What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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The need to keep temperature below 1.5 degrees and the impacts in India

Chaitra Yadavar*

I personally remember sweating an unlimited amount even at 10 am as I stepped out to catch a local train to attend a meeting or to buy something from a grocery shop in May 2016. I didn’t remember it being this hot in the last 3 years. In the local trains, women would be discussing how they wake up in the morning to get ready for office, they would be completely covered in sweat. I used to thank my stars when I heard this as my family used to put the AC on before sleeping. All my friends and me, whoever used to work from home, switched rooms whichever were facing East and started working whichever room was facing West, in the mornings. It was unbearably hot!

I wasn’t surprised when I read that the European Geosciences Union published a study in April 2016 that examined the impact of a 1.5 degree Celsius vs. a 2.0 C temperature increase by the end of the century.

Heat waves would last around a third longer or rain storms would be about a third more intense. Also, the increase in sea level would be approximately a third higher and the percentage of tropical coral reefs at risk of severe degradation would be roughly that much greater.

In 2015, we saw global average temperatures a little over 1℃ above pre-industrial levels (before the industrial era began), and 2016 is proving to be even hotter. In February and March of this year, temperatures were already 1.38℃ above pre-industrial averages.

There are major reasons to be concerned about these factors being in India. South Asia’s vulnerability to these and future disasters is great, principally for reasons of population and poverty. The majority of South Asian countries are low or lower-middle income countries that already struggle to support the daily needs of their growing populations. Because poorer households dedicate more of their budgets to food, they are the most sensitive to weather-related shocks on agriculture that can make daily staple food unaffordable.

The point to remember in this scenario is that majority of the Greenhouse Gas emissions are let out by the first-world countries and the third-world and comparatively poorer countries like India have to suffer its disastrous consequences.

The destruction from flooding could wreak havoc in South Asia’s low-lying and urban areas. Extreme heat is already disrupting the growing season for regions in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Wheat production in the Indian portion of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, a fertile area that also encompasses parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh, may decrease by up to 50 per cent by 2100, harming the hundreds of millions of people who rely on it for sustenance.

The story of 1.5 C

Around 180 countries have so far signed the Paris climate agreement in which they pledged not only to limit the global temperature rise since pre-industrial times to “well below” 2C but to do their very best to keep them to 1.5C.

But as recorded temperatures this year have edged above 1C, scientists believe we are already dangerously close with the 1.5 degree target.

This new study suggests that it will “almost certainly be surpassed”, at least over land, based on the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Other researchers agree that keeping temperatures at the 1.5 figure is going to be a significant, if not impossible, challenge. But if the world is to take the 1.5 target seriously, then a serious discussion needs to be held about the implications of that goal.

After all, this is a global climate agreement. And to many countries, passing those temperature limits could be a disaster.

A ticking heat time-bomb: India

In the past few years in India, at times there is a severity in temperatures, at times it rains in odd months. The unpredictability and large scale loss which climate change has brought about is visible in states like Rajasthan. On May 19 2016, India’s all-time temperature record was smashed in the northern city of Phalodi in the state of Rajasthan. Temperatures soared to 51℃, beating the previous record set in 1956 by 0.4℃. Also, 2015 saw a flood in a city like Udaipur, which was an unheard-of phenomenon in this region!

India is known for its unbearably hot conditions at this time of year, just before the monsoon starts. Temperatures in the high 30s are normal, with local authorities declaring heatwave conditions only once temperatures reach a stifling 45℃.

Much of India is mostly in the grip of a massive drought. Water resources are scarce across the country. Dry conditions make extreme temperatures worse because the heat energy usually taken up by evaporation heats the air instead.

However, a study found a significant increase in the frequency of extreme temperatures and a remarkable trend in the duration of warm spells in India, as the graph below shows. Warm spells, defined as at least six days of extreme temperatures relative to the location and time of year, increased by at least three days per decade over 1951-2010 – the largest trend recorded globally.

Sky rocketing temperatures across northern and southern India have resulted in the deaths of more than 1,242 people though officials warn that the death toll would be much higher since a larger number of heat-related deaths in rural India go unreported.

Most of these deaths are caused by heatstroke and extreme dehydration. Doctors point out that long exposure to extreme heat raises the body temperature to such a high level that it causes the over-heating of an individual’s protein cells negatively impacting the individual’s brain. Many of those dead are known to be daily labourers, who have no choice but to go out everyday in search of their daily bread.

