Union Environment Minister launches Global Cooling Prize

The Global Cooling Innovation Summit was inaugurated by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on November 12, 2018, in New Delhi.

While speaking at the inaugural event, the Union Minister announced the launch of the Global Cooling Prize, an international competition to incentivize the development of a residential cooling technology that will have five times less climate impact in comparison to the standard Room Air Conditioning (RAC) units sold currently.

The Minister said that concrete and collective actions are required to address the colossal challenge of global warming. He added that India is close to doubling its research and development activities in this regard.

Global Cooling Innovation Summit: Key Highlights

The two-day summit is a first-of-its-kind solutions-focused event, which has been organized to explore concrete means and pathways to address the climate threat that comes from the growing demand from room air conditioners.

It has been jointly organized by the Department of Science and Technology along with Rocky Mountain Institute, Alliance for An Energy-Efficient Economy (AEEE), Conservation X Labs and CEPT University.

The summit saw the launch of the Global Cooling Prize, which is an Innovation challenge that aims to spur development of a residential cooling solution that has at least five times less climate impact than the standard air conditioners.

It is expected to witness participation from distinguished speakers from around the world, including innovators, philanthropists, venture capitalists, and other industry leaders.

Global Cooling Prize

It is an innovation competition with wide global reach and participation that aims to achieve dramatic breakthroughs in cooling technologies.

The key objective of the competition is to develop a climate-friendly residential cooling solution that can provide access to cooling to people around the world without warming the planet.

It aims to develop a cooling technology that requires radically less energy to operate, utilizes refrigerants with no ozone depletion potential and with low global warming potential and has the potential to be cost-effective at scale.

Key Highlights

The competition aims to rally a global coalition of leaders to solve the critical climate threat that comes from growing demand for residential air conditioning by harnessing the power of innovation.

The competition is designed to incentivize the development of a residential cooling solution that will have at least five times less climate impact than the standard RAC units.

The technology could prevent up to 100 gigatons (GT) of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050, and put the world on a pathway to mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100, all while enhancing living standards for people in developing countries around the globe.

The awards programme will call worldwide attention to the most promising ideas across the globe and will celebrate successes and facilitate endeavors of innovators through providing recognition, encouragement, and support.

Over US$3 million will be awarded in prize money over the course of the two-year competition.

Up to 10 short-listed competing technologies will be awarded up to US$200,000 each in intermediate prizes to support the design and prototype development of their innovative residential cooling technology designs.

The winning technology will be awarded at least US$1 million to support its incubation and early-stage commercialization.

Background

  • There are currently 1.2 billion room air conditioning units in service around the world.
  • It is estimated that the number of units will increase to at least 4.5 billion by 2050.
  • India alone will see over 1 billion air conditioning units deployed in the market by 2050.
  • The energy consumption associated with comfort cooling represents one of the largest end-use risks to the climate, putting the most vulnerable populations at risk.
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Aim, shoot for a citizen-science repository of Indian mammals

Scientists and researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore have come up with a new citizen-science repository on Indian mammals, called Mammals of India (MaOI). MaOI is a part of the Biodiversity Atlas (India project).

The initiative aims to develop individual species pages for all Indian mammals with information on identification, variation, distribution, breeding and non-breeding ecology and species conservation.

Now one can contribute to the cause of science by sharing the picture of the animal on a specific website, providing the location of spotting. This will make more information available about lesser known mammals of the country.

As per current estimates, 426 species of mammals are found in India; of them 47 species are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Along with well known species, the mammals of 100 species of rats and 126 species of bats and 24 species of whales of dolphins.

These photographic records will help researchers in having distribution map of mammals in the country. The photographs will not only help gather information on the distribution of the various species but also interactions between different species of mammals, like predation and mutualism.

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Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi launched

Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi was launched in Delhi by the Union Minister for Earth Sciences and Environment, Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

 About the Air Quality Early Warning System:

The System is designed to predict extreme air pollution events and give alerts to take necessary steps as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) of the Government of India.

The air pollution system has been developed jointly by the scientists at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, India Meteorological Department and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).

The system will help in proactively forewarning, 3-4 days in advance, any large-scale air pollution events which may occur over the Delhi region.

The warning system consists of a) real-time observations of air quality over Delhi region and details about natural aerosols like dust (from dust storms) and particulate matter using different satellite data sets b) Predictions of air pollutants from two different air quality prediction systems based on state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry transport models and c) Warning Messages and Alerts and Bulletins.

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India lost $79.5 billion due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years: UN

India lost $79.5 billion to climate-related disasters in the last two decades, according to a United Nations (UN) report released.

The report comes in the wake of the global organization sounding the alarm on the dire effects of climate change, including a rise in extreme weather events if warming is not limited to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Highlights of the report:

The report highlights the impact of extreme weather events on the global economy. It states that the years between 1998 to 2017 have seen a dramatic rise of 151% in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters.

In terms of the impact of disasters on the global economy between 1998 and 2017, affected countries reported direct losses of $2.908 trillion, more than twice of what was lost in the previous two decades.

