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Lights On briefing: Microplastics on the Everest, India's climate promises and more
What you need to know to start the week
Welcome back to the Lights On news briefing, with key headlines on energy and climate change in South Asia.
In case you missed this week’s entries, check out my story on the world’s biggest trade agreement, why India decided to pull out and what this will mean for its green sector. This weekend I also spoke with air pollution researcher Pallavi Pant who explained why the idea of tackling pollution with new lockdowns is crazy, and what we should learn instead from the Covid crisis.
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India keeps its climate promises
India is the only country of the G20 group on track to meet the 2°C warming target set under the Paris Agreement, according to a new analysis by the Climate Transparency partnership. If all countries were to meet their own targets, global warming would be limited to 2°C above pre industrial levels, although the more desirable outcome of curbing rising temperatures at 1.5°C would still be missed. Among India’s positive developments, the report mentions the expansion of rural solar and an accelerated energy transition, combined with a declining coal demand.
No takers for landmark solar plan
Back in June, the energy giant Adani’s Green Energy made the headlines with a ‘first of its kind’ $6 billion solar deal with the government owned Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for the development of a multi-plant solar project totalling 8GW of capacity. Now Reuters reveals that the project failed to secure customers, potentially exposing Adani’s Green Energy to significant financial risks. It’s unclear if and when SECI will manage to find any buyers at all, at a time when energy demand is slowing down and many investors are losing confidence.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Norwegian developer Greenstat Hydrogen have teamed up to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen technology in India. As part of the joint effort, they will establish a Centre of Excellence on Hydrogen which will serve as a platform for knowledge building based in part on TERI’s previous research in the sector.
The worst year for Indian solar
In the first nine months of 2020 India’s new installed capacity plummeted by 68 percent, according to the consultancy Mercom India. Only 1.73GW of new solar projects were added, against 5.48GW in 2019. “The solar industry in India is glad to see the back of 2020, which will end up as one of the worst years for solar in India as COVID-19 took a heavy toll on the industry. However, the market is almost back on its feet,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.
Mission impossible: saving the Yamuna river
The Delhi water management body (Jal Board) has set out the impossibly ambitious task of cleaning up the Yamuna river, which flows through the capital and is so polluted Delhiites can smell it from a distance, by 2023. The plan involves setting up new wastewater treatment processes using wetlands and aeration methods, as well as diverting sewage water to biogas plants to generate electricity and gas.
Tiny curls of microplastic have reached Mount Everest, at 8,440 metres of altitude, the highest contaminated site found on the planet so far. The scientists who collected and analysed snow samples were surprised to find plastic in one of the ‘most remote and pristine areas on Earth’. However, plastic fragments smaller than five millimeters are known to have traveled to nearly every corner of the world, from the deep oceans to vast, unspoiled landscapes, moving with the wind and through rivers and sea currents.
Bangladeshi farmers hit by destructive flooding received a claim of BDT 150,000 ($1700) through a new ‘Index-based agriculture insurance scheme’ aimed at providing accurate information on losses and claims each household is entitled to, speeding up the disbursement process. The pilot project involved 316 boro rice farmers and aims at streamlining some of the traditionally cumbersome processes by integrating satellite remote sensing, real time weather data and digitalising transactions.
In case you (like me) missed it, the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) has allocated a game changing $340.5 million to modernise and reduce the emissions of Bangladesh’s mass produced clothing and textile sectors, which together account for 27.8 percent of the country’s CO2 emissions. These sectors are currently extremely inefficient due to old machines and poor energy management, putting at risk Bangladesh’s climate targets. The program will offer loans and technical assistance to companies with the aim of saving 14.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in emissions.
Research and further readings
Opinion: India must reach out to Biden administration and propose a bilateral deal that focuses on climate action - Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council for Energy, Environment and Water, argues that after the damages caused by the Trump presidency which eroded trust between major economies as they tried to reach consensus on the climate fight, the ascent of US President-elect Joe Biden offers a strategic opportunity for India — an historic Biden-Modi climate deal in 2021.
Long read: China ignores Elon Musk, pushes ahead with plan to build hydrogen-fuelled auto sector - While Elon Musk, CEO of the electric carmaker Tesla has given a voice to the sceptics who believe hydrogen is never going to be a viable option for electric mobility, China is promoting the idea. The country is to date the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles and is offering rewards for the development of hydrogen-powered cars, trucks and buses.
Long read: CPEC Crisis: China plays hard as Pakistan spirals deeper into debt trap - A detailed report on the precarious relationship between Pakistan and its most powerful partner, and why China withholding funding would spell big trouble for Pakistan’s development. If you want to know more about China’s foreign investment, I recommend my interview with researcher Cecilia Han Springer, where she looks into the disconnect between what China is promising at home, and what still needs to be done to decarbonise the Belt and Road Initiative.
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