Current Affairs - Sustainable Developement
On 12th September,2023, European Union lawmakers endorsed a significant agreement to elevate the share of renewable energy sources in the EU's energy mix, marking another substantial step in the bloc's transition away from fossil fuels.
- Renewable Energy Target: By 2030, the EU aims to achieve 42.5% of total energy consumption from renewables, with a subsequent goal of reaching 45%. This marks a significant increase from the previous target of 32%.
- Energy Transition: The European Parliament's decision is seen as a major move towards accelerating the energy transition, making it more affordable for citizens while reinforcing the EU's position as an industrial stronghold.
- Reducing Fossil Fuels: The adoption of these renewable energy goals signifies a significant shift away from fossil fuels in the EU's energy mix, particularly reducing dependence on oil and gas, including sources from Russia.
- Solar Panels and Windmills Deployment: The legislation is expected to accelerate the deployment of solar panels and windmills.
- National governments are required to grant permits for new renewable installations within 12 months if they are situated in designated "go-to areas" that ensure nature protection.
- For areas outside this designation, the process should not exceed 24 months.
- Formal Approval Needed: The legislation now requires formal approval by member countries to become effective, further solidifying the EU's commitment to its green energy transition.
According to a recent study, India's primary pearl millet or bajra production region has been relocated to 18 districts across eastern Rajasthan and Haryana between 1998 and 2017, driven by increased rainfall linked to human-induced climate change.
- Change Trigger: A study published this year revealed that the core pearl millet production area in India has shifted due to increased rainfall influenced by climate change.
- Data Sources: The study utilized data from crop models and digital technology to assess the shift and recommended a revision of India's pearl millet Total Population Environments (TPE).
- Classification: India categorizes pearl millet cultivation zones based on rainfall patterns and soil types.
- Zones: These zones include arid regions of Rajasthan (Zone ‘A1’), semi-arid regions in north and central India (Zone ‘A’), and semi-arid regions with heavy soils in southern and central western India (Zone ‘B’).
- Zone ‘A’ Subdivision: The paper proposed subdividing Zone ‘A’ into three subzones — ‘G’, ‘AE1’, and ‘AE2’. Zone ‘G’ encompasses Gujarat, ‘AE1’ covers eastern Rajasthan and Haryana, and ‘AE2’ includes 12 districts in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- More Rainfall: Climate change has led to increased rainfall in Zone ‘G,’ covering seven districts in Gujarat.
- Cultivation Shift: Farmers have altered their cultivation practices, shifting from pearl millet to cash crops like cotton and castor beans due to increased rainfall and a 2.2% annual rise in irrigation.
Sanchi, renowned for its ancient Stupa, has achieved the distinction of becoming India's first 'solar city.' On 6th Sept, 2023, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister inaugurated this transformative initiative, highlighting its significance in leading the world towards renewable energy, much like Lord Buddha's teachings.
- Historic Milestone: Sanchi is officially designated as India's first solar city, marking a significant moment in the nation's pursuit of sustainable energy solutions.
- Reducing Carbon Footprint: The entire solar project in Sanchi is expected to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 14,324 tonnes, emphasizing the commitment to shift towards renewable energy sources.
- Operational 3 MW Plant: A 3 MW solar plant, catering to the city's energy needs, is fully operational and situated close to the UNESCO World Heritage site on a 5-hectare land.
- Upcoming 5 MW Plant: Another 5 MW capacity solar plant is under construction to meet agricultural requirements.
- Energy Surplus: Upon completion, Sanchi is projected to generate more energy than it consumes.
- Statewide Solar Projects: The state government is implementing various solar projects, including a 600 MW electricity-generating dam water project in Omkareshwar.
- Eco-Friendly Infrastructure: Sanchi features energy-efficient devices, e-charging stations, solar streetlights, and solar water pumps for civic use.
- Support for Farmers: Farmers will receive assistance in installing solar pumps, promoting sustainable agriculture practices.
- Household Solutions: Every household will be equipped with low-energy-consumption fans, tube lights, LEDs, and approximately 2,000 students will receive solar lights.
- Solar Lanterns: Street vendors will be provided with solar lanterns to support their businesses.
- Sun-Powered Town: Sanchi's energy production will match or exceed its consumption, contributing surplus energy to the grid.
