What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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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

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The Future Cost to Nation from Farmer Suicides

Economic Times

Source: Economic Times

Is Make in India complete without growing our own food? Isn’t food security linked to farmer security? Shouldn’t Indian Youth get a fair choice to practise farming and be compensated well for it? Who will feed the nation tomorrow?

On 22nd April 2015, a young farmer Gajendra Singh Rajput from Rajasthan, shocked the nation & the world by committing suicide in full public view in a farmers’ rally in New Delhi. Having been ruled ineligible for compensation, he had spent his last few days fruitlessly trying to convince government officials regarding due compensation for the loss of his wheat crop, ruined by unseasonable rain.

In January 2015, Ramesh Khamankar, a 57-year old cotton farmer in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district walked to his ruined fields and drank from a bottle of pesticide. He died a few hours later. Khamankar’s case was determined to be a ‘genuine farmer suicide’, and his family received a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh, months after he died. Reportedly due to rain impact, he owed about 2.5 lakhs to the local bank. For Shailesh Khamankar, his father’s death has ironically reversed his attempt to find a life away from the farm. He is a second-year engineering student at a college in Bhopal, but now doesn’t have the Rs.60,000 needed to continue his studies.

In the last two decades, over 290,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves. According to the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, in 2009, an Indian farmer took his life every 30 minutes. According to the 2011 census, the suicide rate for Indian farmers is 47 percent higher than the national average. Continue reading


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Strengthen CTCN, Encourage Energy Efficiency & Renewables, Involve Communities

Indian Youth Climate Network Policy Brief on Technology Transfer under UNFCCC

Background & Current Status:The world economy at large is still dependent on carbon intensive sources of energy. There are significant steps undertaken by many developed countries to move from carbon intensive sources to renewable sources. But there is lot left to do. The development trajectory followed the west after the industrial revolution can no longer be a safe pathway for developing countries to move on. Poverty, low access to financial services and political instability have kept many developing countries in the fossil fuel based carbon trap. Thisformed the backdrop for the adoption of Article 4.5 in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that refers to commitment on the issue of transfer technology to help poor countries leapfrog to a less carbon intensive future. The article states

“The developed country Parties and other developed Parties included in Annex II shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and knowhow to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention. In this process, the developed country Parties shall support the development and enhancement of endogenous capacities and technologies of developing country Parties. Other Parties and organizations in a position to do so may also assist in facilitating the transfer of such technologies.”

Technology Transfer in UNFCCC has been one of the most contested issues as it involves added financial costs for developed countries to help developing countries leapfrog. There are additional concerns over “Intellectual Property Rights” that are currently under the rubric of “World Trade Organization” and not the UNFCCC that impede work under article 4.5. Some of these obstacles were addressed in COP 7 in Marrakesh, resulting in an accord, which had Technology needs assessment, technology information, enabling environments and capacity building as its four pillars.  These are described below –

Technology needs assessment: “Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) are a set of country-driven activities that identify and determine the mitigation and adaptation technology priorities of Parties other than developed country Parties, and other developed Parties not included in Annex II, particularly developing country Parties.”

Technology information: “The technology information component of the framework defines the means, including hardware, software and networking, to facilitate the flow of information between the different stakeholders to enhance the development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies.”

Enabling environments: “This component of the framework focuses on government actions, such as fair trade policies, removal of technical, legal and administrative barriers to technology transfer, sound economic policy, regulatory frameworks and transparency, all of which create an environment conducive to private and public sector technology transfer.”

Capacity Building: The capacity building component is a process which seeks to build, develop, strengthen, enhance and improve existing scientific and technical skills, capabilities and institutions in Parties other than developed country Parties, and other developed Parties not included in Annex II, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to assess, adapt, manage and develop environmentally sound technologies.”

These components were expanded in the Cancun Agreement in COP 16 and termed Technology Mechanism, “fostering public-private partnerships; promoting innovation; catalyzing the use of technology road maps or action plans; responding to developing country party requests on matters related to technology transfer; and facilitating joint R&D activities.”

