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Daily Current Affairs 09.09.2021 (Green hydrogen, a new ally for a zero carbon future, India, Russia review Afghanistan situation)

Daily Current Affairs 09.09.2021 (Green hydrogen, a new ally for a zero carbon future, India, Russia review Afghanistan situation)

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1.Green hydrogen, a new ally for a zero carbon future

It holds promise as an alternative, truly clean fuel and in aiding the world’s decarbonisation goals

Scientists and technocrats have for years been engaged in the quest of discovering alternative fuels to fossil fuels which are responsible for the production of over 830 million tons per annum of carbon dioxide, in turn catalysing human-induced global heating. The latest studies by a battery of scientists representing about 195 countries have signalled the crucial issue of climate vulnerability, especially for the Asian countries. The forthcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from November 1-12, 2021 is to re-examine the coordinated action plans to mitigate greenhouse gases and climate adaptation measures.

In order to achieve the goal of an alternative source of energy, governments are placing large bets in the hope of adopting a multi-faceted practical approach to utilise ‘Green hydrogen’ as a driving source to power our industries and light our homes with the ‘zero emission’ of carbon dioxide.

Energy-rich source

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet, but rarely in its pure form which is how we need it. It has an energy density almost three times that of diesel. This phenomenon makes it a rich source of energy, but the challenge is to compress or liquify the LH2 (liquid hydrogen); it needs to be kept at a stable minus 253° C (far below the temperature of minus 163° C at which Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is stored; entailing its ‘prior to use exorbitant cost’.

The production techniques of this ‘Energy-Carrier’ vary depending upon its applications — designated with different colours such as black hydrogen, brown hydrogen, blue hydrogen, green hydrogen, etc. Black hydrogen is produced by use of fossil fuel, whereas pink hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, but using energy from nuclear power sources.

‘Green hydrogen’, the emerging novel concept, is a zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis using renewable power from wind and solar to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This ‘Green hydrogen’ can be utilised for the generation of power from natural sources — wind or solar systems — and will be a major step forward in achieving the target of ‘net zero’ emission. Presently, less than 0.1% or say ~75 million tons/year of hydrogen capable of generating ~284GW of power, is produced.

The obstacle of cost

The ‘production cost’ of ‘Green hydrogen’ has been considered to be a prime obstacle. According to studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), the production cost of this ‘green source of energy’ is expected to be around $1.5 per kilogram (for nations having perpetual sunshine and vast unused land), by the year 2030; by adopting various conservative measures.

The global population is growing at a rate of 1.1%, adding about 83 million human heads every year on the planet. As a result, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts the additional power demand to be to the tune of 25%-30% by the year 2040. Thus, power generation by ‘net-zero’ emission will be the best solution to achieve the target of expert guidelines on global warming to remain under 1.5° C. This will also be a leap forward in minimising our dependence on conventional fossil fuel; in 2018, 8.7 million people died prematurely as result of air pollution from fossil fuels

A power hungry India

India is the world’s fourth largest energy consuming country (behind China, the United States and the European Union), according to the IEA’s forecast, and will overtake the European Union to become the world’s third energy consumer by the year 2030. Realising the impending threats to economies, the Summit will see several innovative proposals from all over the world in order to reduce dependence on use of fossil fuels.

The scale of interest for ‘plucking the low hanging fruit’ can be gauged by the fact that even oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia where the day temperature soars to over 50° C in summer, is prioritising plans to manufacture this source of energy by utilising ‘idle-land-banks’ for solar and wind energy generation. It is working to establish a mega $5 billion ‘Green hydrogen’ manufacturing unit covering a land-size as large as that of Belgium, in the northern-western part of the country.

India is also gradually unveiling its plans. The Indian Railways have announced the country’s first experiment of a hydrogen-fuel cell technology-based train by retrofitting an existing diesel engine; this will run under Northern Railway on the 89 km stretch between Sonepat and Jind. The project will not only ensure diesel savings to the tune of several lakhs annually but will also prevent the emission of 0.72 kilo tons of particulate matter and 11.12 kilo tons of carbon per annum.

It is high time to catch up with the rest of the world by going in for clean energy, decarbonising the economy and adopting ‘Green hydrogen’ as an environment-friendly and safe fuel for the next generations.

About IEA:

Established in 1974 as per framework of the OECD, IEA is an autonomous intergovernmental organisation. MISSION – To ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its  member countries and beyond. Its mission is guided by four main areas of focus: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide Headquarters (Secretariat): Paris, France.

Roles and functions:

Established in the wake of the 1973-1974 oil crisis, to help its members respond to major oil supply disruptions, a role it continues to fulfil today. IEA’s mandate has expanded over time to include tracking and analyzing global key energy trends, promoting sound energy policy, and fostering multinational energy technology cooperation.

Composition and eligibility:

It has 30 members at present. IEA family also includes eight association countries. A candidate country must be a member country of the OECD. But all OECD members are not IEA members. To become member a candidate country must demonstrate that it has:

  1. Crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports, to which the government has immediate access (even if it does not own them directly) and could be used to address disruptions to global oil supply.
  2. A demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%.
  3. Legislation and organisation to operate the Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) on a national basis.
  4. Legislation and measures to ensure that all oil companies under its jurisdiction report information upon request.
  5. Measures in place to ensure the capability of contributing its share of an IEA collective action.

Reports:

  1. Global Energy & CO2 Status Report.
  2. World Energy Outlook.
  3. World Energy Statistics.
  4. World Energy Balances.
  5. Energy Technology Perspectives.

