What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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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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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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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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10 Rare Things about Climate Change

By Dimple Ranpara, Project Survival Media

The science of climate change is quite intricate. We all have read about how Climate Change impacts the sea levels, the temperature of the atmosphere, the acidity of oceans and the threat it poses to biodiversity. These are the widely spoken and read about aspects. Scientists from all over the world are still debating on the fundamental question “What if global warming is just a natural cycle?”

While, we can ponder on those questions, let’s talk about some strange and intriguing things about Climate Change which are less known among the masses.

  1. A 190 years old discovery

A French mathematician, Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, was the first to acknowledge a gradual warming of Earth in 1824. His experiments led to the process of determining atmospheric temperature which later was coined ‘greenhouse effect’.

  1. Mountains are getting taller

Mountains are scaling up as a result of global warming. Since the glaciers, those weigh them downwards and push them into the Earth for centuries, are melting. This has led the surface of the planet to “spring back”; increasing the mountain rise.

  1. Catastrophic Developing Nations

From the arctic and across the tropics, climate has a powerful impact – direct and indirect on human life. But 95% of weather-related natural-disasters deaths around the world have taken place in developing countries.

  1. Aggression on rise

With rising temperature, heart rates are also elevating. This leads to fiery tempers. Humans are more prepped for physical stimuli to situations of violence.

  1. Space satellites zzzooooop

The atmosphere’s density is decreasing with global warming. This means that there is less drag making objects like satellites move faster. As carbon dioxide molecules collide less frequently in the upper atmosphere, they cool the air surrounding them. So higher carbon dioxide means more cooling due to which air settles and density reduces.

  1. A century to clean

The gases in the atmosphere shall stay for years despite limiting its production. So even if the emissions are eliminated entirely, global warming led climate change would continue for least a century.

  1. No Romantic Dates

With rising temperatures, wines productions shall be hit drastically. Farmers will have to adapt to cut down on the excessive heat conditions. Similarly, it will be extremely difficult to cultivate cocoa and coffee. Oysters shall no longer exist on the food menu, for increasing acidity shall be highly non-conducive for its breeding.

  1. The Global “Warming” misnomer

Yes, our planet is getting warmer but the term tends to project a wrong impression on what’s really happening. ‘Global Warming is the average surface temperature of the entire planet’. But it doesn’t mean that temperatures shall rise everywhere and at the same time. Some places like Western Europe and North America can experience a massive deep freeze if melting sea ice shuns down huge ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean.

  1. Survival of the Fittest

Springs are starting early, so birds might miss out on the worm. It might also have its genes passed on the next generation. As plants bloom early in the year, animals with their fixed time to migrate may miss out on the food. Thus, those who reset their internal clocks and set out earlier, stand a higher chance at having off-springs that survive and thus pass on their genetic information, thereby ultimately changing the genetic profile of their entire population.

  1. Prepare for the worst

Climate change is a chaotic (non-linear) process. Some parts of it are only dimly or not at all understood. No deterministic computer model shall be able to make an accurate prediction of the climate 100 years into the future ever. Can you imagine the unimaginable??

 

The rarity of these facts tells us that Climate Change is no myth, no expression, no terminology but an experience that every living and non-living form is a part of. It is not a mere destination but the journey, which we as travelers, have to undertake.

Nonetheless, it is upto us, to make it a painful or a sustainable one. The choice is clear!!

 

References:

http://www.usnews.com/news/energy/articles/2010/03/29/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-climate-change

http://fusion.net/american_dream/story/surprising-facts-global-warming-11684

http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/climate_change/facts/en/index1.html

http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=20A201A3-1

http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/weird-ways-climate-change-affects-daily-living?s=5

http://listverse.com/2014/08/03/10-things-you-didnt-know-were-completely-misnamed/

http://www.livescience.com/11350-top-10-surprising-results-global-warming.html

http://rense.com/general88/climchn.htm

 


Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer and India’s Climate Strategy

File:San Gorgonio Pass Wind Power Plants.jpg

At the beginning of this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Tokyo Declaration along with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, mentioning among other things, the decision to “spur cooperation… in cutting edge fields such as…clean and renewable energy, water technology, climate change science and outer space”. The recently concluded meeting comprising leaders of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC), at New Delhi, there was discussion on the approach of the BASIC countries for the 2015 Paris CoP, with an emphasis on how developed countries must fulfill their obligation towards developing countries in the form of funding, technology and support for capacity building.