The Technology mechanism consists of Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN).  The Technology executive committee that worked on the technology mechanism, formulated a report based on the needs of 31 parties who submitted their application including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan from South Asia. In order to compile the report, the existing frameworks of the parties were studied, sectors were prioritized for adaptation and mitigation and barriers were identified. Following this recommendations for technology action plans were prepared and submitted for consideration to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in 2013. This has been a good starting point with more parties sending their requests to become the beneficiaries of the technology mechanism in subsequent months.

Last year in Warsaw, COP 19, parties finalized the modalities of Climate Technology Center & Network and its advisory board resulting in streamlining of submissions from National Designated Entities on the issue.

The Road Ahead

Mandate to TEC to provide guidance on CTCN priorities:  The work of CTCN is seen as a developing country driven process, but fact remains that there is no adequate mechanism by which developing countries can voice their collective requests.  The TM needs to adopt and request prioritization procedures that are based on the ADP’s understanding of equity, and how it is measured, to create an “equitable distribution” of the resources of the CTCN.

Long term funding for TEC and CTCN: Long term financing of technologies is must for making Technology Mechanism work. There have been contributions from Indonesia, Netherlands, United States and others under Global Climate Finance that are most welcome. However,developed countries need to mobilize more resources to reach the specified targets. Voluntary commitments from developing countries for climate financing should be encouraged. Private funding can and should be mobilized as private enterprises have a large role to play in the TM. However, there is a note of caution with private funding. It will come with its own set of strings which may hamper the agenda of TEC & CTCN orienting it towards certain interests.Therefore, the core funding for the decision making part of the TM, the TEC and the Climate Technology Centre and its Advisory Board should be supported in the long term through public funding.

The framework of CTCN is sound but there has to be enhanced emphasis on including transfer of knowledge, technology and skills for energy efficiency and renewable energy. This will help developing countries to diversify their energy portfolio, thereby reducing their dependence on coal.  Many countries like India & China are already moving in that direction. Setting up CTCN at regional levels could then be the next step.

Application of Precautionary Principle: CTCN should also have a mandate to ensure that the socio-environment impact of all environmentally sound technologies is studied thoroughly. There are many technologies that may seem less carbon intensive but can have high ecological, economic and health costs. Funding to such technologies should be refrained.

Stakeholder identification and community participation in decision making on technology assessment and action plan should be made compulsory. The methodology for stakeholder identification and participants should be evolved and adapted to varying local conditions of countries. It is important to ensure the participation of youth, women, indigenous peoples and local communities and other marginalized groups as stakeholders in the process.  Inputs collected should be presented by the national designated entities while filing the request. Any opposition from the communities should also be recorded for consideration. Technology Transfer should be done in an inclusive way and the goals of poverty alleviation intertwined with it. More Green jobs for youth, skill building of the poor and marginalized groups on priority basis should be encouraged.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) norms should be revisited for ensuring that past mistakes of funding “efficient but still carbon intensive technologies” are not repeated. For technology transfer non-market based approaches should also be identified, which currently is considered as anti-thesis of innovation in technology.

Stronger engagement with other conventions and agreements: International and other national Patent Rights norms of developed countries can be a hurdle and obstacle in technology transfer. Parties should be encouraged to remove those barriers for accessing the resources. If possible, creating a common pool of technologies and best practices should be evolved for the benefit of the commons.

Youth has an important role to play. With their energies and risk taking abilities they can take charge of innovating and adapting shared technologies, marketing them at affordable prices thereby creating more green jobs and better growth model.

Prepared by Kabir Arora after consultation with Indian Youth Climate Network members.


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Water Status of Bangalore City – Maneuvering Through Space and Time

by Manish Gautam*

“Will Bangalore have to be evacuated by 2023?” ~ Firstpost, April 2013

“The land of a thousand lakes, now a sewage pit” ~ Deccan Chronicle, September 2013

“The City of Thousand Lakes is now home to a concrete jungle” ~ Deccan Herald, December 2013

Bangalore or Bengaluru, fourth metropolitan area in India and one of the largest cities in the world, is known by many monikers since it came into existing. From pensioners’ paradise to becoming a cradle for Information Technology in India, the city has accommodated a large population, and a thriving economy. Bangalore enjoys a salubrious, pleasant weather round the year, the air is becoming toxic due to heavy pollution, and the number of hot days is increasing day by day as the result of lurking climate change. Despite all this, the city is on the verge of collapse, as Firstpost in a related news published in April 2013 alarmingly states, “the Government of Karnataka will have to evacuate half of Bangalore in the next ten years, due to water scarcity, contamination of water and diseases”.

