Shimla: Facing local protests on environmental issues and the World Bank’s refusal to provide $650 million, hydropower major Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL) has dropped plans for a disputed 38-km-long tunnel for its 610 MW project on the Sutlej river in Himachal Pradesh, an official said.
The public sector company has now decided on a reservoir-based project that is expected to cost $1,150 million.
Documents accessed by IANS indicate that the company on July 27 submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the project’s fresh terms of reference, the first step towards acquiring green clearances.
In the revised design, SJVNL, work on whose maiden hydro project in this hill state started in 2004-05, has decided to create three reservoirs that will supply water to the turbines, rather than feeding it through a tunnel, an official said.
The environmental groups and affected people, under the banner of the Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti, a group of representatives of villages to be affected in Kullu, Mandi and Shimla districts, have expressed the victory of their campaign to save the original course of the Sutlej with the dropping of tunnel plan.
“The tunnel, if built, would have been one of the longest for a hydro project in Asia and would have led to the disappearance of the Satluj for a stretch of 50 km,” Shyam Singh Chauhan, a resident of the affected area, told IANS.
Besides, nearly 78 villages would have been affected with the tunneling work, he added.
The locals have been agitating against the project since its inception and have also challenged the environment clearance granted earlier to the company by the union ministry of environment at the National Green Tribunal.
The World Bank last April turned down a SJVNL request for a $650 million loan for the project owing to protests against the tunnel.
“I’m not going to put the country out of business trying to maintain certain standards that probably don’t matter,” President Donald Trump told VOA when asked about the economic impacts of climate change.
When not denying its existence, the Trump administration’s approach to
climate change essentially comes down to three arguments: the United States has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions more than other countries, regardless of any international agreement; regulations to cut emissions come with high costs and few benefits; and those regulations would put the United States at a disadvantage because other countries will not follow.
“When you look at China, and when you look at other countries where they have foul air,” Trump added, “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money.”
As U.N. climate negotiations get under way in Poland to work out rules for implementing the Paris climate agreement — from which Trump intends to withdraw the United States — experts weigh in on the administration’s claims.
It’s true that the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas production more than any other country. U.S. emissions peaked in 2005. In the last decade, they have fallen by about 13 percent, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
But the United States was the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases until 2006. And, others have made bigger cuts by percentage. Hungary’s levels, for example, decreased 14 percent.
U.S. emissions started to fall when the fracking boom took off.
The new technique of hydraulic fracturing turned the United States into a major natural gas producer. As the price of natural gas has dropped, it has been steadily replacing coal as the dominant fuel for electricity generation. Because burning natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide than coal, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased.
More recently, renewable sources such as solar and wind power have started to make inroads on the power grid.
While U.S. emissions have fallen since the 2000s, China’s have soared.
The country pursued astonishing economic growth with an enormous investment in coal-fired power plants. China is now the leading producer of greenhouse gases by far, roughly doubling U.S. output.
Trump has argued that regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions would hobble the U.S. economy. He has moved to undo the Obama administration’s proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances, among others.
Critics question whether those regulations would cost as much Trump suggests.
“None of these policies were going to have dramatic increases in the prices that consumers would see,” Duke University public policy professor Billy Pizer said. He added that normal price swings would likely swamp the cost of the regulations Trump targets.
The emissions reductions the Obama administration pledged in Paris “were built largely on a continuation of the coal-to-gas transition and a continuation of growth in renewable energy that’s already happening,” said Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute research center. As such, he added, they “don’t imply a large cost. In fact, they imply a marginal increased benefit to the U.S.”
Those benefits come, for example, because burning less coal produces less air pollution, which lowers health costs.
Not to mention the direct results of climate change: wildfires, floods, droughts and so on.
“We have enough science and enough economics to show that there are damages resulting from us releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. We know that that is not a free thing,” University of Chicago public policy professor Amir Jina said. “And yet, we are artificially setting it as free because we’re not paying the price of that externality.”
He said economists nearly unanimously support a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade program or some other way to put a price on carbon emissions.
Few nations have taken the necessary steps to meet the emissions reduction pledges they made in Paris, according to the most recent United Nations emissions gap report.
Even those pledges would fall far short of the Paris goal of limiting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the report adds. Reaching that target will take “unprecedented and urgent action.” A 2016 report said an additional $5.2 trillion investment in renewable energy will be necessary worldwide over the next 25 years.
Trump’s statement — “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money” — sums up why nations are reluctant to act: no one wants to take on burdens that they think others won’t.
“It’s the thing which has been dogging action on climate change for generations,” Jina said.
“We only really solve the problem if everybody acts together,” he added. “And if enough people are not acting, then we don’t.”
Paris depends on countries following through on increasingly ambitious emissions cuts.
Each country decides what it is willing to do. Every five years, countries come together and show their progress.
“You over time build confidence in each other,” Pizer said. “Ideally, you ratchet up the commitments as you see your actions reciprocated by other countries.”
Trump’s backpedaling on the U.S. commitment raises questions about the prospects.
However, the first of these check-ins is five years away. Trump can’t formally withdraw the United States from the agreement until 2020.