Representational Image. The rejected proposal involved the diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land and the felling of over 280,000 trees.

Respite for local communities as Etalin hydro project scrapped in current form

For climate action crusaders in Northeast India, the year has started on a positive note with the controversial Etalin hydroelectric power project in Arunachal Pradesh scrapped in its present form. A temporary respite to local communities and conservationists, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to revise the proposal on the 3097 MW project in Dibang Valley, a biodiversity hotspot. The rejected proposal involved the diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land and the felling of over 280,000 trees in dense subtropical, evergreen, broad-leafed, and subtropical rainforest, according to a fact sheet submitted to FAC.

Prepare working plan on waste discharge into Ganga, Yamuna during Kumbh: Allahabad HC to UP government

Ahead of Kumbh Mela, which is set to take place in Prayagraj in April, the Allahabad High Court has ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to prepare a working plan to ensure that the ban on single-use plastic is enforced effectively and plastic waste is not dumped in the Ganga or Yamuna. The order was announced on January 6, 2023, after a bench of three judges — Rajesh Bindal, Manoj Kumar Gupta and Ajit Kumar — heard a PIL in this regard. In view of the ongoing Magh Mela in the state, the court has directed the authorities to ensure periodic monitoring of the rivers’ water quality. The court has also directed the organisers to ensure that waste, either liquid or solid generated and collected in temporary toilets constructed during the ongoing Mela, is not discharged into the rivers. 

The same problem seems to arise during peak seasons of the Char Dham Yatra. According to a report released on January 13 by the Joint Committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) there is “gross mismanagement of solid waste, liquid waste and plastic waste pollution and the appalling lack of infrastructure to deal with the huge influx of pilgrims and tourist population during peak seasons” on the Char Dham Yatra.

Fast-Tracking of Gati Shakti projects could see green clearances bypassed

Infrastructure projects that fall under the PM Gati Shakti initiative and carry project costs of over ₹500 crore (about $ 60 million) could be exempt from obtaining environmental clearances, according to a ministerial proposal to facilitate faster approvals of projects such as railway lines, roads, power lines etc, which are considered to be of critical importance. This would be the latest step in a series of policy amendments over the past decade with a view to fast-track infrastructure projects at the cost of enforcing environmental norms and appraisals. “Almost all bigger projects like roads and railways are already out of the environmental clearance process,” he said. “If they want to speed up infrastructure projects, they need to look at other non-environmental and forest issues such as how to get the money to build them. How do you maintain them? How do you deal with environmental bottlenecks created by nature itself?” environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta told Hindustan Times.

India’s insurance regulator to treat green bond purchases as infra investments 

In a circular dated January 13, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has said insurers will be allowed to classify their sovereign green bond purchases as infrastructure investments. The move was made with the objective of de-concentration and diversification of insurers’ infrastructure portfolios as well as from the perspective of participation in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Through the issue of its first-ever sovereign green bonds, India aims to raise 160 billion rupees ($1.96 billion) this financial year. The Reserve Bank of India will auction 5- and 10-year green bonds worth 40 billion rupees each on January 25 and on February 9.

US: Fed directs big banks to disclose how they are preparing for climate change risks

In a move to prepare for climate change risks and keep global temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius, the Federal Reserve has asked the six largest banks in the U.S. to disclose the impact that climate change could have on their loan portfolios and commercial real estate holdings. The participating banks that include Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have until the end of July to show the anticipated impact that events such as floods, wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves and droughts could have on their operations. This exercise will “ advance the ability of supervisors and banks to analyze and manage emerging climate-related financial risks.” A summary is expected to be released publicly by the end of the year.

World Bank adaptation funds slept through Pakistan’s record flooding

The World Bank’s Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (Sweep) was deemed as one of the lifelines that would help Karachi with its urban flooding problem. But two years into the five-year project, less than 3% of its $100 million budget has been spent, and none of it is on new infrastructure. A major nightmare is trash clogging the drains and Sweep was supposed to help by improving solid waste management. Sweep says it’s only delayed by three or fourth months, and the World Bank agrees too. In its project reports in March 2021 and November 2021, progress was declared as “satisfactory”, even though no work had been completed on the ground. The rating changed to “moderately satisfactory” for both the June 2022 and December 2022 reports. According to the World Bank, based on the current schedule, the construction of the waste disposal facility and transfer stations is expected to commence in early 2023.

After John Kerry, EU climate chief also back Cop28 president’s appointment

The appointment of Mr Al Jaber as the President of COP28 has sparked widespread criticism by climate activists. Climate organisations and advocacy groups are equating the decision as asking “arms dealers to lead peace talks”. However, Mr Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi state oil company Adnoc, has received support from both US climate envoy John Kerry who cited his work on renewable energy projects, and EU climate chief Frans Timmermans. Mr Timmermans said the appointment of Mr Al Jaber, can help tackle global fossil fuel “tough cookies” and swing them behind the energy transition as he started with sustainability policies long before anyone else in the oil and gas sector.