Still standing: Fears over the federal government overstepping its authority with the states is likely to keep their coal plants standing even as the US supports coal phasedown worldwide | Photo: Axios

US to immediately stop financing high-carbon overseas projects

The Biden government issued an order to all government agencies to immediately stop financing overseas coal, oil and gas projects that are deemed to be carbon intensive. The order will apply to all projects that have an emissions intensity of 250 gm of CO2/kWh or above, and will include even projects that only partially capture their emissions. The directive thus set is expected to pivot any new financing to renewables, unless where fossil fuel projects are deemed to be necessary for security reasons, or must be used for vulnerable areas. 

At the same time, special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, stated that the federal government would not order a complete shutdown of coal plants within the US, as it may cause legal issues by the government overstepping on individual states’ own policies. However, the US remained committed to fully phasing out carbon from its power sector by 2035, he said.

Australia: Rising solar and wind power could force coal plants to retire three times faster 

The latest report by the Australian energy market operator found that the country’s power grid may go completely coal-free by 2043 and its coal plants may retire three times faster than anticipated. This is expected to happen because of the rapidly growing share of solar and wind power, especially in Victoria and NSW (New South Wales). The Integrated System Plan 2022 in fact reported that the share of renewables peaked to as high as 61% in September 2021, and predicts that it may reach stints of 100% by as early as 2025. 

Gas-fired power, which serves around 80% of all Australians, has also fallen to its lowest share in 15 years, and rooftop solar is expected to add 30% of the country’s new renewable power capacity, apart from a tripling of energy storage capacity by 2050. 

High Court stays Parsa coal block land acquisition in India

The High Court in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh stayed the acquisition of land in the Parsa coal block, which falls within the 187,960 hectares wide Hasdeo Aranya region, over submissions that the land being acquired would benefit a private firm. The firm in question is Adani Power, and the land is being acquired by Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRUVNL). The Parsa coal block is reported to be home to 5179.35 million tonnes of coal, but Hasdeo Aranya is at the same time India’s largest contiguous patch of unfragmented forest and an important ecological tract that is home to elephants and tigers, besides being home to several tribal populations. The Parsa coal block was given stage II clearance by the union government for mining on Oct 21 this year even though the Hasdeo Aranya patch was declared a “no-go” area in 2010 by the coal and environment ministries.  

New Zealand comes out sharply against fossil fuel subsidies 

The New Zealand government came out strongly against global fossil fuel subsidies in its latest Joint Ministerial Statement, saying that the subsidies were acting “against our efforts to address climate change by artificially lowering the cost of fossil fuels, and encouraging their on-going use”. It said that global fossil fuel subsidies amount to around $500billion every year and the sharply-worded statement categorically pointed out New Zealand’s disappointment with the results of COP26. 

The country has previously also called for an immediate decrease in fossil fuel use, and banned any new offshore oil and gas drilling licenses earlier in 2021 as it attempts to comply with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 deg C target. 

South Africa: Locals protest against Shell’s plans of offshore seismic testing 

Several climate activists and local communities protested strongly against Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to conduct 3D seismic testing in 6,000 sq km off of Wild Coast in eastern South Africa, as they claimed that they were never consulted about the exploration, and that the seismic waves could pose danger to local aquatic life. The exploration is to be carried out from December 2021 to spring 2022 and the protestors include members of the Xhosa people, who have resided in the region for centuries and who fear that oil and gas projects may disturb their livelihoods and the region’s ecology in general. 

Shell, however, responded by saying that the measures it had undertaken in its environmental management program (EMPr) “sufficiently provide for the avoidance and mitigation of potential environmental impacts.”

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