Extreme weather events now account for 77 % of total economic losses of $2.245 trillion. This represents a “dramatic rise” of 151% compared with losses reported between 1978 and 1997, which amounted to $895 billion.

The greatest economic losses have been experienced by the US at $944.8 billion, followed by China at $492.2 billion, Japan at $376.3 billion, India at USD 79.5 billion and Puerto Rico at USD 71.7 billion.

Storms, floods, and earthquakes place three European countries in the top ten nations for economic losses: France, $48.3 billion; Germany, $57.9 billion and Italy $56.6 billion. Thailand with $52.4 billion and Mexico at $46.5 billion complete the list.

In terms of occurrences, climate-related disasters also dominate the picture, accounting for 91 percent of all 7,255 major recorded events between 1998 and 2017. Floods (43.4 percent) and storms (28.2 percent) are the two most frequently occurring disasters.

During this period, 1.3 million people lost their lives and 4.4 billion people were injured, rendered homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. 563 earthquakes, including related tsunamis, accounted for 56 percent of the total deaths or 747,234 lives lost.

The report concludes that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The disasters will continue to be major impediments to sustainable development so long as the economic incentives to build and develop hazard-prone locations outweigh the perceived disaster risks.

Way ahead:

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, it is clear that disasters have a steep human cost as millions of people are displaced every year, losing their homes and jobs because of extreme weather events and earthquakes. Therefore, a better understanding of the economic losses from extreme weather events can help to generate greater action on climate change and increased ambition in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Measuring economic losses can also motivate Governments to do more to achieve the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which seeks a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2030. Besides, reducing the economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives and contribute greatly to the eradication of poverty.

Integrating disaster risk reduction into investment decisions is the most cost-effective way to reduce these risks; investing in disaster risk reduction is, therefore, a pre-condition for developing sustainable in a changing climate.

UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR):

It was established in 1999 as dedicated secretariat to facilitate the implementation of International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). It is an organizational unit of UN Secretariat and is led by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (SRSG). It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

It is mandated by United Nations General Assembly resolution (56/195) to serve as focal point in United Nations system for coordination of disaster reduction and to ensure synergies among disaster reduction activities of United Nations system and regional organizations and activities in socio‐economic and humanitarian fields.

 

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Centre sets ‘minimum river flows’ for the Ganga

In a first, the Union government has mandated the minimum quantity of water — or ecological flow as it’s called in scientific circles — that various stretches of the Ganga must necessarily have all through the year. The new norms would require hydropower projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance.

In a gazette notification made public, the National Mission for Clean Ganga has laid down the flow specifications. The upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.

The new norms would require hydropower projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance. Power projects that don’t meet these norms as yet would be given three years to comply and “mini and micro-projects” would be exempt from these requirements.

For the main stem of the Ganga — from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao, Uttar Pradesh — the notification specifies minimum flow at various barrages: Bhimgoda (Haridwar) must ensure a minimum of 36 cubic meters per second (cumecs) between October-May, and 57 cumecs in the monsoon; and the barrages at Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur must maintain a minimum of 24 cumecs in the non-monsoon months of October-May, and 48 cumecs during the monsoon months of June-September.

Designated Authority:

The Central Water Commission would be the designated authority to collect relevant data and submit flow monitoring-cum-compliance reports on a quarterly basis to the NMCG, according to the notification.

The notification is issued in the backdrop of ongoing ‘fast unto death’ by environmentalist and former IIT Kanpur faculty member GD Agarwal at Haridwar on the issue of Ganga conservation. The 87-year-old Agrawal has been observing hunger strike since June 22 for pollution free and uninterrupted flow in the Ganga.

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World’s Largest 3-D Printed Reef Installed at Summer Island Maldives

The world’s largest 3-D printed reef was submerged on Saturday (11 August) at Summer Island Maldives, in what is hoped could be a new technology-driven method to help coral reefs survive a warming climate.

The artificial reef, assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged at Summer Island’s ‘Blue Lagoon’ — a sandy part of the lagoon, where the resort hopes to create a new coral reef ecosystem.

The experiment was aimed at increasing their resilience and longevity against the ongoing environmental rampage. The ceramic structures built closely resemble the original structures found in the Maldives. Ceramic itself is made of calcium carbonate, the same inert substance that occurs in abundance in corals.

Bleaching poses the most potent danger to corals, which used to abound in the Pacific Ocean and color its waters in different hues. With imminent threats like increasing temperatures of water bodies and disposal of chemical wastes in oceans, 3D printing technology is hoped to offer a safety net for corals, for posterity.

The technology allows mimicking the complexity of natural reef structures, so as to design artificial reefs that closely resemble those found in nature. This will be a more effective way of growing and restoring corals.

The Maldives is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations. Rising sea temperatures pose a grave threat to the world’s coral reefs, and mass bleaching events are becoming more common and more severe.

Summer Island Maldives has implemented a number of recent environmental initiatives, including the adoption of solar energy, a ban on the use of plastic straws, phasing out imported drinking water, and coral conservation projects.