We are seeing a greater emphasis on the need for technological self-sufficiency in India’s negotiating stance. This is because, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the quintessential solution to the mammoth task of emission reductions, and this shift will occur only through large scale investment in R&D and manufacture of accessible green technology. At the climate talks in Warsaw in 2013, India reiterated the need for financing for green technology along with transfer of patents by developed nations to help developing nations achieve their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

From what we have observed through the several rounds of negotiations taking place, India and other Like Minded Developing Countries have consistently pushed for the removal of intellectual property barriers for renewable energy technology in order to aid their domestic climate action. However, this has been equally opposed by the United States, Canada, European Union and Switzerland, citing that intellectual property rights were not hampering technology transfer, but the removal of the same would have a negative impact on innovation and inhibit technology transfer, which would be undesirable to the global community.

In light of this debate, it is crucial to examine the relevance of intellectual property rights in achieving the larger goals of climate action. It has been argued that patents comprise only a small fraction of the cost of developing renewable energy technology and that removing patent protection for the same would not affect the total cost greatly. Patents must be accompanied by technical capacity, expertise and trade secrets in order to be successful. Currently, developing countries are placing a disproportionate emphasis on patents in the international negotiation process, which might just result in a forced and ineffective regime.

Also, we need to keep in mind the massive venture capital required to operate renewable energy companies  and encourage innovation, which is something that cannot be achieved if innovation is not incentivised. I believe that removing or relaxing the patent regime is not the best method to achieve technology transfer, except maybe in very limited areas such as bio-fuels. Moreover, under the obligations of the Montreal Protocol we have seen the successful international diffusion of substitutes for ozone-depleting substances while keeping patent protection in place.

Therefore, India should not place inordinate importance on patents within the technology transfer debate during climate negotiations. Instead, there must be emphasis on removing economic barriers to technology diffusion and this can be achieved by more intergovernmental public private partnerships and investment in developing nations in the development process, along with voluntary dissemination of climate related technology through Climate Technology Centre and Network under the UNFCCC. The UNEP Finance Initiative is also an effective way of ensuring international funding in domestic  renewable energy ventures.

Which is why the Tokyo Declaration is significant because it marks a welcome change from an patent based approach to technology transfer to an approach which recognises the importance of joint research laboratories and growing collaboration in developing climate friendly technologies between India and Japan. One hopes that the upcoming negotiations in Lima will adopt this rationale in international technology transfer between developed and developing countries.


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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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Nepal close to Carbon Neutral?

By Om Astha Rai

In 2009, Nepal’s cabinet held a meeting at the Everest base camp to highlight the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

In a reassertion of the fact that Nepal´s contribution to the world´s total greenhouse gas emission is still negligible, a yet-to-be published report states that the Himalayan nation emits less than 0.1 per cent of what scientists say causes climate change.

Nepal´s new report on National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, being finalized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE), confirms that Nepal, the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emits mere 0.027 per cent of global greenhouse gas emission.

Earlier, when Nepal submitted its first national communication report to the UNFCCC in 1998, its contribution to global emission was jut 0.025. Although the new report shows a slight increase in Nepal´s contribution to global emission, experts say it is still negligible.

“This means that we have done virtually nothing to increase the rate at which the Earth is warming up,” says Prakash Mathema, Chief of the Climate Change Division at the MoSTE. “It gives us more rights to seek financial support from the developed world to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

Mathema adds, “It is an irony that a country, whose role in global emission is virtually non-existent, is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

The report, which is likely to be submitted to the UNFCCC within the next few months as Nepal´s second national communication report, has taken into account just three major greenhouse gases and five major sources of their emissions. Continue reading