The searing heat wave in Delhi has seen over 200 dead, the majority of whom were homeless.

Indian Meterological Department presently categorises Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Telangana, coastal Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu as experiencing heat wave conditions annually which extend for eight days and more.

A heat wave condition prevails when the temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius and more. For hill stations, the heat wave conditions are those where the temperature rises to above 30 degrees Celsius.

Dr D S Pai, a scientist at IMD, warned that severe heat wave conditions are resulting in the death of thousands of people every year. He cites the example of how 1,000 people were killed by a heat wave in Andhra Pradesh in 2002 while another 1,000 people died in the state in 2010.

The causes

Glacial melting and increasing deforestation is also adversely impacting weather cycles and is something that is happening in India too.

The report states that the total amount of carbon human beings emit should not exceed 800 gigatons, but by 2011, 531 gigatons had already been emitted.

The effects of this overdose are for everyone to see — a relentless heating up of the atmosphere with sea levels increasingly flooding coastal plains in India and other countries.

Scientists at the Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, associated closely with the drafting of this report, warn that rising temperatures will adversely impact monsoons. Rainfall is expected to increase by 10 per cent between December to February and up to 50 per cent between September and November and the overall monsoon winds are likely to weaken.

According to the report, Monsoon retreat dates are likely to be delayed, resulting in the lengthening in the monsoon season in many regions.

Higher rainfall will not mean an extension of rainy days. Rather, it will see an increase in extreme weather events as happened during the torrential rainfall that hit Uttarakhand in June 2013 and in 2015 and the heavy rainfall that caused flooding of the Jhelum river in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 causing destruction in a large part of the capital city of Srinagar.

Apprehensive of the rapid rate of glacial melt, the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development said that 54,000 glaciers in the Himalayas could create glacial lakes which would rupture their banks and destroy the surrounding infrastructure and agriculture. The bursting of the glacial lake in Kedarnath precipitated the devastation in Uttarakhand.

A similar lake like this has been created by landslides on the Kali Gandaki river in Nepal after the massive earthquake in Kathmandu in April 2016. If the lake breaches, it would result in disastrous downstream flooding which would spread up to several cities in Bihar.

Scientists question how increasing urbanisation will handle future climate problems, especially since cities produce three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions related to household consumption. The current government’s emphasis on ‘urbanising India’ casts heavy doubts on the future of cities and the environment.

A bad monsoon would mean one more year of poor rains and see a decline in food production.

What can be done?

India is already highly vulnerable to the health impacts of oppressive heatwaves and, as climate change continues, this vulnerability will grow. It is therefore important that heat plans are put in place to protect the population. That’s a difficult prospect in places that lack communications infrastructure or widespread access to air conditioning.

In the longer term, this episode shows that the global warming targets agreed in Paris have to be taken seriously, so that unprecedented heatwaves and their deadly impacts don’t become unmanageable in this part of the world.

(Chaitra runs a website on alternative (eco-friendly) methods of celebrating Ganeshotsav : www.greenbappa.in. She also runs an NGO ‘Rupantar’ working on women empowerment and have previously been selected as one of the 30 fellows to attend the ‘Emerging leaders in Multifaith Climate change movement’ in Rome, 2015.)

 

 

india-getting-hotter


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The Long Road to Ratification: India Signs Paris Climate Agreemen

This article was originally published by the Center for Global Development.

By Kartikeya Singh and Jennifer Richmond

Since the start of international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India helped lead the global South in demanding its rightful share of the global carbon budget, while simultaneously wagging a finger at the developed world for creating and exacerbating the climate problem. India has struggled to do so while accounting for the fact that unabated climate change will continue to inflict devastating impacts on the Indian people, especially those who are poorest and most vulnerable. Yet on October 2, India signaled its serious commitment to climate action by ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement, which is the most promising international climate agreement since the hailed success of the Montreal Protocol agreement from 1987.

India’s ratification will shrink the remaining margin needed for the agreement to enter into force. A total of 55 countries, who produce at least 55 percent of global emissions, is required for the agreement to take effect. Currently, 61 parties have ratified, accounting for 47.79 percent of emissions. India adds another 4.1 percent of emissions, bringing the total to 62 parties and 51.89 percent of emissions.

Dashboard 2

 

Changing discourse and the road ahead

The road to ratification has not been easy for a country of over one billion people, nearly 400 million of whom lack access to reliable electricity and over 20 percent of the country lives under the poverty line ($1.90/day). The timeline here highlights major milestones in India’s domestic and foreign climate-related energy policies. A closer examination of these markers reveals a struggle between ideologies and ground realities.

