What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

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India Struggling Between the Juggernaut of International Image & Equity @Climate Talks

Dispatches from COP 20, Lima. 

Indian government delegation is warming up for a test match like scenario at COP 20 in Lima. Last blog-post looked at couple of expectations shared by the delegation members. Those were elaborated further today at an informal chit-chat with civil society. It seems that India in coordination with other developing countries will push for Adaptation, Adaptation, and Adaptation at par with mitigation in Paris, 2015 climate deal. The equal parity between mitigation, and adaption in the mandate of Global Climate Fund was appreciated in the interaction.

While the need for inclusion of adaptation is understood well, there is no visible clarity on the nuts and bolts of framework for adaptation. According to Mr. Sushil Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), there is a benchmark limit like 2 Degree Centigrade for mitigation purposes, similar yardstick is yet to be devised for adaptation. To initiate an identical framework for adaptation, scale or some sort of index quantifying vulnerability is necessary, and the talks for the same are yet to take place. Informally Inter-governmental panel on climate change like body is being proposed to do the job quantification of vulnerability and adaptation.

There are more questions than answers about it.

India has been a champion of ‘equity’ in the convention. There is growing fatigue around the equity argument. There are apprehensions of it blocking or derailing the prospective deal. For new government in Delhi, international image is very important and also they don’t want to lose their flagpole of ‘equity’. The juggernauts of equity, international image and other pertaining questions have forced the government to open its floor for wider participation of civil society. And this has brought in new players like the think tank of prominent journalists and former bureaucrats in the game. In the interaction, it was very visible that the Indian delegation is heavily dependent on their opinions and understanding, and is waiting for their final verdict on the same.

The lack of clarity on government’s part has opened many doors for civil society to intervene and liaison. But it also leaves us in dismay as many in the delegation are not as prepared as we were made to believe.  We hope that Indian delegation, with little understanding and preparation is not going to make a fool of itself in the negotiations. Whatever said and done, one thing is very clear that Lima has inflamed desires for stronger agreement and it is not going to be a pass over as many were making us believe.

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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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A Freedom Past Due

The following is an address at the Youth Summit segment of the Renewable Energy India Expo 2008 held in Pragati Maidan in New Delhi on August 23, 2008.

Kahi saalon pehale, humne, badi mushkil se, ek azadi payi thi.  Aur indino hum ek nayi azadi chahte hain.

There comes a time in our lives when we have to take a stand for something.  Every generation is defined by some large event or movement.  Ours is a unique case in that the event is something that has gained momentum with time with no clear victims and perpetrators.  The damage caused till date and that which awaits us is on such a scale that to begin to comprehend it may leave you feeling helpless and in despair.  We know the root problem and there is tension in the understanding for the need of  a groundswell movement that will not only define us as a generation, but decide the fate of humanity.

There has been a lot of talk about freedom at this expo.  Someone mentioned a “quit oil movement” and the Honorable Minister of MNRE also spoke from the heart about doing more than just business here.  There is an apparent need to turn renewable energy into a movement.  Let us go back to the “stroke of the midnight hour” and the tryst we had once made with destiny.  Let us renew our pledge not only to ourselves but to the still larger cause of humanity.  For this time, as the world slowly awakens, India must reignite its ingenuity and its drive for freedom to rid ourselves of the burden of foreign energy sources and those that will make the planet play dearly.

We as a nation stand at the crossroads of not only defining our own developmental future but the ecological future of the entire planet.  Climate change is a simple call for humanity to unite and as youth we make up nearly 48% of the global population.  In India with nearly 3/4ths of the population being below the age of 30, we ARE youth.  It is our future that is on the line and we must get engaged in the debate.  Youth around the world are uniting for the cause.  They are vying for a seat as official stake holders (alongside the World Bank, the IMF and many civil society organizations) at the UNFCCC, the international body attempting to frame the next global deal to address this crucial matter.  In Bali when the road map for this next global deal was unveiled there was no youth representation from India.  A country who is coming under greater scrutiny for its current stand on the matter, and which is majority youth must see to it that its youth are found there.

The Indian Youth Climate Network was born out of this idea and with the belief that youth needed a platform to discuss and debate the issue of climate change in an attempt to drive consensus on the need to take action on the matter here in India.  We can take our economy to new heights by pushing for green jobs.  We can push for a cleaner, brighter future by engaging the government in policy.  We can demand climate justice in the international forum but ensure that we are having it here at home as well. This is an andolan to beat all andolans as there is no time to lose.  If we lose this one, we may not be around to have any more andolans.  Recently a close friend of mine in the climate movement broke down and cried.  Her words shook me:  “I think what makes me sad is that I may not live to see the successful end of climate change.”  I think those of us who are in their 20s know that grave danger lies ahead and that the least our generation can do is to take considerable steps to ensure that those younger than us can have a glimmer of hope.

