Happy Monday and welcome to today’s edition of Lights On, with this week’s key stories on energy and climate change in South Asia.
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Carbon tax tug of war
The EU is extending an olive branch to India after the rollout of its border carbon tax, the CBAM, rattled Indian industrialists. The EU designed the mechanism to prevent so-called “carbon leakages”, which arise when companies import goods and materials from countries where emissions embedded in the supply chain are not taxed as much as within the EU. With CBAM, the bloc wants to protect the integrity of its carbon market, but countries such as India, which currently exports much of its (carbon intensive) steel to EU countries, will be penalised.
Last week, the Mint reported that India is considering retaliatory tariffs against the EU, but experts believe nothing can be done to change the conditions of the new border tax which is integral to the bloc’s climate targets. However, EU officials have reiterated their intent to cooperate with India to ease the administrative burden posed by the new scheme, and while the country is unlikely to get any special treatment, European officials will be offering support to achieve compliance.
Snapshot of real time air pollution in Delhi
A new monitoring project will help capture air pollution from cars, rickshaws and scooters in Delhi. Not many know that the pollution produced by each model is tested and certified when the vehicle is idle, missing a lot of harmful pollutants, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, that are released when the engine is running. The new system, piloted in 15 locations in the capital, uses remote sensing to map out a detailed pollution profile of each vehicle as it passes by. It does so by casting an infrared and ultraviolet beam through the traffic, using a series of detectors to identify individual pollutants, plugging a serious knowledge gap in how traffic affects air quality in India.
Transmission efforts in jeopardy
India’s grand plan to dispatch clean energy across the country is facing stumbling blocks, the government has admitted. The Green Energy Corridor Project aims at connecting India’s renewable rich states of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh with the rest of the country. But lack of available land, forest clearances, court disputes and low interest among developers are hampering its progress.
While India keeps adding renewable capacity, the ability to move this energy where and when it’s needed is the final hurdle to its low carbon transition - one that may make or break its climate goals.
New solar expands today’s small capacity
Two new plants will add a total of 70MW to the 359MW of grid-connected solar capacity in Bangladesh, which is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and gas in particular. The country, which was badly hit by the energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine conflict last year, has a modest 10 percent renewable goal which it has been inching towards at a snail’s pace for years. The deadline is 2025, but given the investments the feat requires, even this target may prove hard to meet.
Controversial coal plant approaches green light
By the end of this month, the 1.6GW coal power plant built by the Adani group in the Indian district of Godda, situated 60 miles from the Bangladeshi border in the coal-rich state of Jharkhand, will become operational despite the tensions surrounding the project. The unit, worth $1.7bn, was pitched as a contribution to Bangladesh’s efforts for energy access, but after the controversies highlighted by the Washington Post among others, the country has sought to renegotiate the tariffs offered by the Indian developer. According to The Times of India, the plant is still waiting for the go ahead from the Bangladesh Power Development Board to commence the cross-border transmission.
Between conservation and development
Experts in Nepal worry that poorly planned infrastructural development may have a negative impact on conservation areas. The country’s much celebrated community forestry programme increased tree cover by 45 percent in 30 years, but now 400km of the cross country East-West Highway passes through national parks. Transmission lines and irrigation canals have been built through protected areas and interfere with wildlife movement. But things are slowly changing, with new developments featuring animal crossing points, camera traps for better monitoring and other safeguards to protect Nepal’s rich biodiversity.
After years of negotiations, a new agreement with Bangladesh will give landlocked Bhutan access to three ports, facilitating trade which was previously entirely dependent on Indian points of entry. With this new agreement Bhutan will be able to import fuel and other essential goods, reducing transit costs and its dependence on the powerful southern neighbour.
On Twitter this week
Research and further reading
Opinion: As the UN meets, make water central to climate action - The global water cycle has been wrecked by decades of mismanagement and intensified by climate change. As a result, the authors point out, 1.5 to 2.5 billion people live in areas where water is scarce, and those numbers could double by 2050. This piece outlines why water should be higher on the political agenda.
Opinion: Rhetoric Aside, India Must Find Answers to These Seven Critical Questions on Green Hydrogen - A sharp analysis asks the difficult questions about the hydrogen hype that is taking over India’s energy community. These include whether the government is considering the burden “green” hydrogen production places on land and water resources, and whether hydrogen producers will grab wind and solar electricity supplies that are more urgently needed for the electricity grid.
Analysis: Modi’s green dream at risk as Indian renewables hit by headwinds - As the energy giant Adani grapples with the impacts of the corruption allegations by the US firm Hindenburg Research, a big part of India’s clean energy plans, much of which hinged on Adani’s participation, is left in limbo.
Long read: India's shrinking coal jobs fuel 'distress' migration to cities - More than 13 million Indians depend directly or indirectly on the country’s coal industry and the jobs it creates. But the energy transition is leaving an increasing number of coal workers jobless, many of whom are now migrating to cities in search of a better future.
Long read: Facing floods: What the world can learn from Bangladesh's climate solutions - This fascinating visit to one of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries explores local solutions that save lives and make communities in rural Bangladesh a model of resilience.
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