- CSR Contributions: All the equipment and infrastructure have been procured through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
Recently, in Vancouver, Canada, the Seventh Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) witnessed the long-awaited ratification and launch of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF).
- Enabling Global Contributions: Governments, non-profits, and the private sector can now direct their resources to the GBFF, a pivotal step to ensure the realization of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) goals by 2030, as established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
- Advancing Biodiversity Goals: The contributions pledged in Vancouver hold the potential to propel the world toward the aim of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, setting a course for nature's recovery by 2050.
- Impressively, Indigenous-led initiatives for biodiversity protection and conservation are set to receive 20% of the funds, reinforcing their crucial role.
- Prioritizing Support: The GBFF will prioritize Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, allocating over one-third of its resources to these regions.
- This marks a significant stride, as non-state actors, including indigenous communities, are now eligible for funds allocation.
- Pursuing Ambitious Targets: As per GBF's Target 19, a minimum of $200 billion annually needs to be raised by 2030.
- Early Contributions: The initial contributions from Canada and the UK align with the GEF Council Decision from June, aiming for at least three donors to contribute $200 million to GBFF by December 2023.
- Challenges Ahead: Despite Canada and the UK's contributions, an additional $40 million is required to operationalize the fund by the end of 2023, a concern raised by civil society organizations like Avaaz and Conservation International.
Recently, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a stark warning, revealing that sea levels in the Pacific Islands are increasing at a rate of approximately 4 mm per year, slightly exceeding the global average.
- Threat to Low-Lying Islands: The accelerated sea level rise poses a severe threat to low-lying Pacific Islands like Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands.
- Over time, these islands could face catastrophic flooding, resulting in the loss of agricultural lands and habitable areas.
- Marine Heatwaves Impact: The report also highlighted the occurrence of prolonged marine heatwaves in a significant area northeast of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea, spanning over six months.
- These heatwaves have had detrimental effects on marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of local communities.
- El Nino's Role: El Nino is characterized by warming water surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean.
- It often leads to higher temperatures, disruptive weather patterns, increased marine heatwaves, and coral bleaching in the South-West Pacific region.
- Natural Hazards and Human Impact: The report revealed that the region experienced 35 natural hazards in the previous year, including floods and storms, resulting in the tragic loss of over 700 lives and affecting more than 8 million individuals.
On 18th August, 2023, the Central government, in support of the National Green Hydrogen Mission, introduced the Green Hydrogen Standard for the country, establishing emission criteria for hydrogen to qualify as 'Green' from renewable sources.
- Defining Green Hydrogen: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy issued the Green Hydrogen Standard, encompassing both electrolysis-based and biomass-based hydrogen production methods.
- Emission Threshold: Green Hydrogen is defined as hydrogen with a well-to-gate emission, including all production processes, not exceeding 2 kg CO2 equivalent per kg H2.
- Methodology and Certification: The MNRE will specify a comprehensive methodology for measurement, reporting, monitoring, on-site verification, and certification of green hydrogen and its derivatives.
- Nodal Authority: The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), under the Ministry of Power, will serve as the Nodal Authority responsible for accrediting agencies involved in monitoring, verification, and certification for Green Hydrogen production projects.
- Global Pioneering Step: India's definition of Green Hydrogen places it among the first few nations globally to establish clear standards for renewable hydrogen production.
Recently, Gabon unveiled a ground-breaking $500 million debt-for-nature swap on August 15, 2023, marking Africa's largest deal of its kind aimed at refinancing national debt while conserving marine resources.
- Debt Restructured via Blue Bond: Gabon's debt restructuring takes the form of a Blue Bond, the world's second-largest debt-for-nature swap.
- Impact on Marine Conservation: Under the agreement, Gabon commits to allocating $5 million annually over the next 15 years toward marine conservation efforts.
- Focus of Funds: These funds will support critical conservation objectives, protect endangered species, and promote a sustainable 'blue economy' in Gabon.
- Global Commitment to Protect Oceans and Lands: Gabon's commitment aligns with global efforts to protect 30% of the world's oceans and lands by 2030, as agreed upon in the high-seas treaty in March 2023.
- Gabon Pledge: The nation pledges to develop and implement a comprehensive marine spatial plan, designate 30% of its ocean as biodiversity protection zones, and enhance the sustainability of its fishing sector.