The winds of change have started blowing.  Over 150 youth and young professionals from across the country gathered in Hyderabad on the Infosys campus to draft the national youth action plan on climate change and the overarching Indian youth Declaration on climate change.  The principals in this vision is what we as youth are advocating for and we want all sectors in society to take these commitments to ensure a future of hope for us.   We want the government and industry to know that the youth have arrived at last.  We are here to pave the way for green jobs but we will need enlightened corporations to come forward.  We are here to take up civic duties and hunt for solutions but we will need the support of enlightened leadership in the government.  We are here to give a voice to the voiceless and lend a hand to those who feel alone in the dark about how to take action.  Join us and become an agent of change today!

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IYSoCC Just the Beginning

From debate paralleling UN climate negotiations to Mr. Narayana Murthy’s address to the youth and from discussion of India’s emissions targets to staying up till 3am discussing the future youth want to build: the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change was a milestone for India’s youth movement on climate change.

IYSoCC Participants in front of the Charminar in Hyderabad city

IYSoCC Participants in front of the Charminar in Hyderabad city

The aim of the summit was to come out with a youth declaration on climate change to unite the individuals and organizations that have a stake in climate change – which is everyone! The summit also aimed to create the framework that would then move on to produce the India’s Youth Action Plan on Climate Change, climate policy that will be proposed to the government over the next 6-8 months. The summit was organized by the Friendship Foundation, Global Citizens for Sustainable Development, Nature & Biological Sciences Society, the Indian Youth Climate Network, and hosted by Infosys Technologies Limited at their Gachibowli campus.

It was agreed that “young people have power” as mentioned by guest speaker Bittu Sahgal, founder of Sanctuary Magazine, who went on to say it was time for youth to use it to their advantage. Deepa Gupta, co-founder of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), said, “There are so many young people working on this issue, and we won’t be listened to as individuals or as a small group of people, but mass united as the youth of India: we cannot be ignored. India has about 700 million under the age of 35. How can they not be represented in the decisions, when they are the ones that will be impacted the most by climate change?” This outlined the aim of IYCN, who have grown from a reach of 3 to over 200,000 people within 4 months of the inception of the youth movement.

Mr. Narayana Murthy, co-founder, non-executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, addressed the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change delegates. He encouraged all of the delegates to walk the talk, “I have always believed that the most powerful instrument that a leader has is leadership by example.” He further proved this by describing his sustainable living practices, including bathing with only half a bucket of water every day for the past 40 years.

Participants agreed that India needs to act urgently, commit to emissions reduction targets and renewable energy targets. They also agreed our actions need to be based on an international target of 350ppm concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. This was outlined by Mr. Will Bates from 350.org, as being the maximum safe upper limit for a safe and stable climate.

There was lots of discussion including a future India powered 100% renewable energy, international taxes to high carbon emitters, an independent GHG regulatory authority. There was also discussion on mandatory emissions reporting, all metropolitan roofs having rainwater harvesting systems by 2012 and adapting to the projected 125 million climate refugees in a business as usual scenario.

Youth presented on the climate impacts in their area, with representation ranging from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan to Meghalaya. They committed to actions in their states from organizing renewable energy expos, working with schools and colleges, lobbying their local government to implementing rural energy projects, organizing solar powered rock concerts and participating in the international climate negotiations.

The launch included all delegates from Hyderabad and AP signing on to the Hyderabad Climate Alliance Pledge, agreeing that they “understand that climate change is an impending global catastrophe… and believe that Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh will be particularly susceptible… and commit to contribute in earnest to mitigating climate change and helping the people and natural environment of Hyderabad to adapt.”

Other guest speakers included, Mr. Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations; Vandana Shiva, an eminent physicist, environmental activist, author and the founder of the Navdanya Institute; Amala Akkinani, film star and founder of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad, Gaurav Gupta from the Climate Project India, Dr Rajamani, Former Chief Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI, and speakers from CSM, Oxfam, Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

Other quotes:

Narayana Murthy

“We have a population of 650 to 700 million people under the age of 30. If we can mobilize this force, we will have enormous power for change to address climate change.”

Dr Rajamani:

“In your own group wherever you’re live, make the change”

“I think you’re on the ball, on the move, all the best”

Amala Akkinani

“I may not be a climate expert, but I am a concerned citizen. I love my planet; it is my only home.”

Bittu Sehgal

“Young people have power, and it is time to use it to your advantage.”

“If a lot do a little, a lot gets done.”

“If your house is on fire, you can’t go downstairs and have a debate on who started the fire and who is responsible to put it out. You all need to get some water and put it out.”

Ms. Farida Tampal

“Genetic diversity in our food crops means that we will be protected from a single climatic disaster.”