Historically, India has sought compensation from industrialized countries who exploited cheap, carbon-intensive expansion at the expense of the global South’s opportunities for growth. But in an increasingly hot world where India’s summer heat waves are reaching inhospitable temperatures, continuing to pursue a stalwart position on climate action would not even be self-serving at this point. In May of this year, the state of Rajasthan recorded India’s highest temperature ever: 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit. A recent study projected that parts of South Asia and North Africa are experiencing temperature increases at a rate that may make certain areas uninhabitable by the end of the 21st century. This is exacerbated by other major stressors attributed to climate change, such assea-level risedesertification, and increasing mortality due to industrial air pollution.

Balancing climate action with growth continues to present a challenge for India’s leadership. Gaining access to energy is key to unlocking economic growth, essential for tackling India’s poverty. India has vast coal reserves and will continue to tap into them to connect millions of citizens to the grid, but the Modi government also aims to increase its mix of renewables to meet 40 percent of the country’s electricity demand by 2030. This makes sense given that India is now the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the US (excluding the EU) and is projected to continue growing steadily with a current economic growth rate of 7.5 percent. Ultimately, India’s political will to emerge as a responsible superpower and mounting pressures to abate the worst impacts of a shifting climate have reshaped its posture as a leader in international climate negotiations.

Domestic policy action

India’s educated middle class is rapidly expanding and will require millions of new jobs, nudging the government to create employment opportunities while ensuring secure energy in the context of a climate-constrained world. The Modi government has announced several national missions that promote greater energy security by developing more renewables at scale. India has also realized its potential to save energy, especially among its fleet of coal-fired power plants. India’s energy efficiency programs and the desire to foster a business environment that supports low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, could make it a leader in both these sectors.

Partnerships for progress

India’s proposed actions to address climate change through a web of policies at the national and subnational levels may serve as a blueprint for nations interested in driving clean energy innovations. However, the country cannot do it alone. India has acknowledged that it will need the help of partner countries to achieve its ambitious energy goals. Rather than developing independent agendas, multilateral development institutions and bilateral partnerships should aim to help India meet its impressive targets. Simultaneously, to make these partnerships productive, India should be more transparent about its progress on achieving its targets. India’s commitment to ratify the Paris Climate agreement sends a strong message, but the leadership’s determination to pull off such a comprehensive and long-term effort demands successively concerted action over the next several years.


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Climate change, ISIS and Economy of Common Good

Rishab Khanna*

What if I said that the floods in Chennai, crazy storm in Sweden, and the upsurges in the Middle East have only one long-time solution?

Some might say that this is absurd, but I believe that not being able to see the connections and the systemic loopholes is absurd.  Untamed thirst for natural resources, coupled with excessive carbon emissions, has created major crises in many of the economies.

It is no surprise that the developing countries and especially Least Developed Countries have most to lose. The developed countries have been built on the colonial past, during which they not only exploited resources of the developing countries, but also left a lasting imprint on the social and ecological systems, in a way that has continued the neocolonial exploitation.  Many of the developing countries have been controlled through dictatorial regimes which have been often imposed on them by the west.

According to my colleague Peter Riddle, “Whenever we (the Western coalition) have supported a particular group in West Asia to counter another group, that group has become a monster. We supported Israel, and that alienated the whole Arab and Muslim world. We supported the Taliban in Afghanistan to oust the Soviets, and it became Al-Qaeda, which spawned ISIS”.

However, the G20, or the group of developed nations refused to take responsibility of the historical debt, at the same time, they continue to misguide the world with the arbitrary figure of the GDP. Do more products and services in the economy mean a better life, improvement in the ecological system? Not  necessarily. On the contrary, it could mean more war and increase in destruction of natural resources.  No wonder most countries do not want to stop climate change, or stop the oil trade with ISIS, as it affects the GDP of our world.

Don’t we all wonder, why are we obsessed with quantifying the GDP, when it has not the relation with the quality of life?

In fact, in a survey done by Accenture in Germany and Austria, almost 80 to 90 percent of the respondents said that they wanted a change in the economic system, and almost 67 percent said that they would like to review GDP as the highest goal of the economy.  Then what are we waiting for?

Currently the leaders from emerging countries like India believe that mitigating climate change is a huge sacrifice for us.

