Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 02 March 2023

IEA’s Methane Global Tracker report

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) annual Methane Global Tracker report, fossil fuel companies emitted 120 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere in 2022, only slightly below the record highs seen in 2019. 75 percent of methane emissions from the energy sector can be reduced with the help of cheap and readily available technology.

What are the findings of the report?

  1. The energy sector accounts for around 40 per cent of the total average methane emissions from human activity, as oil and natural gas companies are known to release methane into the atmosphere when natural gas is flared or vented.
  2. The greenhouse gas is also released through leaks from valves and other equipment during the drilling, extraction and transportation process.
  3. More than 260 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas (mostly composed of methane) is wasted through flaring and methane leaks globally today.
  4. Although it’s impossible to avoid this entire amount, the right policies and implementation can bring 200 bcm of additional gas to markets.
  5. In the oil and gas sector, emissions can be reduced by over 75 per cent by implementing well-known measures such as leak detection and repair programmes and upgrading leaky equipment, the report pointed out.
  6. It further mentioned that 80 per cent of the available options to curb the release of methane could be implemented by the fossil fuel industry at net zero cost.

How are methane emissions driving climate change?

  1. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which is responsible for 30 per cent of the warming since preindustrial times, second only to carbon dioxide.
  2. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme observed that over a 20-year periodmethane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
  3. In recent years, scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm regarding the increasing amount of methane in the atmosphere.
  4. Last year, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the atmospheric levels of methane jumped 17 parts per billion in 2021, beating the previous record set in 2020.


Windsor Framework between UK and EU

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The UK government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reached a landmark deal with the European Union (EU) on post-Brexit trade rules that will govern Northern Ireland. The ‘Windsor Framework’ will replace the Northern Ireland Protocol, which had proved to be among the thorniest of Brexit fall-outs, creating problems both economic and political.

The Northern Ireland Protocol problem

  1. After the UK left the European Union, Northern Ireland remained its only constituent that shared a land border with an EU-member, the Republic of Ireland.
  2. Since the EU and the UK have different product standards, border checks would be necessary before goods could move from Northern Ireland to Ireland.
  3. However, the two Irelands have had a long history of conflict, with a hard-fought peace secured only in 1998 under the Belfast Agreement, also called the Good Friday agreement.
  4. Fiddling with this border was thus considered too dangerous, and it was decided the checks would be conducted between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland (which together with Great Britain forms the United Kingdom). This was called the Northern Ireland Protocol.
  5. Under the protocol, Northern Ireland remained in the EU single market, and trade-and-customs inspections of goods coming from Great Britain took place at its ports along the Irish Sea.

What the Windsor Framework proposes

  1. The framework has two crucial aspects – the introduction of a green lane and red lane system for goods that will stay in Northern Ireland and those that will go to the EU respectively; and the ‘Stormont Brake’, which allows Northern Ireland lawmakers and London to veto any EU regulation they believe affects the region adversely.

The two lanes

  1. British goods meant for Northern Ireland will use the green lane at the ports, and will be allowed to pass with minimal paperwork and checks.
  2. Physical checks will be conducted if the goods are deemed suspicious, in place of the routine checks now.
  3. This is especially significant for meat products, such as sausages, travelling between the two parts of the UK, as the EU has stricter rules about animal products.
  4. Goods destined for Ireland or the rest of the EU will have to take the red lane, with the attendant customs and other checks.

What is Stormont Brake

  1. The new Stormont Brake means the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly can oppose new EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives in Northern Ireland.
  2. For this, they will need the support of 30 members from at least two parties. The British government can then veto the law.


RBI’s new project on coin vending machines

GS Paper -3 (Economy)

The RBI Governor had stated during the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) address that the apex banking regulatorin collaboration with banks, would be launching a pilot project to assess the functioning of a QR-code based coin vending machine.

About the project:

  1. The vending machines would dispense coins with the requisite amount being debited from the customer’s account using United Payments Interface (UPI) instead of physical tendering of banknotes.
  2. Customers would be endowed the option of withdrawing coins in required quantities and denominations. The central idea here is to ease the accessibility to coins.

Need of the project:

  1. It stated that the situation with respect to coins was “peculiar” with the supply being “very high”. “It is taking up a lot of storage space and it is not getting properly distributed.
  2. The proposed mechanism for coin dispensation would be a departure from the conventional machines which relied on banknotes for facilitating coin exchanges.
  3. The proposed machine would eliminate the need for physical tendering of banknotes and their authentication.
  4. It was observed that the currency being fed into the machines (for coin exchange) were often found to be fake and could not be checked right at that point of time, thus, the mandate to eliminate the physical tendering of banknotes.
  5. The pilot is initially planned to be rolled out at 19 locations in 12 cities across the country. With particular focus on ease and accessibility, the machines are intended to be installed at public places such as railway stations, shopping mall and marketplaces.

Coins significance in our ecosystem:

  1. As per the latest RBI bulletin, the total value of circulation of rupee coins stood at 28,857 crore as of December 30 last year. The figure is an increase of 7.2% from the year-ago period.
  2. Coins in India are issued in denominations of 50 paise, one rupee, two rupees, five rupees, ten rupees and twenty rupees. Coins of up to 50 paise are called small coins while those of one rupee and above are called ‘rupee coins’.
  3. The figures above could be compared to the volume of digital payments until December 2022 which stood at approximately ₹9,557.4 crore, as per the Digi Dhan Dashboard.
  4. The reliance on UPI for dispensing coins is particularly noteworthy and it must be recalled that the payments interface for feature phones was launched in March last year.
  5. The apex regulator is also in the midst of a pilot for the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Is it going against the digital push?

  1. The proposal should not be viewed as a “zero-sum game of digital versus cash.” The two can easily supplement each other.
  2. If digitalisation is not solving a particular problem at this given point of time, then it is very much within RBI’s purview to use other means available to achieve its ultimate objective that is to operate the currency system of the country.


Key rocket engine test for Chandrayaan-3

GS Paper -3 (Space technology)

According to the Indian Space Research Organisationthe flight acceptance hot test of the CE-20 cryogenic engine that will power the cryogenic upper stage of the launch vehicle for the Chandrayaan-3 mission was successfully conducted.

More about the news:

  1. The hot test was carried out for a planned duration of 25 seconds at the High Altitude TestFacility of the ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu, the Bengaluru headquartered national space agency said.
  2. All the propulsion parameters during the test were found satisfactory and closely matched with predictions.
  3. The cryogenic engine will be further integrated with the propellant tanks, stage structures and associated fluid lines to realise the fully-integrated flight cryogenic stage.
  4. Earlier this year, Chandrayaan-3 lander successfully underwent EMI/EMC test at U R Rao Satellite Centre here.
  5. EMI-EMC (Electro - Magnetic Interference/ Electro - Magnetic Compatibility) test is conducted for satellite missions to ensure the functionality of the satellite subsystems in the space environment and their compatibility with the expected electromagnetic levels. This test is a major milestone in the realisation of the satellites.
  6. Chandrayaan-3 interplanetary mission has three major modules: The propulsion module, lander module, and a rover.
  7. The mission's complexity calls for establishing radio-frequency (RF) communication links between the modules.
  8. During the Chandrayaan-3 lander EMI/EC test, launcher compatibility, antenna polarisation of all RF systems, standalone auto compatibility tests for orbital and powered descent mission phases, and lander and rover compatibility tests for post landing mission phase were ensured.


  1. Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface.  ISRO plans to launch the mission in June.
  2. It will be launched by Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh).
  3. The propulsion module will carry the lander and rover configuration till 100 km lunar orbit. The propulsion module has Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and polari metric measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit.