What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

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Siam makes way for Bali Action Plan

You would expect the climate change talks to have taken off with a “Bang” here in the capital of Thailand.India at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks 2008 Yet the sense amongst most observer groups is that there are no negotiations really taking place. The biggest challenge is carrying forward the energy of the Bali Action Plan which came out of intense final hour negotiations back in December 2007. It is already nearing the last day and it is becoming obvious that the delegates are losing track of time. And there are very heavy issues on the table including: adaptation (how we will finance technology for adaptation, do we couple it with mitigation, how do we determine which nations are the most vulnerable), mitigation (what does measurable, reportable, verifiable emissions reduction targets mean?), Finance (which instruments will be utilized for mobilization and control of funds, and more importantly where will we get the massive amounts of funding required?), etc.

“You can fly, to any city in Thailand. I hope you get a chance to explore this beautiful country before you all leave,” stated the deputy Prime Minister of Thailand during his opening plenary address. I noticed more than a few people smirk in the room. One of the key issues being discussed here are the roping in of various industrial and cooperative sectors into the negotiating process–one of the most important being bunker fuels from aviation and shipping–emissions from the former having continued to rise at 3% each year while the latter’s emissions have doubled since 1990. A presentation today by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the primary organization held responsible for checking the growth of emissions from this industry/sector revealed some of the key challenges to addressing the problem.

Challenges include things like access to and quality of data, methodology, comparability and the problem of emissions from transboundary and multinational flights and those crossing areas outside national jurisdiction were of key concern. However the presentation (which was quite poorly put together with only 3 slides) left a lot to be desired regarding actual moves to check the growth of emissions coming from the sector–and the main culprits having not checked the growth of emissions are the ICAO and IMO (International Maritime Organization). The aviation sector is expanding rapidly in the emerging economies (and rightly so, considering the new found wealth in those nations). Those with vested interests in trade would have business as usual with regards to curbing emissions in this sector–Panama, Singapore, and China again, being some of them. Curiously, small island states as well, as their remoteness requires a heavy reliance on both shipping and aviation for survival. New Zealand made a point to address this latter issue and stated the need to consider geographical remoteness and national circumstances when drafting final policy.

The debate on forests has been reopened as the issue of carbon stocks is taken up once more. This time it comes under LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry). While NGOs are wanting appropriate accounting of emissions from peat and degraded forests, governments are talking of carbon harvested products (timber products) serving as carbon sinks!

To speak specifically in the Indian context, the climate change negotiators have all been changed. This time not a single one of them is from the Ministry of Environment & Forests. To show the seriousness of the issue to the government, it is being handled by the foreign relations department and none other than the man behind the Indo-US nuclear deal. Make of that what you will.

For the 1000 delegates convening here from 190 nations around the world, time is running out in this “City of Angles.” Where is the divine intervention that is needed to move this process along?