President Pranab Mukherjee recently said, “India faces a huge responsibility and challenge in meeting its developmental requirements while remaining committed at the same time to clean energy.” What If there are no contradictions in these goals. What if development goals are only possible with clean energy, with minimal impact on health and environment?

Imagine that the new climate target of the COP 21 agreement for limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees of warming becomes part of the common good product of nation, making GDP (Gross Domestic Product) irrelevant.  An increase in the common good product would mean reducing inequality, reduction in emissions and more jobs.

At the corporate level, an increase in the common good balance sheet, would mean fair wages, reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and no revenue coming from the sales of weapons or on patents of live forms.

Our financial return would be the common good return, where investments are creating social impact rather than just blind profit.

The founder of the Economy for the Common Good, Christian Felber, says that working for the common good as the highest goal of the economy is nothing new, as most constitutions of democratic countries refer to the same; however this has not been given the attention it deserves.

The COP 21 agreement is a historical treaty for us, as 196 countries have committed to the path of climate justice, however the political reality is often shaped by the economic rhetoric of blind growth, without creating the right framework for a transparent market which would promote ethical and sustainable production, and until we turn the economy back to its feet, we will struggle to achieve the climate target, 17 SDGs or even peace in the world.

(Rishab is former Board Member of Indian Youth Climate Network -IYCN and is currently working as Programm associate for Ethical Leadership and Sustainable Living at Initiatives of Change, Sweden)

 


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A Snapshot from Waste Management at the Indigenous Terra Madre: Segregating Beyond the Bin

Managing waste of 45,000 people

Sanghamitra Nidhi Dutta

Very rarely do we give a thought about the bottle, or that crumpled piece of paper we just tossed into the (sometimes labelled, sometimes not) bin.

As a waste manager for the Indigenous Terra Madre, 2015 (3rd to 7th November, 2015), I can say that there is, indeed, a lot that goes beyond the bin.

The first three days of the event took place at the Convocation Hall of North East Hill University (NEHU). About 120 bins were placed on-site, labelled Biodegradable and Non-biodegrable. They, however failed to serve their purpose initially as their signs were often covered up by oblivious staff while lining with black garbage bags. We managed to remedy that by ensuring that the signs were visible, as well as posting extra signs above the bins, at eye level, categorized into Organic Waste and Inorganics, which was further diverged into Plastic Bottles Only, and Miscellaneous Dry Waste (Plastic bottles excluded).

IMGP6876-2The kitchen and catering staff for the delegate dining hall were duly informed about the disposal arrangements including the segregation of the waste and were made aware of the compost pit (courtesy of Bethany Society, who also supplied us with Garbage2Gold powder for speeding up the composting process) on the grounds for the organic waste. The leftover food from the hall was collected by a third agency, to be used as feed for livestock.

The dry, inorganic waste from around the venue was accumulated at one area, which would be regularly picked up by the Shillong Municipal Board. Upon emptying of the incoming bins, the waste would immediately be separated into separate corners, assigned for plastic bottles (which made up the biggest chunk of the total dry waste amount, as each individual bottle was of a mere 300ml capacity), paper waste, cardboard and assorted metallic waste.

The execution at NEHU was fairly organized and uncomplicated, with waste being properly disposed of.

The actual food festival took place in Mawphlang, on the 7th of November. Now, managing waste for a food festival is no mean feat, but I (or my teammates, for that matter) certainly wasn’t expecting what awaited us at the site on the day before the main event.

The ideal dimensions for a compost pit is ten feet in length, three feet in width and two feet in depth. Despite explicit instructions for at least three pits of the aforementioned dimensions, what greeted us in Mawphlang was a perfectly cubical pit, eight feet cubed, with a layer of water on the bottom. It was neither safe nor feasible as a composting pit. Upon summoning the Event Manager on to the site, he swore in incredulity, wondering if it was supposed to be a compost pit or a water tank. Engaging workers, we got the one third  of the depth of the pit filled manually overnight.

The stalls were supplied with biodegradable plates made of bark, and forks, spoons and cups made of corn starch. Upon a survey of the thirty six stalls, it was found that none of them were using inorganic materials for serving food. A couple of stalls even took it step further and opted for leaves for plates and leaf spines as spoons.

The central challenge in Mawphlang was the sheer number of people. We had at least, if not more, forty thousand people. That’s roughly sixty to eighty thousand plates, from the stall area alone. The ITM Kitchen and the Taste Workshop in the Heritage Village were also having a busy with people coming in constantly. We were short on housekeeping staff as well as the number of bins that filled up repeatedly in a short periods of time. The signs we put up above every single bin failed, as the crowd was so large, no one probably had the patience or the sight to take notice, leading to incoming bags of mixed waste, which had to be separated by (gloved) hand. This difficult task was taken on by the team as well as the local boys hired for the day, in turns.

