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India Green News: World Bank reports global warming to worsen Indian monsoons, severe flooding in Uttarakhand , U.S. - India clean energy ties strengthened with Kerry's visit

Grace Gill

Posted June 27, 2013

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June 21 - 26, 2013

India Green News is a selection of news highlights about environmental and energy issues in India

Climate Change

‘Global warming might change rain pattern’: Kolkata, Mumbai most vulnerable due to sea level rise, says World Bank

At a time when unprecedented rain has resulted in havoc in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the World Bank today came out with a report which states that another 2 to 4 degree celsius in the world average temperature may impact India’s rain pattern.

This could leave some areas under water, others would struggle for enough water, it said.

The report notifies Kolkata and Mumbai as the “hotspots” with threats of extreme floods, intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and high temperature. The report also suggests that an extreme wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years in India is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of this century.

The report, “Turn down the heat: Climate extremes, regional impacts and case of resilience”, looked into the likely impact of a 2 to 4 degree Celsius warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. It states that by 2040, India would see a significant reduction in crop yields because of extreme heat.

The report adds that the scenario would be worse unless action is taken to limit carbon emissions, as South Asia is likely to suffer the most through extreme droughts, floods, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and decline in food production. The reports also calls for flood defenses, cultivation of drought and heat resistant crops, improved ground water management and better coastal infrastructure in order to reduce the impact.

(Business Standard, 06/20/13)

India's "Climate-Change Refugees" Flee Rising Monsoon Flooding

NEW DELHI – In 2012, out of the millions of people displaced by natural disasters around the world, over a quarter were from northeast India. Almost nine million inhabitants were forced to flee the region's devastating monsoon.

These forced displacements are a common occurrence. Floods have become so routine in Assam, a state located at the foothills of the Himalayas, irrigated by one of the world’s mightiest river – the Brahmaputra – that a special administrative post was created to deal with natural disasters. “Most flood victims flee to temporary shelter and wait for the water to flow back, then they just go back home, it’s the same thing every year,” explains Harendra Nath Borah, the functionary in charge of natural disasters.

The monsoon was particularly intense in 2012. And the severity of flooding could increase in the next few years under the effects of global warming and the because of the construction of new infrastructures near the Brahmaputra, which put the lives of millions at risk.

A rise in temperatures could also lead to more intense monsoon precipitations. “In some regions, increases in heavy precipitation will occur despite projected decreases in total precipitation in those regions,” wrote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2012 special report.

A report by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests goes even further. The report says “all the regions show an increase in the flooding varying between 10 to 30% of the existing magnitudes. This has a very severe implication for the existing infrastructures such as dams, bridges, roads, etc, for the areas, and shall require appropriate adaptation measures to be taken up.”

(Le Monde, 06/21/13)

U.S. – India Cooperation

India, US agree to set up a new working group on climate change

NEW DELHI: India and the United States have agreed to set up a new working group on climate change. US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a briefing in New Delhi that the working group would "intensify efforts to find ways that we can bilaterally join together to address the urgency of climate change".

The proposed working group will be co-ordinated by Kerry and India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. Kerry said India and the US were collaborating on development efforts and "believe we can do so more on climate change".

The external affairs ministry taking a lead on climate change discussions with a key player in international negotiations could well be indicative of New Delhi's effort integrate its position on climate change with its larger foreign policy goals. Typically, the environment ministry has taken lead in international dealings on climate change.

The US, a key player in the international negotiations, has not signed on to global agreements like the Kyoto Protocol to limit carbon emissions to counter climate change. It was instrumental in the fashioning of the agreement at Durban to work on a new global climate change regime, which would include all countries.

(The Economic Times, 06/25/13)

John Kerry seeks ‘full potential’ in India during 3-day visit

Washington: US secretary of state John Kerry heads to India on Sunday calling for the two countries’ relations to achieve their “full potential”, amid charges that years of momentum have ground to a halt.

Kerry will spend three days in New Delhi on his first visit to India as the top US diplomat, where he plans to discuss cooperation on education and climate change and take up concerns over plans for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a video message ahead of his visit, Kerry said US President Barack Obama’s administration held a “firm belief that a strong India is in America’s national interests.”

“The US not only welcomes India as a rising power, we fervently support it,” Kerry said.

“This is the time for both the US and India to challenge ourselves in order to reach higher, in order to strengthen the bonds that we share, and to realize the full potential of our partnership.”

Kerry pointed to Obama’s support for New Delhi as a permanent member of the UN Security Council—one of the emerging power’s top foreign policy goals—and his own efforts as a senator to approve a nuclear cooperation agreement.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, urged Kerry to work with India on climate change, calling it a “pivotal opportunity” for cooperation.

The group said India and the US could together boost solar power and increase energy efficiency standards, which would put a serious dent in carbon emissions as India’s burgeoning middle class buys air conditioners.