Natasha Chandy of Greenpeace India

“If we need to fight climate change, we – tomorrow’s future – need to create a revolution today. IYSoCC is just the beginning.”

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IYCN Meets Infosys Chairman & As Important: Each Other!

The third day of Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change may have been a torrential downpour, but it was no damper on the mood of the participants, who had another incredible day of discussions, including a discussion with the former Chairman and Founder of Infosys Technologies Limited, one of the world’s largest IT companies (90,000 employees!) which has been the generous host of the summit. Participants also had a chance to get to know each other a lot more during state breakout sessions, runs through the rain, and heated debates about how best to address climate equity.

Narayana Murty, Founder, Chairman & Mentor of Infosys with IYSoCC delegates supporting climate action and 350 ppm!
Narayana Murty, Founder, Chairman & Mentor of Infosys with IYSoCC delegates supporting climate action and 350 ppm!

The day began with a presentation by Gaurav Gupta of The Climate Project – India, which called for the youth to evaluate some of the hardest moral issues with regards to who should be bearing the costs of climate change adaptation and mitigation in countries like India. While India is suffering the largest impacts of climate change and is one of the world’s largest emitters of climate change, it has one of the lowest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions and must be allowed to develop to a higher level of per capita emissions, as developed nations must decrease their per capita and absolute emissions drastically. He also said that just as industrialized nations should be taxed based on their carbon emissions today, they should also be taxed for historical emissions, as the wealth of Europe and the United States is built on years of carbon emissions for which they were not charged.

The morning’s presentations also included presentations by Tapati Ghosh of Center for Social Markets and Brikesh Singh from Greenpeace India. Ms. Ghosh spoke about CSM’s projects to raise awareness about climate change, including the City Dialogues on Climate Change and Climate Challenge India, which received an award at the United Nations Climate Conference in Bali in 2007 as one of the world’s top five climate programs. Ms. Ghosh said, “Climate Challenge India seeks to build a new climate of hope and opportunity on climate change.” Brikesh Singh of Greenpeace India spoke about Greenpeace’s initiatives for grassroots action on climate change, and said, “If we need to fight climate change, we – tomorrow’s future – need to create a revolution today. IYSoCC is just the beginning.” Anugraha John and Digu Arachamy, both members of IYCN and organizers of IYSoCC spoke about climate change and impacts on water and agriculture, respectively.

Mr. Narayana Murthy, co-founder, non-executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, spoke to the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change delegates this afternoon about climate change and the power of youth to make a change. He encouraged all of the delegates to lead through their own examples, to walk the talk with regards to conservation of resources. “I have always believed that the most powerful instrument that a leader has is leadership by example.” He was very supportive of the motives and actions of the Indian Youth Climate Network, and said, “We have a population of 650 to 700 million people under the age of 30. If we can mobilize this force, we will have enormous power for change to address climate change.” He also told us that he only uses half a bucket of water each day to bathe, putting water conservation into action.

Youth from around the country discussed impacts in their own states, ranging from loss of glaciers and decreased tourism due to decreased snowfall in Himachal Pradesh, reduction in fruit production in Kashmir, to droughts and farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They also spoke about their solutions for their regions, including statewise support for subsidies on renewables, mandatory solar water heating and rainwater harvesting, and better educational campaigns on climate solutions. The most exciting part, of course, was the commitment made by individuals and by groups to take action when they do return home – to turn the words of the week into actions. The team from Delhi each committed to speaking at five schools or colleges to spread the message, and to meet in two weeks to discuss how to move the Delhi Charter on Climate Change into action.

Representatives from Bangalore agreed to compile a database of all organizations working on climate and environment in Karnataka and have a meeting on August 23 to unite them. In Hyderabad, groups committed to tree plantations. Many committed to share information and organize events for Project 350, an international grassroots movement to raise the number of 350 ppm as the international target for emissions. This has been identified as the only safe level of carbon emissions that will allow for a stable future climate, and is the base of international actions leading up to an international agreement for climate policy in Copenhagen at the United Nations climate negotiations in 2009.

In the afternoon, a group of international youth organizers spoke about their experiences internationally. Deepa Gupta told of direct actions that were organized in Australia, including chaining activists to trees to prevent being cut down and the Youth Climate Action Camp which included hundreds of youth lying on railway tracks to prevent coal trains from reaching a new coal plant. Two students from Nepal spoke about the impacts of climate change in Nepal and the international youth movement’s actions there. Representatives from the United States spoke about the shift from fear-based to hope-based climate action and the campus based movements that spread across the country, including Nathan Wyeth from Sierra Student Coalition and Will Bates from Project 350. In particular, Mr. Bates highlighted the effectiveness of national days of actions, including Step it Up 2007, in which 1400 communities and campuses across the country in all 50 states held events to call for 80 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2050.