IMGP6888The now-six feet deep pit filled up rapidly, with about a quarter of it left, and about three hours of the event still left. Keeping our fingers crossed and hearts strong, we carried on. The flow gradually thinned, and after sundown, it was no longer possible to continue. We sprinkled G2G dust after every two-three feet.

7th November was coming to an end. And when the party ends, the real work begins.

We had to return on the 8th for the final wrap up. The kitchen area of the stalls had left behind huge amounts of organic waste which had to be carried down to the compost pit and ensure there were no (or at least, minimal) inorganic waste mixed in the pile.

It went into the 9th, when the SMB turned up in the morning to collect the dry (well, not so dry; after a point, it’s simply impossible to separate anymore) waste. The Pit was closed up with a layer of soil, and a fence put around it to dissuade people from dumping more waste on top, with a sign declaring the presence of fertilizer, which, according to the experts from Bethany Society, would be ready for use in approximately three months.

The Event Manager, who I’d come to befriend after discovering we shared a birthday, asked me if I had any parting words for him before they went back to Mumbai. I smiled.

“Never, ever manage waste for a food festival.”


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COP21: Of Responsibility and Transparency

Ankan De & Supriya Singh

The gathering of countries and civil society at COP 21 at Paris is very focused on creating an outcome which ensures that all the countries of the world agree upon a legally binding arrangement which ensures a strong commitment from all the parties (countries) of the World. However, while there may be exceptions, the reality stands here: key developed countries who are instrumental in ensuring the success of the process are not only shirking their responsibilities but are also working tirelessly to facilitate the creation of a weak agreement which will not accomplish what humanity has set out to accomplish here. Unfortunately the World’s big emitter like the United States of America is also part of this regressive club. Owning up to historic responsibility is key in realizing an equitable agreement which protects the interest of both developed countries as well as developing countries.

Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) explores the diverse roles that different countries are to take up depending on their capacities and level of development. The true irony lies in the fact that while discussing the language of the text during the debriefs, the CBDR focal points not only talk about how “Developed” countries should take the lead in realizing their  commitments but that they only do so in a “voluntary” manner. The fact that obligations are termed voluntary highlights how nations are well on their way to arrive at a hollow compromise.

The negotiations so far indicate that the developed nations are not only wriggling out of their historic responsibilities behind closed doors but subsequently present a public picture to the contrary. The French Presidency had promised a very transparent and open process, however the present state of affairs is a far cry from what was promised. Exclusion of civil society observers and closed door bi-lateral consultations go a long way in losing faith in the verity of the process being “transparent”. The details of these discussions and the compromises being arrived at thus not being disclosed appropriately. Parties themselves are complaining about the lack of inclusiveness.

Survival of the human race is at stake here. There is no scope of business as usual scenario being the order of the day. It is important for the leaders of the world to converge on an agreement keeping in mind principles of equity, justice and transparency.  It is up to the leaders of the world to determine how this event will be remembered in the annals of history.


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Irresponsible Behaviour of Different Agencies Hindered the Participation of a Wastepicker in Climate Negotiations

It is deeply disappointing and disheartening the way Bombay French Consulate and VFS center in Mumbai conducted their business. Our colleague Ms. Asha Sambhaji Doke- wastepicker (we prefer to call her waste manager) from Aurangabad was supposed to travel with us to Paris for Climate Change negotiations. She was a panelist and supposed to speak in many side events. We applied for visa through VFS center. As she was a delegate – observer in United Nations negotiations,  her visa fees was waived. VFS center employees didn’t take care of her file properly, we were told that there is no courier service to Aurangabad, some one has to come and pick up the passport.

In first application the consulate refused the visa on two grounds: not sure whether she will come back, not clear how she will sustain herself there. Irrespective of the fact that both to and fro tickets were given with the application, sponsorship letters, accommodation confirmation were all attached.

