What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Which way will we walk?

Source: DTMMS

 A Story from Mother’s Tales and Imaginary Hot Air Balloons

by Nimesh Ved, Tobias Dorr, Daniela Boos

 
During school days, of which I have endearing memories, my mother used to teach me mathematics during evenings. This primarily dealt with basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This ‘rough-work’ as it was then referred to, used to take place, on most occasions, on envelopes. Reverse of envelopes that had brought in letters, news-papers and magazines; after scraping them open with foot-rulers. White and colourful, large and small, it used to be fun to tear and get them ready for use.

Mother’s point was (and still is), to use a thing – big or small, expensive or otherwise – optimally and explore alternate use after the article was rendered unfit for its primary usage. Added to this was the dictum of only buying items that one needed.

These values I somehow imbibed. Years later when I was part of teams in Saiha (Mizoram) and Baghmara (Meghalaya), we used to regularly get Sanctuary Asia, Down to Earth, Seminar India and other engrossing reading companions to these endearing places. Envelopes that brought in these were put to use as ‘sorters’ in the office files.

Mother’s reasoning, then, was guided more from the point of saving money (a scarce resource itself!) than others. This could be, without much difficulty, today shrugged off as a miserly approach to life. But is not this facet the same as espousing a lifestyle that is low on ecological foot-print and climate friendly?

Evidence of climate change and its impact can be already observed today in daily life, at a time when we are still able to make a change. Most farmers in multiple states across the country observe changes in rainfall patterns, a decrease in duration of the winter season, uncertainty of arrival of seasons and other issues that impact farming. They may have never heard of terms like climate change or global warming, but they understand the associated phenomena well.

For instance, a researcher working on the impacts of climate change on agriculture shared that farmers lamented that their festivals have lost their bearings during recent years due to changes in climate. These changes lead to alteration in cultivation cycles and most of their festivals revolved around these cultivation cycles. It is heartening, she said, that farmers, in different regions, have designed and implemented strategies to adapt to climate change. Many farmers in Odisha, in areas affected by soil salinity owing to the Super Cyclone in 1999, had switched from paddy to crab cultivation and betel leaf plantation. Apple cultivators of Himachal Pradesh had shifted to higher altitudes owing to the rise in temperatures; apple requires a cooler climate for a certain period.

After dwelling in my childhood memories and recognizing the challenges of climate change the earth faces these days, I moved to imagining the world 50 years down the line. How would India look like some time in 2065? Where and how would people live? I closed my eyes and I flew over the country in an imaginary hot air balloon – and I was surprised: Continue reading

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Developing Countries Unsatisfied with New ADP Text @Climate Talks

The men of paper are still negotiating the future of life in Lima. Clarity has started evolving on number of issues including watering down of the language of old draft decision text. The new text has been drafted by the co-chairs Artur Runge- Metzger and Kishan Kumar Singh of Ad- hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhance Action (ADP) with the help of UNFCCC Secretariat. It was done after the agreement in an informal conversation termed as “Friends of Chair” meeting. The idea was to propose synthesized version with consolidated inputs of all parties. For developing countries, the given text in no manner looks like consolidation and reflect the views of few parties and not all.  Developing countries are raising red flags as according to them, most of their suggestions have not been included where- as the interventions of certain parties (in all probabilities referred to developed countries) have been added to it.

China is not happy with the procedure of not including its core ideas and questioned the rationale of the co-chairs in proposing the new text. It’s important to note that many of China’s inputs are there including those on “annexure-1” i.e. complementary information on Intended Determined Contributions of parties (iNDCs) which is now “annexure -2” in the new document. China’s interventions are covered in Option -3 & Option- 5 of annexure and more to do with detailing of actions taken by parties to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Ecuador and Bolivia, chair of G-77 + China, raised questions about fairness of the process.

Venezuela was too loud in expressing its lack of clarity as the new draft makes reference to number of texts which are yet to be prepared. This makes the process very confusing. India sided by all of them. I’m sure while reading this you must also be left perplexed. But what can I do, the whole process is complex, leave aside lay men like you and me, the negotiators are also clueless of the happenings. Continue reading


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Need for Resilient Agricultural Systems in the face of Climate Variability

Indian Youth Climate Network Policy Brief on Agriculture under UNFCCC

Background & Current Status: Agriculture contributes to and is threatened by climate change, thus jeopardizing global food security. Increasing variability in weather patterns makes agriculture one of the sectors this is most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Smallholders, comprising approximately 500 million small farms globally, are particularly vulnerable to climate change, potentially making nearly two billion people food insecure worldwide.

Agriculture is recognized as integral part for both adaption and mitigation on climate change. Article 2 of the UNFCCC outlines as ultimate objective the need to stabilize concentration of green house gases to ‘ensure that food production is not threatened’ by climate change. Article 4.1 (c) of UNFCCC detailing the commitments of parties provides for ‘promotion and cooperation in the development of technologies, practices and processes that can mitigate emissions from the relevant sectors’, including agriculture. It also states that parties need to cooperate in preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans for agriculture amongst other things Art 4.1 (e).

At COP 13 in Bali, parties had agreed to ‘develop and elaborate cooperative and sectoral approaches and sector specific actions to implement Art. 4.1(c)’, under the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).

The text from LWG-LCA in COP 15 in 2009 at Copenhagen was agreed to be protected. The text mentioned the need to improve the efficiency and productivity of agricultural production systems in a sustainable manner. Interests of farmers, rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge practices were also recognized along with the link between agriculture and food security, adaptation and mitigation. It was also argued that agriculture sector should not become a reason for imposing trade barriers. A Work Programme on Agriculture under Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA- a technical body that advises parties to UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol on scientific, technological and methodological questions) was sought to be established.

