The UAE has appointed Sultan al-Jaber, head of state oil giant, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) as president of the COP28 climate conference. Photo: ADNOC

UAE names oil giant CEO as head of COP 28 climate conference

In what is seen as a major conflict of interest, the United Arab Emirates has appointed Sultan al-Jaber, head of state oil giant the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) as president of the COP28 climate conference it is hosting this December. Jaber, who is also UAE’s minister of industry and technology as well as its climate envoy, will help to “develop the COP28 agenda and play a central role in intergovernmental negotiations to build consensus”, reported Reuters. The newswire adds that the UAE and other Gulf energy producers have called for a “realistic energy transition in which hydrocarbons would continue playing a role to ensure energy security while making commitments to decarbonisation”. 

The first “global stocktake” as defined and designed by the Paris agreement is slated to take place at COP 28. To avoid concerns that fossil fuel interests are influencing global climate talks, campaigners are demanding that Jaber must stand down from his oil business role as president as it is a clear conflict of interest. Scientists point out that COPs build up consensus for coordinated action, but the influence of oil and gas interests continue to limit their ambition.

Homes develop cracks in Himalayan town of Joshimath, hundreds of people evacuated

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the Himalayan town of Joshimath after their homes  developed cracks due to shifting soil. Experts call it “well-engineered calamity”. They had warned that large scale construction work and blasting  in the region would lead to subsidence (sinking) of the land popular with tourists and pilgrims. Fresh cracks have appeared in Karnaprayag in Chamoli district.

Last year in April, the central government declared some highway projects near the borders as sensitive and hence exempted them from requiring an environment clearance (EC). The move environmentalists warned would lead to environmental degradation of the ecologically fragile area, HT had reported. 

Joshimath  will be gone if an under-construction National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) project near it is not shelved, reported DTE. Two tunnels are being dug as part of the Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project. One is being dug from Tapovan and the other from Selang. The Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydropower Project as well as the Helang Bypass should be shelved, wrote the DTE adding that independent scientists have been kept away from studying NTPC’s tunnelling activity. 

PMGKAY food allocations terminated abruptly, PDS to be made completely free instead

The government terminated the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) which allowed all National Food Security Act cardholders (Priority as well as Antyodaya households) bonus cereal rations of 5 kg per person per month in addition to PDS rations. While the initiative, which was started as a COVID-19 relief measure, has been ended, the government has made changes to the overall PDS scheme as well with rations under the scheme being made completely free rather than being made available at highly subsidised rates. The move is envisaged to save the government thousands of crores of rupees per month in additional expenses to support the PMGKAY. According to critics, however, the move need not have been as abrupt and should be followed up by appropriate increases in social security spending. “For poor households, this was a significant economic supplement. For the government, it was a major financial burden…If it is to be discontinued, then the corresponding savings (up to ₹1.8 lakh crore per year or so) should be redeployed in other social security measures,” writes Economist Jean Dreze in the India Forum.

Govt panel suggests notifying afforested land as ‘protected forest’ in some cases under new scheme

Centre’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has proposed that afforested land (land forested for commercial purposes) should be notified as ‘protected forests’ in case there are difficulties in transferring the land to the state forest department under the new accredited compensatory afforestation scheme (ACA), reported the Print, adding that the details of implementation for which are still being worked out.

Accredited compensatory afforestation scheme allows developers to buy afforested land from private or public entities, instead of finding non-forest land & bearing afforestation cost. The scheme introduced through Forest (conservation)” rules of 2022, attempts to compensate for loss of forest land to non-forest activity 

The new NCR plan excludes Aravallis, silent on 0.5% construction limit

Centre has excluded the Aravallis from its definition of natural zones in its proposed draft Regional Plan 2041 and it is also silent on the existing 0.5% cap on construction in one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, reported HT. 

The draft plan removed both the provisions from the existing Regional Plan 2021 plan which defined natural conservation zones (the 2041 plan terms these natural zones) as  “the major natural features, identified as environmentally sensitive areas, are the extension of Aravalli ridge in Rajasthan, Haryana and NCT-Delhi, forest areas, the rivers and tributaries of Yamuna, Ganga, Kali, Hindon and Sahibi, sanctuaries, major lakes and water bodies such as Badkal lake, Suraj Kund and Damdama in Haryana Subregion and Siliserh lake in Rajasthan etc. …ground water recharging areas such as water bodies, oxbow lakes and paleochannels …”.  The 2021 plan also mandated a 0.5% cap on construction in natural conservation zones.

HT reported that NCRPB has said in July 2022 Centre specified a fresh formulation for rewriting the relevant paragraph related to natural zones in the plan which will be placed before the board.

State Auditor: No action plan by govt to handle plastic waste 

The government has no action plan to for the effective implementation of its strategy to tackle plastic waste, found a compliance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India December 21, 2022. Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, could not be implemented effectively and efficiently due to a lack of an action plan by the MoEF&CC, the CAG said. The ministry is also lacking in effective coordination with pollution control boards. The ministry was also silent about the existence of a policy for plastic waste reduction, reuse and recycling, CAG observed in its audit.

HSBC breaks green vow, loans money to fossil fuel firm RWE to expand coal mine

Banking giant HSBC reneged from its vow to stop funding fossil fuels by sanctioning a $340m loan to RWE, Europe’s largest energy company. Banks senior members also said the loan should not be publicised by the borrower. The energy company is “bulldozing” a village in Germany to expand a huge coalmine, The Times reported. The mine will cover an area about the size of Swindon and is expected to yield roughly 190m tonnes of lignite, the most polluting of all coal types.“

HSBC told The Times that they have processes to ensure their financing aligns with their policies, which include an expectation on clients to produce and implement credible transition plans.

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