What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change: Day 2

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This morning, the events at the second day of the India Youth Summit on Climate Change began by a presentation by Bittu Sehgal, founder of Sanctuary Magazine, renowned author, and environmentalist, spoke about the importance of the Summit and the IYCN in India. “Young people have power,” he said, “and it is time to use it to your advantage.” One of his major messages was that we all need to take action in our own lives, actions small and large, to make a difference. He said, “If a lot do a little, a lot gets done.”
He also discussed climate equity, the sense that those who are most responsible for the emissions leading to climate change are not the ones who will be feeling the most of the impacts of the changes. He said that climate equity is not only true between nations but within the nation itself. However, he encouraged that we get past the debate on climate equity to the discussion of unified action. He said, “If your house is on fire, you cant go downstairs and have a debate on who started the fire and who is responsible to put it out. You need to get some water and put it out.” While the West may not be taking action fast enough to mitigate climate impacts, this is not a reason for India to be hesitating on climate action, as well.

Next, Ms. Farida Tampal, State Director of WWF-India in Andhra Pradesh, spoke about the impacts on biodiversity from climate changes. In particular, she described the importance of protecting biodiversity in order to protect ourselves from climatic changes. “Genetic diversity in our food crops,” she said, “means that we will be protected from a single climatic disaster.” While individual crops might succumb to an extreme drought or flood, certain species would have greater capacity to survive one or the other, reducing the threat of a massive food crisis. She encouraged the youth to question the city’s tendency to cut down old growth trees in Hyderabad in order to expand the roads.

Alexis Ringwald, former Fulbright Scholar from the United States, spoke about the key energy trends in India, and the need for a renewable energy strategy to guarantee the energy security of India. She emphasized that IT solutions can help solve climate change, by measuring energy consumption and allowing individuals, cities and companies to better manage and reduce their energy usage.

The youth talked about committing to an international target for emissions, including an absolute emissions reduction target for India. While there is a lot of debate around the world and within India on whether there should be a target for emissions reductions, but nobody is discussing what those targets should be. Hence participants felt the responsibility to spark a national debate on what targets India needs to commit to.

Participants agreed that India needs to commit to emissions reduction targets and renewable energy targets, and that needs to be based on a 350ppm target of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The reason for this being, according to the IPCC a 450ppm scenario gives us a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. 50% chance isn’t good enough. You wouldn’t board on a plane if you knew it had a 50% chance of crashing. Similarly we need to have a carbon dioxide concentration target that is far more secure, which is 350ppm in the atmosphere. James Hansen, climate scientist from NASA in the United States has agreed that 350 is the highest target that will allow us for a stable climate – a climate in which we will still have glaciers in the Himalayas and still have coastal cities like Kolkata and Dhaka.

Youth proposed and debated the following solutions :

Energy

  • The removal of fossil fuel subsidies over the next 10 years
  • No coal powered fire stations by 2050
  • To reach a 350ppm target the world, including India, would need 100% emissions reductions over the next 40 years.
  • Phasing out of incandescent light bulbs by 2012 and replacing with CFL’s that have a life of 7 years and LED’s that have a life of up to 25 years.
  • 90% of homes not covered under the rural electrification scheme be catered to by decentralized renewable energy sources.
  • Nuclear energy not being a solution to climate change with the health and safety issues, high costs, long set up time, and high emissions associated with the nuclear cycle due to mining, enriching and disposal of nuclear wastes.
  • All buildings are powered by 30% renewable energy by 2015
  • All street lights powered by solar in the next 10 years, starting with residential colonies.
  • Rising to international energy efficiency standards, not only to curb emissions, but also to improve our export opportunities with energy efficient technologies as other countries attempt to reduce their emissions.

 

Industry

  • Mandatory triple bottom line reporting for all medium to large sized corporate, making GHG and other environmental reporting compulsory.
  • The formation of a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) regulatory authority that ensures accountability of organizations, sets national standards, and ensures legitimate verification of all GHG reports. It would ensure that companies comply to the GHG regulations, and have the power to penalize those that don’t.
  • Discussed the implementation of a carbon trading system in India, and to avoid problems such as additionality and double accounting that has been seen in other trading systems.
  • More university degrees in relation to climate change to combat the green skills shortage we are facing. Jobs including: environmental auditors, industrial workers to assemble renewable technology, environmental lawyers to deal with the regulatory issues India will be faced with, risk analysts, architects for green buildings, teachers to train all the above etc.

 

Biodiversity:

  •  There is a need for biodiversity education in schools and colleges, along with dissemination of this information through media.
  • Urban youth should educate their local communities about their rights and benefit from their knowledge about traditional mechanisms and tools for mitigation and adaptation.
  • Environmental issues need to be linked to economic ones, and biodiversity conservation must be coupled with poverty alleviation.

 

Agriculture:

  • Organic and cooperative farming is a method for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.
  • Forecasting of climatic changes through technical mechanisms need to be communicated to farmers to allow them to adapt and plan in advance for predicted changes.
  • Diversifying food crops will reduce our dependence on specific crops that could be devastated by a single disaster.
  • Buying local, indigenous and organic products increases their demand and increases their demand, encouraging farmers to grow these products.
  • Youth need to document and promote their success stories in rural communities across India.

 

 

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