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Rajasthan first State to implement biofuel policy

Rajasthan has become the first State in the country to implement the national policy on biofuels unveiled by the Centre in May this year. The desert State will lay emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds and establish a Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to promote research in the fields of alternative fuels and energy resources.

National Policy on Biofuels- salient features:

The Policy categorizes biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable the extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.

The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing the use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar-containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch-containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.

Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows the use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.

With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Biorefineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.

The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

Expected benefits:

Import dependency: The policy aims at reducing import dependency.

Cleaner environment: By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be a further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.

Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.

Employment Generation: One 100klpd 2G biorefinery can contribute 1200 jobs in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.

Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same.

Globally, biofuels have caught the attention in the last decade and it is imperative to keep up with the pace of developments in the field of biofuels. Biofuels in India is of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.

1st generation biofuels are also called conventional biofuels. They are made from things like sugar, starch, or vegetable oil. Note that these are all food products. Any biofuel made from a feedstock that can also be consumed as a human food is considered a first generation biofuel.

2nd generation biofuels are produced from sustainable feedstock. The sustainability of a feedstock is defined by its availability, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, its impact on land use, and by its potential to threaten the food supply. No second generation biofuel is also a food crop, though certain food products can become second generation fuels when they are no longer useful for consumption. Second generation biofuels are often called “advanced biofuels.”

3rd generation biofuels are biofuel derived from algae. These biofuels are given their own separate class because of their unique production mechanism and their potential to mitigate most of the drawbacks of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.

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Odisha police launches drive to bust pangolin smuggling racket

A special unit of the Odisha Police has launched a drive to bust an international syndicate that peddles “endangered” pangolin, one of the world’s most illegally traded mammals

A process has been initiated to crack the international pangolin smuggling racket, possibly with the help of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). MLAT is an agreement between nations to exchange information or provide legal assistance for enforcing laws.

Pangolins are smuggled for its scales as it believed that they possess magic or charms and have medicinal properties. The scales serve as a base component for indigenous (traditional) psychotropic substances. China is the main illicit hub (market) for smuggled scales of Pangolins, where they have a huge demand for medicinal and magical purposes.

Pangolin is only scaly mammal on the planet. According to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is also the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia).

Of the eight species of pangolin worldwide, two are found in India. They are Chinese pangolin, mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin.

Protection Status: Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered” by UN-affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered” in IUCN Red List. It is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

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Myanmar joins International Solar Alliance

Myanmar joined the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA), becoming the 68th member of the grouping that is aiming at the optimum utilization of solar energy.

Myanmar Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin handed over the ISA Framework Agreement to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a bilateral meeting here on the margins of this year’s Delhi Dialogue, the premier annual track 1.5 event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc.

The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.

The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilization of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.

As an action-oriented organization, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.

When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty-based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.

The ISA is not only expected to spur innovation in the RE space but also help make India a technological hub with independent manufacturing capabilities of RE equipment like solar panels, rather than being dependent on imports, through initiatives like ‘Make in India’. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is expected to play a role in “marrying Indian tech and finance capabilities with specific projects around the world”.

India announced a goal of obtaining 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 at the Paris climate change summit. It is close to achieving 20 GW grid-connected solar power generation capacity this fiscal year (2018), in pursuit of achieving its target of 100 GW by 2022.

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The most advanced system of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting inaugurated at Chandni Chowk

Science& Technology, Earth Sciences; Environment, Forest & Climate Change Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan unveiled a state-of-the-art Air Quality and Weather Forecast System– SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting) at Chandni Chowk in Delhi today. The giant true color LED display gives out real-time air quality index on a 24×7 basis with color coding along with 72-hour advance forecast.

  • The system, first of its kind in the country, was developed indigenously in record time by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and operationalized by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • The minister said based on the Air Quality Index on a particular day, Health advisory and related precaution will be notified to prepare citizens well in advance. Dr. Harsh Vardhan, further added that in addition to monitoring and forecasting of regular air quality and weather parameters, the Chandni Chowk air quality station will also measure sun’s UV-Index and will provide the measurement of online automatic ultrafine particles PM1 and Mercury, both of which have direct relevance to human health. Based on UVI, skin advisories will be issued on display.
  • “Our mission model project SAFAR is implemented in four cities of India – Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad as an operational service. According to a preliminary economic assessment of the benefits of the system, if 5% of people suffering from air-pollution related diseases take advantage of the advisories and precautions in Delhi alone, it would result in a saving of nearly Rs. 2,500 crores in terms of health-related cost benefit,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan.
  • The system will be an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi and will strengthen the existing air quality network of SAFAR, Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
  • SAFAR will accelerate public awareness and preparedness of air pollution and weather extremes. It will also lead to a better understanding of linkages among emissions, weather, pollution, and climate. It will monitor all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.
  • In addition to regular air quality parameters like PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, the system will also monitor the existence of Benzene, Toluene, and Xylene.
  • Besides health, SAFAR system would benefit cost savings to several other sectors like agriculture, aviation, infrastructure, disaster management skill, tourism and many others, which directly or indirectly get affected by air quality and weather.
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