It was decided to apply again. This time we paid the visa fees and to our surprise there was a courier service to Aurangabad. And VFS was happy to deliver the passport. For some reason the center didn’t take Biometrics of Asha. They said they were recorded the previous time. Suddenly out of blues after four days, Consulate asked them to provide the Biometric details. She was asked to come to Mumbai for filing the Biometrics. The misery didn’t end there. The Consulate after having her application for almost a week, near to the travel dates, asked us to submit the Sponsorship letter, copy of a colleague’s visa and audit report of sponsoring organisation again and not through email, hard copies only. We rushed and provided the documents to a colleague who reached Consulate five minutes late and they decided not to receive it. On Friday all the documents were submitted the third time. The departure date was 29th December (we plan to postpone it by two days) we have no idea what’s the status. The consulate also asked us how Asha will survive in France as she doesn’t know English. Our response was that many colleagues from India, Kabir Arora, Mansoor and Pratibha Sharma are  traveling with her and there are many translators who have volunteered to help. Her financials were again in question, even after having sponsorship letters. Colleagues from Zero Waste France, Indian Youth Climate Network and WIEGO wrote to consulate, leave aside response, no acknowledgement of email was received. French government is hosting and is the Presidency of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, instead of being inclusionary in spirit and welcoming to all delegates, they have shown the opposite. It is saddening that we are talking about the poor, who are most vulnerable to climate change,  many through their work are actually mitigating it. And the space for them to share their thoughts, experiences and reflections is shrinking.

Profile of Asha Sambhaji Doke is given below for reference.

Ashabai Doke: Ashabai Doke is a waste manager and green entrepreneur from Aurangabad, India. She is affiliated to Civic Response Team (CRT^) – an organization based in the same city.   As a member of CRT^, Asha manages two recyclable waste shops, and handles over 8 tonnes of material per month. Her efforts contribute to better earnings of over 30 sanitation workers, and more stable livelihoods for three other waste-picker women who are now freed of their bonded labour contracts. She is also the member of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtkari Sanghthana (KKPKS), a trade union, and spokesperson for other persons like her, who made a living from collecting waste materials from dumps.

And so, as she travels far and wide, within the country spreading hope to others who dream of earning an honest living; and abroad,  at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC CoP 21 in Paris, to authorities, colleagues, well-wishers and fellow human beings from far and wide on the struggle of one woman to overcome poverty, and to work together for sustainable & equitable Solid Waste Management solutions and a better, cleaner, more just world for all. CRT^ and KKPKS are both coalition member of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers.


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A Whole INDsea of Issues OR Incrementally Nonsensical Difficult and Confusing

Pandora Batra 

Seeing as large international organisations telling individual countries what to do and how to do it hasn’t really worked so far, in the lead up to the COP 21 countries have been asked to provide their own ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.’ (INDCs). These take the form of a report from each of the UNFCCC parties (countries) outlining what they are going to do to reduce CO2 emissions and help their populations adapt to the impacts of climate change.

You may have seen mention of India’s INDCs in the news recently as they were released on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (2nd October, 2015) and have created quite a stir in the Indian and global climate change community.

The main Indian INDCs in the report were:

To reduce the emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.

Translation: rather than making absolute reductions in emissions they are pledging to reduce the amount of GHG emissions released per unit of GDP.  They are saying they will continue to develop but reduce the amount of emissions that this development causes.

To achieve 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030.

Translation: “installed capacity” means that lots of solar parks/ wind turbines/ hydro and nuclear power plants will be built but that the actual electricity generated from these non-fossil fuel technologies will be lower due to transmission and and generation losses.

To better adapt by enhancing investments in vulnerable sectors.

To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of co2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Translation: Plant many trees..but what kind of trees? And newly planted mono-culture trees do not a forest make!

To better adapt, to mobilize domestic and new and additional funding from developed countries and to build capacities for improving research and development (R&D) opportunities and implement the above mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The reactions to India’s INDCs have been varied; Climate Action Tracker  which assesses the ambitiousness of each countries targets places India in the medium category, better than countries like the US and Russia but not as ambitious as countries like Brazil and China. Climate Action Tracker also claims that India is likely to over-achieve on its targets without having to update or implement any new policies. i.e. If India sticks to the targets they had made before the INDCs came out then they will overachieve on the INDC targets. Basically, the INDCs don’t really change anything, they are a nice bit of motivation and publicity but the targets aren’t moving India towards reducing its emissions faster or more efficiently.

What does this mean in global terms? Do the INDCs add up to the 2°C target? Well, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) the answer, simply put, is no. In fact the IEA report stated that “If stronger action is not forthcoming after 2030, the path in the INDC Scenario would be consistent with an average temperature increase of around 2.6 °C by 2100 and 3.5 °C after 2200,”

Contact: Pandora Batra- pandora.batra@hotmail.com