At COP 17 in Durban (2011), parties agreed to include Agriculture as an agenda item in SBSTA, thereby, moving it from the LCA discussions. At Doha in COP 18, no agreement was reached on the work programme on agriculture and the discussions on agriculture continued under SBSTA. As SBSTA mandate is to look at scientific and technological aspects and not policy matters, it also invites reports from the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) including the report by the High-Level Panel of Experts on food security and nutrition to feed into its own working and at the workshops it organizes.

Some key areas and interventions on Agriculture:

  • Developing countries have argued for emphasis on adaptation to climate change given that it will impact a majority of their population that are directly dependent on agriculture as an important source of livelihood.
  • EU is in support of a Work Programme on Agriculture that addresses mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation within one umbrella.
  • Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) argue for inclusion of agriculture in Adaptation Committee and discussions in Ad Hoc Durban Platform (ADP).
  • Coalition for Rainforest Nations have stressed on agriculture as a source of food security and livelihoods, and therefore need for greater adaptation.
  • Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean(AILAC) underlined the potential of adaptation efforts and associated co-benefits on agriculture.
  • Farmers’s NGO’s have repeatedly asked for work programme on agriculture under SBSTA.

At Bonn in June 2014, SBSTA agreed to consider the development of early warning systems and contingency plans in relation to extreme weather events; assessment of vulnerability and risk of agricultural systems in relation to different climate change scenarios; identification of adaptation measures; and identification and assessment of agricultural practices and technologies to enhance productivity in a sustainable manner, food security and resilience (FCCC/SBSTA/2014/L.14) at the SBSTA 42 /44 inter-sessional discussions. [1]

Developed countries continue to stress on the need to develop the work programme which addresses adaptation and mitigation together,it is still under discussion.

Some key areas that need added focus:

  • As UNFCCC seeks experts reports and feedback from FAO and CFS on its discussions on agriculture, SBSTA needs to analyse how it can ensure greater coherence on agricultural policies while at the same time avoid high transaction costs that are associated with duplication of efforts.
  • SBSTA’s workshops can be used as a forum to foster greater dialogue on contentious issues with an aim to arrive at policies that are necessary for an equitable, food secure, sustainable, and humane farming future in the face of climate change.
  • As the scientific and technical body, SBSTA should identify research and exchanges that are necessary to fulfill these goals.

The Way Forward: For the deal between and after Paris, it has become important to ensure that climate policies encompassing agriculture include considerations and safeguards that protect and promote food security, biodiversity, equitable access to resources, the right to food, animal welfare, and the rights of indigenous peoples and local populations, while promoting poverty reduction and climate adaptation. Given the extreme vulnerability of small farmers and producers, policies need to promote biodiverse, resilient agricultural systems that achieve social and gender equity and are led by small producers. Depending on the contextual requirement, systems should be developed, demonstrated, tested, and implemented, so as to transform farming which is environmentally, economically, or socially unsustainable into farming that improves ecosystem health, communities, and cultures – even in the face of a changing climate.

Prepared by Supriya Singh after consultation with Indian Youth Climate Network members.

[1]Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vol. 12 No. 598, pp 15.


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A Journey to Remember: Climate Solutions Road Tour (Episodes 1 & 2)

In 2009, an adventurous team of young people gathered in India to undertake a 3,500 kilometer journey across the country in search of solutions to climate change.  This unforgettable journey in a caravan led by electric vehicles made quite a splash.  Five years later thanks to Solar Punch, we are able to share this journey with you in snippets.  For more on the tour, you can also visit the website.


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Is Sri Lanka prepared for climate change?

Vulnerability of coastal areas in Sri Lanka due to rising oceans. Source: National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for Sri Lanka 2011 to 2016.

By Apsara Perera

Haiyan’s devastation as one the strongest typhoons ever recorded has left the world reeling in shock and the Philippines, as the country worst affected by the super storm, is slowly trying to get back on its feet again.

During the same period as the typhoon, Sri Lanka too experienced heavy rains, winds, thunder and lightning and thus, it only seems fair to bring forward the oft posed question: is climate change to be blamed for it? If so, what can we do about it?

The Climate Budget

With the Appropriation Bill having been taken up in parliament recently, let’s face the crucial question of how much of the annual budget is set aside for climate change related activities in Sri Lanka. The answer is no surprise – it is within the overall amount set aside for the activities of the Ministry of Environment, under whose purview the Climate Change Secretariat functions. The money is for research: climate change impact studies, research on scenarios, adaptation, and mitigation but, the allocation is said to be low. (Confirmation on the exact amount requested for climate change research was not available at the time of going to print as the officials concerned were not available for comment due to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)).

Climate change consultant Tharuka Dissanaike, speaking to Ceylon Today, points out that this is due to several practical reasons. “For research and adaptation on climate change, it is difficult to give a budgetary percentage. This is because, unlike education and health where allocations can be reflected as a percentage of the total budget or government expenditure, climate change impacts are across sectors and ministries”.

Impacts are felt in agriculture, fisheries, urban development, forestry, water management, irrigation, health, coastal and disaster management, making it difficult to quantify it as a percentage of the total budget.

“In general, in the worst affected sectors such as agriculture, water management and coastal protection it would be good to see around 20% of the sectoral budget allocated for research and adaptation measures. Especially for drought and flood tolerant crops, land management, rehabilitating small irrigation tanks, strengthening coastal dunes and protecting mangrove areas. However there is no general agreement on this,” she states further. Continue reading