs70,000, are now selling at Rs80,000–90,000 as FAME-II’s revised guidelines have reduced the subsidies available to the segment. As per the revisions, subsidies have been reduced for li-ion batteries — from Rs22,000/kWh to Rs10,000/kWh — and for vehicles that run below a minimum top speed.
Unfortunately, this affects a large majority of the vehicles as they are designed to operate at top speeds of only 35-40 km/hr. Naveen Munjal, managing director of Hero Electric, has said the revisions would effectively destroy India’s electric two-wheeler industry.
EVs outsell conventional vehicles in Norway, Saudi Arabia downplays impact on oil demand
Electric vehicles outsold petrol and diesel-powered vehicles in Norway for the first time in March 2019, accounting for 58.4% of all vehicles sold in the country. Tesla’s Model 3 has been leading the sales, while hybrid vehicles registered a 10% drop in numbers over March 2018.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih, has, however, reiterated that EVs would only be an economical alternative for light transport (such as cars) and therefore will not disrupt global oil demand. He said that the expanding sectors of shipping, air and freight trucks would necessitate a growth in oil supplies.
50% of Australians support all-electric cars by 2025
A nationwide survey of 1,536 residents by the Australia Institute has revealed that 50% of them support the sale of only fully-electric cars in the country by 2025. There was also strong support for a nationwide, electrified transport system, with Western Australia and Queensland topping the figures at 68% and 62%, respectively.
The results come at a time when the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has been severely critical of the opposition’s target of 50% EV sales by 2030. The country is also heading into elections with action on climate change as a key point of contention.
The loss-making Adani Power’s 4,620 MW plant in Mundra, Gujarat, has been granted a lifeline by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) after it allowed the developer to increase its retail tariff to account for the progressively higher costs of imported coal. The ruling only applies to 2,000 MW of the plant’s output, but the higher tariff can now be passed on to end customers.
The ruling could set a precedent for a number of India’s other privately-owned coal plants that are running on losses, and could be cited by other developers such as Tata Power looking for similar reprieves on their PPAs. Tata Power’s coal at Mundra is also running at heavy losses because of costlier coal imports.
Rio Tinto endorses Paris Agreement-compliant stance on industry associations, future of coal
Mining giant Rio Tinto has announced that it will work with industry associations – including in Australia – to further their advocacy in line with Paris Agreement-compliant climate action. This includes not only recognising the key role renewables play in reducing emissions, but also driving the debate against coal power subsidies.
Additionally, the world’s largest miner will demand that any use of coal in the medium to long term be consistent with the Paris Agreement targets. The move is highly significant as Rio Tinto wields immense influence in mining operations and industry lobbies, and the official announcement could force other members to adopt similarly climate-positive guiding principles.
India: Thermal power addition slumped to 29% of FY19 target, stressed assets could worsen unemployment figures
New capacity addition for thermal power in India slumped to 2,130 MW for 2018-19 — a mere 29% of the target of 7266 MW. The slowdown is attributed to the growing share of cheaper renewable energy alternatives, unreliable coal supply linkages and dearth of long-term PPAs for new coal power developers.
Additionally, a new IISD report suggests that stressed thermal power assets could worsen the country’s unemployment figures. It says the government must take steps to suitably re-skill the affected workforce — despite the difficulties with absorbing all the workers into other industries, such as renewable energy.
Norwegian pension fund to tighten coal exclusion, cleared to invest in unlisted RE projects
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – Norway’s trillion dollar-strong pension fund – may further tighten its divestment from coal after its government proposed to introduce an absolute cap of 20 million tonnes of annual coal output, or 10 GW in power generation for companies the fund is invested in.
This means the fund may divest an additional $4.17 billion worth of holdings, including from Glencore, BHP (UK & Australia) and RWE. The fund has instead been cleared to invest up to $14 billion into renewable energy projects with an estimated market worth of $2.7 trillion in 2017 — including ones that are not yet listed on stock markets.
Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ to cut loans to coal power by 50% by 2030
Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) has announced it will reduce its loans to new coal power plants outside Japan by 30-50% by 2030. MUFJ will also extend less finance to new coal power within the country – the figure for which stood at $9.9 billion for 2016 – September 2018