The official sessions ended with a painting session, with delegates painting canvases depicting their thoughts on climate change, impacts and solution that OxFam India will be bringing to this year’s international climate negotiations. The day ended with passionate discussions of climate equity and how best to address historical emissions, including questioning how colonial impacts, deforestation and land use change, and development pathways could be incorporated into such a tax.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change, in which the Youth Declaration will be finalized after a few more working groups.

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Back to School !

The IYCN Schools Program began on a wonderful note,with a session on the Youth and Climate Change at Sanskriti, one of the most eco-friendly schools in New Delhi a few days ago. The two hour interaction was definitely an all time high ,especially for the seven IYCN members present there. Their strong belief in the ability of children to make a difference was echoed by the class XI students who got together to create a new city, by naming it ‘Youngistan’.

After a brief warming up session, students were encouraged to raise questions on climate, science and policy. Interestingly, the students themselves had the answers and often asked profound questions much to everyone’s amazement.

Standing amidst the children, I was indeed amazed to see the seriousness with which the students approached the issue. They had very well grasped the idea that climate change was merely not an environmental issue but also a socio-economic one. Their senstivity was highlighted when they brought to the attention of everyone the plight of lesser fortunate citizens of the country and their resolve to critically relook at their own lifestyles. The discussion ranged from consumerism to government initiative to active citizenship. Questions regarding development and sustainability created a discussion that saw the students realizing the complexity of the issue at hand.

What was also heartening was the presence of teachers who actively engaged themselves in the interaction. Over the last few years, Sanskriti has been adopting eco friendly appraoches to both their education technique and school infrastructure. The school even has an Environmental Studies(EVS) lab as well as initiatives to keep the campus clean. Students also told us about the efforts some teachers have been taking to teach about environmental consciousness. We also witnessed an Art class where junior students were deeply involved in making innovative objects out of e-waste.

Another highlight was the closed interaction we were able to have with the members of the school’s Eco Club, otherwise known as the Green Brigade. Led by enthusiastic seniors and juniors alike, they bombarded us with so many interesting ideas. In the end, all we could tell them was to believe in their actions and to confidently move ahead, despite all obstacles. The Green Brigade also brainstormed on issues such as the BRT Corridor and waste recycling.

IYCN’s Schools Program aims to reach out to students across the city, including both government and private institutions and to spread the message of the need to tackle climate change together. Although, initially, many of them are apprehensive of taking the first step, it is important to help them realize that the challenge is theirs. They are the ones who are going to inherit this planet in the next few decades and we all need to come up with solutions, however small it may be to prevent ourselves from falling into total chaos.

The  confidence and glee on the students faces however, put all our doubts to rest! They bid farewell by gifting us a plant each, a reminder of their resolution to be the change they wish to see.

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The Climate Leadership Program

The Climate Leadership Program

The Climate Leadership Program is being organized by IYCN with the goal of creating a generation of young people educated about climate change impacts and solutions. Eventually, a strong group of youth leaders would be created across India, leaders who will initiate and lead grassroots climate groups and thus mobilize people to tackle with the problem of climate change.

The Climate Leadership Program is a one-year program consisting of three sections:

  • Climate Messenger Training
  • Delivering Presentations
  • Implementing a project

The first phase of the program kick started in New Delhi. The Climate Messenger Training, aimed at training young people to deliver presentations and workshops about climate change, was held as a two day event on the 12th and 13th of July at the School of , Delhi University. As a part of the training program, the participants were given a Indian Climate Presentation, which dealt in detail about the climate change from a Indian perspective. In addition to this, a session on developing leadership skills was also presented. A case study in Engaging Rural Communities was also held, which gave the participants an insight into how to deal with rural communities who are the most affected by the climate change in almost every aspect of their life from social to economical.

The second phase of the program i.e. Delivering Presentations, is to be completed within the next 6 months. Every participant is required to give at least 4 presentation on climate change to different audiences. They will be supported by IYCN as required and will be extended all possible resources to help them deliver the presentation.

The third phase of the program involves the participants initiating their own projects. The project may be anything ranging from starting a own climate group to participating in the initiatives of IYCN or even a separate climate initiative.

Highlights of the program:

  • Commitment on the part of the participants to the presentations and the project
  • Documenting and reporting the progress regularly to the respective coordinators
  • Write a case study at the end of the project, which would be published online and the IYCN booklet
  • Creation of a climate group in Kashmir, Benares, Chennai, Coimbatore, Rewari and Delhi
  • Identifying schools and college in the city of New Delhi and taking the message of climate change and get them involved.
  • Tree plantation drive, Yamuna tour, Rural Energy Project.

P.S. People interested in taking part in the above mentioned projects may please contact info@whatswiththeclimate.org or contact me at reachsuren@gmail.com for more information.