Kerry, who will be joined by energy secretary Ernest Moniz, has long championed action on climate change. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping also found some common ground on the issue when they met earlier this month.

(Live Mint, 06/21/13)

USAID to bring in $100mn for India’s clean energy sector

CHENNAI: The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and US-based institutional investor Northern Lights Capital Group will together bring in $100 million investment in India's clean energy sector via Nereus Capital.

This is the first time USAID has partnered with a private investment fund to facilitate targeted investment. The Agency will provide a 40% credit guarantee for a $100 million limited partner commitment to Nereus Capital's India Alternative Energy Fund managed by Northern Lights Capital Group, a statement from the US Consulate General in Chennai said. The investment will be disbursed through the Agency's Development Credit Authority.

The investment decision was made at the fourth annual US-India Strategic Dialogue, during Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to India. "This investment could eventually create as much as 300-400 additional megawatts of sustainable energy capacity, which is equivalent to lighting the homes of tens of thousands of Indian families. It will help to facilitate access for US entrepreneurs to this emerging market," Raj Shah, administrator of the Agency said.

"Through a comparatively small investment by the US government, we can ensure that US investors can make low-risk investments that deliver high-reward for the people of India," said Ben Hubbard, the director of USAID's Development Credit Authority.

(The Times of India, 06/25/13)

Health and the Environment

Uttarakhand floods: Epidemic looms as people complain of fever, diarrhoea

NEW DELHI: The fear of an epidemic outbreak in flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand may be turning into reality as hundreds of people from local villages reported to medical camps set up by the forces complaining of fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. At least 128 people reported high temperature and gastro-intestinal infections in Ramnagar — a tiny village near Guptkashi in Kedarnath valley — through Monday and Tuesday. Three ITBP men engaged in rescue work in Kedarnath have also reported sick.

Authorities are now suspecting contamination of water resources in the area due to hundreds of decaying bodies spread across the valley.

Although medical camps set up by ITBP, NDRF and armed forces are already helping victims with medicines, the Centre is sending a high-level team comprising doctors and specialists to Uttarakhand to review public health measures.

Most of the victims are local villagers who depend on natural springs for drinking water. "There are so many bodies across the Kedarnath valley that it is not surprising that their decay is causing contamination of water. It needs to be contained now or we could have a bigger problem at hand," an ITBP official said.

(The Times of India, 06/26/13)

Energy

India slips in renewable energy attractiveness index: Ernst & Young survey

MUMBAI: High entry-barriers for foreign investors and the rising cost of financing have led to the country slipping to a low eighth position on the renewable energy country attractive index in the first quarter of 2013, says an Ernst & Young survey.

According to the report 'Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index', India's ranking slipped from fourth position to eighth this period, due to several challenges, including high cost of finance, entry-barriers for external investors, among others.

"A high barrier to entry for external investors causes India to score lower than most of its top 10 rivals. Also, bankability is jeopardised by the high cost of financing and significant infrastructure barriers here," E&Y India partner and national leader for clean-tech, Sanjay Chakrabarti said.

However, the index sees the country gaining the 'hot spot' as the market with increased focus on the role of renewable energy driving new levels of power sector investment and aiming to nearly double the amount it generates from renewable sources.

"While the country's rating may have slipped, there are significant positives. India is only behind Belgium in the priority the renewable sector receives," he said.

(The Economic Times, 06/23/13)

Bullish on solar projects in India: US Exim Bank chief

MUMBAI: US Exim Bank chief Fred Hochberg has said the lender is bullish on the renewable energy space here, especially the solar sector, even though there is a "slight pause" in such projects.

"I think there has been a slight pause in the solar area. (But) I think that's going to be picking up again," Hochberg told reporters during an interaction here. The US Exim Bank is the largest international financier for solar power projects in the country, he said.

Hochberg further said that in the past three years, his bank, which finances importers with an intent to increase jobs back home in the US, has rendered a finance of $ 350 million to solar projects here. "In less than three years, we have done about $ 350 million worth of financing for solar projects, making us the largest international financier for solar power in India," he said.

He further said that in the past decade they have financed over $ 12 billion worth of projects here and currently have a portfolio of $ 8.2-8.5 billion, which is second only to Mexico in the entire world, and is also growing very rapidly. "The US Exim Bank's financing is in the full range of transportation from aircraft to petrochemicals to power to solar energy.

"One of the areas that we're particularly excited about has been in the area of supporting India's drive for more renewable energy and how solar energy has become more and more economical, and some of the price of coal through import and transportation has increased. "The parity between solar power, renewable power, and coal power here has narrowed, but they're very close right now," said Hochberg

(The Economic Times, 06/26/13)

For more news on the issues we care about, visit our India News archive or read our other International blogs.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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