Water is one of the most important elements of the nature for human survival. Water is also essential for sustaining a city, and it has been noted that many historical cities had been perished because of the scarcity of water or by other ecological damage, either natural or man-made. Bangalore has always been water-scarce, there flows no river within the city to provide enough water to its resident as compared to the big cities in the northern India, and perhaps this was the reason that the early planners has devised a scheme to harvest the rain in form of network of ponds, known as ‘tanks’, and linked together by channels. As the city grew spatially and a huge influx of people, in quest of better employment opportunity, came in, the increasing water demand compelled the city administration to come up with other engineering solutions.

Launching a water extraction scheme from Cauvery River, situated about 100 km. far from the city, in year 1964 Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), a body to provide and manage water in the city came into existence. Being the first such utility in the country, the board have had to ensure the access of water far and wide city’s perimeter. The extent of growth can be perceived from this that water extraction from Cauvery River, through Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS), increased from 135 Million Litres per Day in year 1975 to 500 Million Litres per Day presently. This, however, points out to a significant issue with the present water status. Even if the city is equipped with a supply infrastructure, few locations in the city often cries about lack of adequate water supply. This inequitable water access is often glaring and shows that most of the poor people who are unable to seek other sources and modes of water (such as bore well, or private water supply) are at a very vulnerable position, as documented by many researchers and civil society groups’ findings.

Due to the intermittent and inadequate, and sometimes no access to water supply from BWSSB, the residents are either digging bore wells or hiring private water tankers to meet their water requirements. The city is dotted with a huge numbers (around 4 lakhs) of bore wells especially in those areas, mostly around outer ring-road, where BWSSB supply infrastructure is minimal, and as a result the water levels are falling down rapidly. In a city, due to higher extent of impervious surfaces, the groundwater system is unable to recharge itself even though the Bangalore witnesses a high amount of rain. This increasing depth to water levels is inviting other environmental dangers such as ingress of polluted water from nearby water bodies or leaking sewerage systems, and other contaminants such as leakages from industries and petrol bunks, into the groundwater system. This makes groundwater highly undrinkable in some locations, as highlighted in a recent report by Department of Mines and Geology, Karnataka. In addition to this, the booming, unruly ‘water mafia’ is hampering the city’s economy and ecosystem.

The tank systems, basically rainwater harvesting systems, are prominently seen in various part of southern India, are one of the important links to the human-ecological system. The tank system in Bangalore dates back to pre-British era, when these water impounding structures were dug to store the rainwater. The undulating terrain caused water to store in tanks and lakes, and this water was utilized for drinking purposes and irrigational usages. These structures play an important part in the hydrological cycle of the city, storing and channelizing the excess water and thus stopping the occurrence of flooding in the city during the rain, and recharging the groundwater system. Urbanisation, however, gobbled up many of these water bodies, wetlands and channels to the encroachment. The result was that many low-lying parts of the city are started to flood. Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi based research and advocacy body, in their Excreta Matter report on Bangalore city presented a detailed report on the Bangalore’s water status. It has documented the testimonies of people and listed the struggle from civil society groups to save these water bodies.

The access to water is considered to be a fundamental right; the challenges ahead for the cities are quite enormous. One has to include the ecological aspects to deal with the water problem of the city and not just rely only on the infrastructural measures. The ‘garden city’, ‘land of thousand lakes’ has to revive its own environmental legacy for its survival and to maintain the status of the ‘silicon valley’ of the country, and it cannot be achieved without the participation of aware citizens and a strong determination of city administration.

*Manish Gautam is a researcher in Indian Institute for Human Settlements and is volunteering with Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) for Agents of Change Programme. 


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Cities and Their Climate: An Inspection of Cities and its relationship to Environment and Climate Change

by Manish Gautam*

Cities as source of green house gas emissions.