- Functioning Of the Finance Mechanism: This innovative financial mechanism enables the nation to address its debt challenges while investing in the conservation of its marine ecosystems.
In a historic two-day summit held in Belém (ending on 9th August), Brazil, eight Amazon nations have collaboratively established a set of unified environmental policies to enhance regional cooperation.
- Unity for Environmental Protection: Representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela convened in Belém to foster regional collaboration and devise joint environmental strategies.
- Saving Amazon: The gathering marked the first assembly of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) in 14 years and resulted in the creation of an alliance aimed at safeguarding the Amazon and combating deforestation.
- Diverse Areas of Collaboration: The "Belém Declaration," a shared statement emerging from the summit, commits to deeper cooperation on various fronts, including water management, sustainable development, healthcare, and unified positions during global climate summits.
- Differing Approaches to Deforestation: While the nations concurred on the formation of the alliance and their commitment to combat deforestation, they did not agree on a common target for ending deforestation.
- Each country will individually pursue its deforestation reduction objectives.
- Brazil's Stance and International Climate Concerns: Prior to the summit, Brazilian President advocated for a unified goal of ending deforestation by 2030, mirroring his government's pre-existing policy.
According to a recent study, climate change, rapid glacial melting, and gravel mining in the Kali Gandaki River are altering its course and reducing the appearance of Shaligrams, endangering the pilgrimage.
- Sacred Significance: Shaligrams, ancient ammonite fossils, are venerated in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Himalayan Bon religion. Primarily manifestations of the Hindu god Vishnu, they are not human-made but believed to possess inherent consciousness.
- Spiritual Practices: Shaligrams are revered as both living deities and active community members. Pilgrims undertake journeys to find Shaligrams in the Kali Gandaki River Valley, and the pilgrimage culminates at the Muktinath temple.
- Legends and Myths: Two legends are associated with Shaligrams. One links them to the goddess Tulsi's transformation into a river, and Vishnu's embodiment as a Shaligram stone, while the other involves celestial worms creating the stones with unique shapes and spirals.
- Pilgrimage Route: The Shaligram pilgrimage occurs in the Himalayas, avoiding monsoons and snow. Mustang, a region in Nepal, is a significant stop where pilgrims find Shaligrams in the Kali Gandaki River bed.
- Restricted Access: Upper Mustang remains restricted due to historical and geopolitical factors, limiting the pilgrimage route. Pilgrims are unable to visit Damodar Kund, the source of Shaligrams.
- Spiritual Convergence: Muktinath temple, the final destination, serves as a Hindu, Buddhist, and Bon sanctuary. The temple's water spouts, representing essential elements, provide a symbolic purification process for pilgrims and Shaligrams.
- Challenges and Hope: Climate change is threatening the Shaligram pilgrimage by altering river courses and reducing fossil appearances.
Recently, the global ocean surface temperature reached 20.96°C, setting a new record, with potential global implications.
- Surpassing the Previous Record: 4th August saw the oceans' surface temperature rise to 20.96°C (69.7°F), surpassing the previous record of 20.95°C from March 2016.
- Dominance of Ocean Heat Absorption: Oceans have absorbed 90% of excess heat generated by human activities since the industrial era, a concerning trend.
- Continued Accumulation of Heat: Oceans continue to heat up due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases, primarily from burning fossil fuels.
- Impacts on Marine Life: The warming oceans pose an immediate threat to marine life, with reports of coral bleaching in Florida and potential far-reaching consequences.
- Effects on Ecosystems: Ocean overheating could disrupt species migration and facilitate the spread of invasive species, potentially endangering fish stocks and food security.
- CO2 Absorption Challenge: Warmer oceans have reduced capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, contributing to a feedback loop of global warming.
- El Nino's Role: The ongoing El Nino phenomenon is expected to contribute to further temperature increases, with the worst impacts projected for late 2023 and beyond.
- Human Activity Main Culprit: The primary cause of ocean overheating is attributed to the accumulation of greenhouse gases resulting from human activities, especially fossil fuel consumption.
- Increasing Marine Heatwaves: Marine heatwaves have doubled in frequency since 1982, with projections indicating a potential tenfold increase by 2100 if pollutant emissions aren't reduced.