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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COP 21 for Dummies- What is COP? What is UNFCCC?

Christopher de Vreese

It is important to go over the basics before we move onto the more complex issues surrounding the international climate change debate. This blog post aims to paint a broad picture of what the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) is and explain; how it is important; what is at stake; and how it is different to the past Climate Change Conferences.

The Conference of the Parties (COPs) serve as formal meetings that take place within the mandate of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ‘UNFCCC’, between all 196 member states of the United Nations. (The UNFCCC is currently considered the only legitimate international environmental treaty, due in part to its virtually universal membership). The treaty itself did not set binding limits on greenhouse gas ‘GHG’ emissions (CO2, Methane, etc) for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, it provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called ‘Protocols’ or ‘Agreements’), that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases.

The Parties to the convention therefore meet annually since 1995, in COPs, to assess the progress in dealing with climate change, and hopefully establish legally binding obligations on reducing GHG Emissions. In the mid-1990s, the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, however it did proved to be a failure due to lack of commitment and enforcement. The COP15 in 2009 (a.k.a The Copenhagen Negotiations) also attempted to create a worldwide legally binding Climate Change Treaty, but lack of consensus between developed and developing countries on various issues resulted in a non binding treaty called the Copenhagen Accord.

This brings us to the COP21, (or 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference), which aims to bring together all the Member States, regardless of their level of economic development, under a single climate change regime. However this climate change treaty, if agreed, will be different in form and nature from its predecessors.

The Treaty will have 2 dimensions, which will combine a Top-Down approach (International Legally Binding Aspects) and Bottom-Up approach (National Non-Legally Binding Aspects) into one treaty. The first dimension will try to tie together the different parties through a common thread called the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs are basically non-legally binding commitments that each country will make in order to reduce GHG emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change. When all these INDCs are brought together they should, in theory, limit global warming to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level. The second dimension, or the legally binding aspect, will be the international framework covering issues such as means of implementations, which will include components surrounding financing, technology transfer mechanisms as well as monitoring and review mechanisms. The aim of this dimension, will be thus to create a common and transparent framework from which all the member states can measure their climate change actions under the same criteria.

The reason why this COP is so important, for the world and the youth of India, is because we are running out of time and carbon space in order to meet the 2.0 °C target. If we do not find a common framework in Paris with common definitions and goals on how tackle climate change, the consequence will be the inability to act effectively over the next 15 years and a growing vulnerability towards the effects of climate change. It is therefore also your responsibility to make your voice heard!

Contact: Christopher de Vreese- christopher.dv@hotmail.com


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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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Climate Finance Missing from the Agenda: How do We Achieve Equitable Deal?

by Ram Kishan

Many UNFCCC stakeholders see climate finance as one of the linchpins holding together the entire climate negotiation process, and for good reasons. First, climate finance is key to closing gaps: delivering funds to implement mitigation and adaptation activities is required in order to ensure the highest possible efforts. For mitigation, this means keeping the planet on a pathway that limits global warming to 2°C or less; for adaptation, this means enabling climate-resilient development. Second, the provision of climate finance fulfils developed countries’ financial commitments to developing countries under UNFCCC obligations. Third, some stakeholders maintain that developed countries, which provide the means to implement climate change projects (finance, technology and capacity building) will determine developing countries’ level of commitment and buy-in to a new climate deal in 2015.

There is only one year left before the COP in Paris, where the Parties are expected to adopt a protocol – another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC – that is applicable to all Parties. There are few political openings left to reassure developing countries that their domestic climate actions will receive commensurate international support. In this context, the COP in Lima is a critical opportunity to provide the necessary predictability, which is currently missing in the negotiations.

Now that we are 3 days away from the end of negotiations at COP 20 in Lima, lets reflect on the past few days…

An [In]equitable Climate Treaty in Paris 2015?

World leaders have been touting COP 20 as the conference to pave the road to a legally binding treaty in Paris in 2015. By Day 9, however, divisions between the Global North and Global South are making themselves known, particularly around the ADP (Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform) also known as the fundamental base for negotiations to get to Paris. With many of us pushing for equity to be at the heart of next year’s climate deal, it is disheartening to see the degree of division among member states. Particularly upsetting is that it is the so-called “developed” countries that seem to be actively working against equity thus far.

We are already seeing problematic comments from the EU, U.S., Australia and Switzerland — supported by Canada and New Zealand — on climate financing. Likewise there has been strong pushback on linking climate finance through the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund to international law. This is deeply troubling as it essentially opens the door for countries to set their own terms for funding adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Global South. 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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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.