Cities as vulnerable places to climate change.

Cities as threat to environment vs cities vulnerable to environmental risks.

Cities as parasites! – sucking up the resources.

Cities as place for individual and national growth, opportunities, employment.

 

The City and the ecological system wherein a city or an urban setting lie are often found at crossroads. Whether it is the building a city from the scratch, or its growth and development, it takes high toll on the environment and ecology of the geography. Today’s world where Climate Change is being perceived as a greater and an imminent threat to the humanity, and cities worldwide being the highest emitters of Greenhouse Gases since the industrial revolution, the burgeoning urbanism in India, though at a rather slower pace, can proliferate the emissions that endanger the sustainability of future generations. it is not only the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions that concerns the well-being and sustainability of the future of the city, but its very resource intensive nature which is generally seen as a factor deterioration of environment.

In 1901, India’s urban population was about 11%, going up to 17% in 1951, and 28% in 2001. Today more than 30% of the India is lives in cities. The top ten cities account for almost 8% of country’s population. Neo-liberal norms, green revolution, massive industrialisation and the role of private players in the market, ‘population explosion’ and the much talked rural-urban migration are some of the reasons attributed to the urban growth.

Often cited as a ‘poorly understood’ process, the urban transition, in context of India, has been a puzzlement for the researchers, urban planners and policy makers.This transition is multidimensional and is not insusceptible to a host of issues and problems. Small towns are shifting towards becoming cities and megacities, the needs of urban residents are not entirely met to their satisfaction. While central government has pledged to build 100 Smart Cities considering a concentration of population in urban places in near future, a closer look at existing cities and megacities provides a different, and rather worrisome, picture altogether.

The growing water demand and the poor, unequal distribution is one of the many indicators. The rivers that feed to city owing to an overwhelming infrastructure are not proving to be enough to meet the requirements, moreover they are heavily polluted. The spaces are congested, the roads are being jammed with the increasing numbers of automobiles. The green cover, trees and forests seen as ‘carbon sink’ and lungs of the environment, are disappearing, being cut to create space for real estate development. The water bodies, lakes, ponds, tanks that once helped the cities to manage the water flow during monsoons and checked the flooding, are also decreasing in number.

Bangalore, is one of the three metropolises situated on Deccan Plateau, gives an ample evidence that all is not well in our cities. Often termed as coupled human-environment system, the cities are facing a range of problems. Hyderabad and Bangalore are blotched with air and water pollution. The groundwater levels are either too deep to extract enough water or it is not potable at all. Water supply to these cities, extracting water from rivers located at hundred kilometers away,  is dependent on a heavy infrastructure  which needs immense energy usage. The city residents often complain about inequitable and insufficient water supply.

Bangalore’s ecological heritage, its abundant green cover and the tank system, a man-made network of channels and ponds to harvest the rain for city’s water need, is on the brink of losing its existence to the development, industrialisation and growing population. Every other month the local newspapers are full of epiphanies of water scarcity, prolonged traffic jams and flooding at times of rains owing to the poor drainage system.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 2 report (AR5) highlights the vulnerability of urban areas to climate change. Climate Change may not directly cause the vulnerability but it ‘exacerbates’ the existing risks which is the imbalance in the human-ecological system in the cities. Urban Heat Island effect in Bangalore city has been well documented in IMD (Indian Meteorological Department) publications. IMD research papers try to connect the higher occurrence of higher rainfall, that often causes flooding in some areas exposing the unpreparedness of urban managers to deal with the situation, with the human-caused climate change.

The Indian cities are often perceived as ill-prepared to face any natural or human induced disasters, the complexities in the relationship of a city to the ecological systems enhances this unpreparedness. Understanding these complexities and envision a better, sustainable plan for the growth of a city, in a nutshell, should be the necessary conditions for implementing development agenda in the cities and urban centers.

*Manish Gautam is a researcher with Indian Institute for Human Settlements and volunteers with Indian Youth Climate Network. 


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The Invisible Green Workers

Why do waste-pickers continue to be a neglected lot, in spite of their vital contribution to keeping a city clean? 

