Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Asia Nations Act Against Pollution After Climate Change Deal

  • India halts registration of diesel-powered cars in capital
  • Australia lifted a ban on government investment in wind power

Several Asian nations have announced independent measures to curb climate change as 195 countries signed a deal in Paris this weekend that will change the world’s energy policies in a bid to limit fossil-fuel production.

The Indian government halted registration Friday of diesel-powered vehicles in New Delhi until Jan. 6, the date of the next hearing on emissions by India’s environmental court in the world’s most polluted city. In Beijing, a conference on the city’s pollution is being held Sunday after the government issued a “red alert” last week over potentially deadly levels of toxic haze. Australia earlier this month lifted a ban on government investment in wind power, allowing a A$10 billion ($7.2 billion) renewable energy fund to invest in clean energy projects that involve “emerging and innovative” technology. 

Climate change has grabbed global attention as envoys from 195 nations convened in Paris over the past two weeks with the goal of limiting temperature increases and establishing ways to measure and verify emissions globally. French President Francois Hollande hailed the deal as the “first universal agreement in the history of climate negotiations” and “a major leap for mankind.”

Environmentalists called the Paris package a step forward but said more action is required to contain temperatures that are on track to reach record highs this year. Current pledges for climate-change action would limit temperature increases to 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, according to researchers, rather than the 2 degrees agreed by the envoys.

The Paris deal, which applies to all countries, is a 12-page agreement that would take effect from 2020 with voluntary commitments from all nations, expanding on the 1997 treaty reached in Kyoto, Japan that limits greenhouse gas emissions in 37 mostly European nations. So far, 186 countries have made pledges for the Paris deal, with nine yet to submit plans. 

Rift Erupted

The deal heals a rift between industrial and developing nations that erupted in 2009 when the last big push for a deal dissolved in disputes over who should take the first steps against climate change.

In Australia, Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the state-backed Clean Energy Finance Corp. to cancel former prime minister Tony Abbott’s directive prohibiting the fund from investing in new wind power projects, according to a Dec. 3 investment mandate obtained by Bloomberg.

The fund can now invest in any clean energy project, including wind, that involves “emerging and innovative” technology, according to the document.

“The new CEFC investment mandate reflects the Turnbull government’s strong
support for renewables and innovation,” Caitlin Keage, a spokeswoman for the prime minister, said in an e-mailed statement. “The mandate puts the CEFC’s focus on new and emerging renewable technologies, rather than supporting well established technologies that are financially viable without government support.”

In India, automakers expressed concern about inventories at dealerships and sold cars awaiting registration in New Delhi following the order by India’s top environmental court.

“Derail Industry’

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., India’s biggest SUV maker, and Hyundai Motor Co. said they’re unsure what will happen to cars scheduled for delivery in New Delhi, India’s biggest auto market and the world’s most polluted city. The ruling could derail the auto industry, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement.

The directive comes as the Delhi state government prepares to restrict the number of cars on its roads by implementing license plate-based driving bans starting Jan. 1. The city is grappling with rising levels of unclean air as winter sets in, triggering a surge in respiratory diseases.

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted city measured by PM2.5 -- tiny, toxic particles that lead to respiratory diseases -- with an annual average of 153 micrograms per cubic meter, according to a 2014 World Health Organization database. A reading of 25 or lower is considered safe. Nine other Indian cities rank in the top 15.

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