2.India, Russia review Afghanistan situation

New Delhi raises issues of Pakistan’s links with the new Taliban regime, JeM and LeT in the talks

India and Russia conducted their first “detailed and extensive review” of the situation in Afghanistan, agreeing to coordinate their positions at the United Nations, as a delegation led by Russia’s Security Council Secretary General Nikolai Patrushev met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Delhi, officials said.

During the meeting that came a week after Russia decided to abstain from a UN Security Council Resolution on Afghanistan under India’s presidency, the two sides stressed areas of “convergence”, including the need to hold the Taliban to their promises thus far, the threat of terrorism from international terror groups inside Afghanistan, flow of weapons, radicalisation and increase in opium production and drug trafficking under the new regime.

“[Mr. Doval and Gen Patrushev] touched upon humanitarian and migration problems in [Afghanistan], as well as prospects for the Russian-Indian joint efforts aimed at creating conditions for launching a peaceful settlement process on the basis of an intra-Afghan dialogue,” a statement issued by the Russian Embassy in Delhi said, adding that the two sides “agreed to coordinate the approaches of Russia and India in multilateral formats on the Afghan settlement.” The Russian Security chief also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Mr. Modi appreciated Gen. Patrushev’s visit “at a time when major changes are taking place in the region”.

Sources said India raised the issue of Pakistan’s links with Taliban, international terror groups, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, believed to be operating in Afghanistan as well, in the talks with the Russian delegation.

The Indian delegation also raised the “special responsibility that Pakistan bears to ensure that Afghanistan soil is not used to spread terrorism,” the sources said. Significantly, neither side gave any indication of talks on the status of the Haqqani Network, a UNSC-designated terror group that has carried out attacks on the Indian Embassy and consulates in Afghanistan, whose leader Sirajuddin Haqqani has been named the Interior Minister of the new regime. The talks followed a day after CIA Director William Burns flew into Delhi to meet Mr. Doval, reported by The Hindu.

The U.S. has been discussing the issue of housing its Afghan evacuees who are being processed in other countries, the emerging terror threat from developments in Afghanistan and any future engagement with the Taliban government, now headed by Mohammed Hassan Akhund, who is also on the list of UNSC-designated terrorists.

The Modi government has thus far maintained an independent posture from both the U.S. and Russian stands on the Taliban regime, deciding to close down its embassy in Kabul unlike Russia, China and other countries that kept their missions open.

In an interview to RIA Novosti on Tuesday, Ambassador to Russia Venkatesh Verma said the results of the U.S.’s Doha Agreement and the Russia-led Troika plus talks which included the U.S., China and Pakistan had not been “matched by subsequent developments” in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of China, Brazil and South Africa for the BRICS summit in a virtual format.

The year 2020 saw several geopolitical events that impacted both India and Russia. For instance, the sharpening rivalry between the US and China, the India-China border tussle, the continuing decline in ties between the West and Russia, and now change of leadership in the US.

As Russia and India both desire a multi-polar world, they are equally important for each other in fulfilling each other’s national interests. However, due to the changing geopolitical scenario, the relationship between both countries is not as good as it used to be in the cold war era.

In this context, the forthcoming visit of India’s Foreign secretary to Russia is a good occasion to examine the relevance of Indo-Russian ties in a world of changing geopolitical equations.

Importance of Russia for India

  • Balancing China: The Chinese aggression in the border areas of eastern Ladakh, brought India-China relations to an inflection point, but also demonstrated that Russia is capable of contributing to defusing tensions with China.
    • Russia organized a trilateral meeting among the foreign ministers of Russia, India, and China following deadly clashes in the Galwan Valley in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
  • Emerging New Sectors of Economic Engagement: Apart from traditional areas of cooperation such as weapons, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, and diamonds, new sectors of economic engagement are likely to emerge — mining, agro-industrial, and high technology, including robotics, nanotech, and biotech.
    • India’s footprint in the Russian Far East and in the Arctic is set to expand. Connectivity projects may get a boost too.
  • Combating Terrorism: India and Russia are working to close the gap on Afghanistan and are calling for early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
  • Support At Multilateral Forums: Additionally, Russia supports India’s candidacy for permanent membership of a reformed United Nations Security Council and of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Importance of India For Russia

  • Balancing China: Russia and China are currently in a quasi-alliance setup. However, Russia repeatedly reiterates that it does not see itself as anybody’s junior partner. That’s why Russia wants India to act as a balancer.
    • For Instance, Russia’s Far East is a huge landmass that is rich in resources but is sparsely populated and underdeveloped.
    • Till now, its development has primarily revolved around Chinese dominance and so Russia wants to diversify with the help of India to lessen Russia’s growing dependence on China.
  • Reviving Eurasian Economic Union: Russia seeks to leverage India’s soft power to gain legitimacy in the success of the Eurasian Economic Union, and re-establishing its hegemony, as it existed during the cold war era.

Main Challenge

  • India Going West: China’s expansionist foreign policy forced India to shed past hesitations and actively pursue closer ties with the West, particularly the US.
    • This can be reflected in a determined restart of the Quad process and a clearer enunciation of a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
  • Russia Going East: The Western countries have imposed harsh economic sanctions towards Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
    • Russia responded to these efforts to isolate it, by revving up its own “Pivot to the East”.
    • The most distinct results of which are markedly improved relations with China, and better ties with Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.
    • Russia’s Pivot to the East policy is not in synergy with that of the US and subsequently, the relationship between India and Russia suffers.
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