Pinky Chandran, Kabir Arora and Nalini Shekar

Bengaluru 

Mary is a waste-picker in Bengaluru. A single mother of two, she walks up to 25 km every day to collect 75- odd kg of waste, for a paltry sum of INR 100–150 a day. Being a woman, Mary is often harassed by lewd and drunk men, questioned by the police, threatened by other contract workers, laughed at by kids or accused by the neighbours of being a thief, yet she continues making rounds to collect waste, every day. Waste-picking for her and 25,000 others in Bengaluru is not a hobby, but an occupation that—apart from a fair share of hazards—is considered dirty, ridiculed and traditionally excluded from the narratives of urban life.

Like most Indian cities, Bengaluru has a booming informal economy with an estimated 25,000 waste-pickers, working together with the municipal waste system as it follows a centralised approach of collection and transportation to the landfills. However, despite this attitude of treating waste as disposal, several community-based initiatives were set up in the late 1980s, stressing the need for public participation in solid waste management. The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) started the Committee for Clean Bangalore in partnership with various organisations in 1989 to promote segregation at source. Twenty years later, in 2009, a group of individuals called the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) got together to promote decentralised waste management in the city for efficient waste handling.

In 2011, an alliance of waste-pickers filed an affidavit for recognition of waste-pickers which led the Lok Adalat to issue the landmark directive to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for the registration and enumeration of waste-pickers and scrap dealers. Around 8,000 waste-pickers were enumerated and more than 6,000 provided identity cards by the municipal body, which had the signature of the Commissioner of the city. This was facilitated by Hasiru Dala, a waste-picker member-based organisation, and the occasional advocacy of Solid Waste Management Round Table.

Continued here….

The piece was first published in Hard News Portal.


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Oracle of the Oriental: Gandhiji

Could Gandhiji predict where the emissions-producing industrial world will lead us to? Did he know we will poke holes in the Ozone, bleach & finish up the corals, irrigate fields with acid rain, cause floods or cloud bursts or hurricanes every month somewhere in the world? Why did he have to warn us that India will be made a nation of homeless people as a result of driving people out of villages by building dams, ports, industries, highways & SEZs out of them?

How could he a century before the world cup of climate change (read COP15, 2009) warn the world against unrestricted industrialism & materialism? (read Hind Swaraj, 1909). He rejected western development as a culprit back then and today we are talking of polluter pays principle, historical responsibility to highlight western world’s share in the problem.

Did he actually predict all this? Was he an Oracle?

From his writings and speeches, it seems he was simply making an attempt to show the path of harmony with nature. He was emphasizing on the importance of pure air, clean water, and nutritious food to the vitality of each person’s body.

Let’s dig deeper.

He was saying all this at a time when colonial rule was influencing India/Bharat/Hindustan to veer from its ancient systems of living. He profusely criticized and rejected with examples the western technology driven lifestyles that know no limits. Many other Eastern Hemisphere countries also have ancient civilizations with similar values like India. Gandhiji was speaking from age-old wisdom of all these cultures.

Gandhiji could create a whole movement out of charkha, swaraj, salt, fast. These are the keywords of the movements of today as well – people in the west want to buy things made locally, the current government has launched Make-in-India campaign.

Everything Gandhiji did or say had a flipside meaning as well – he hinted at what could/will go wrong. He pointed out what could go wrong if:

We don’t respect & cater to the needs of our people in the non-urban areas aka villages, forest dwellers – led to resistance movements, slums
We don’t respect the limits of nature – led to climate tipping points, species extinction
We don’t value gifts of nature, that is, free & clean air, water, abundant food – now we pay for water, we pay for cleaner air (by buying homes in expensive, cleaner places), we fight over resources (state & clan disputes)
We consume more than we need – carbon footprint has now become a buzzword
We trade our values of decentralized self-reliance with centralized mass production – everything we need now has to be transported to us and we need to pay for it, thus, money assuming supremacy over everything else.
Gandhiji articulated the India of his dreams wherein he thought for the welfare of every form of life. All his virtues gained him the title, Father of the Nation or Bapu. We might add one more title to his name, Oracle of the Oriental.

Let’s make our life rather than a status update our message.