What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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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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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Conspiracy Theories, Linguistic Politics & Tech Inefficiency Hijacked Day 3 @Climate Talks

Dispatches from COP 20, Lima.

Another day passed at COP 20 Lima, is the best expression to inform the readers about what happened on the last day (3rd December). Science is recommending urgent action, but there seems to be no urgency in the talks. The negotiations are taking place in English, better say “English with overflowing jargons” which is not the first language of most of the delegates present. As a result clarity is sought on almost every phrase mentioned in the text. All this is justified and helps in democratizing the process, but it is a painfully slow process and progress is being made at snail’s pace. I’m following the discussion on the draft decision text of “Advancing the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP)”. Last day in the session dedicated to ADP, countries had cat fights in very diplomatic still unkind language.

To fasten the conversation on ADP, Co-chair of the session, Kishan Kumar Singh, proposed to start with general reflection of countries that are called parties on draft text. Their thoughts in the form of interventions can be gathered at the same time through email and placed on website for everyone to access. The chair with the support of secretariat can later incorporate those inputs, synthesize and place it on wider screen for longer detailed discussions. This was considered undemocratic by many countries. Nigerian delegate with “newest version of Apple Laptop” on his table registered his protest against the proposition in high pitch, by saying that he and others are not very tech-friendly, and will prefer the text on the bigger screen to begin with. To me, that act seem to be nothing more than a delaying tactic as they can see the draft text on their laptop screen and avail the interventions  from the UNFCCC website, and reserve and share their thoughts by notifying the chair. Too much to ask for from those who own Mac devises?!

South African delegate hinted that the inability to display on the text on screen is a conspiracy of developed countries to impose their agenda, delegation from Argentina also voiced similar concerns. Developed countries which include Switzerland, United States suggested toeing the line of the chair and moving further. Frustrated with the slow progress chair- Kishan spoke in harsh and sarcastic terms, and said tomorrow the session will begin with the text displayed on screen- “we will go line by line, word by word, comma by comma, and full stop by full stop”. On which South African delegated reacted with humor and wit, saying- “Mr. Chair, are you threatening by saying-‘line by line, word by word, comma by comma, full stop by full stop’”. Tuvalu whose existence is being threatened by climate change chose to facilitate the conversation. Tuvalu’s intervention was to constitute “Friends of chair” to define the procedures. Kishan still angry and frustrated, went on to question whether there are any friends left in the room? Continue reading


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India’s expectation from UNFCCC COP 20

COP 20, Lima is very important and will prepare roadmap for a potential agreement in Paris, 2015. This was reiterated by Ravi Shankar Prasad lead negotiator from India, in an informal conversation with Indian Youth Delegation. Setting India’s expectation he said, India, like all other developing countries, wants to know what goes in “intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (iNDCs). Intended Nationally Determined Contributions is a mechanism put in place for voluntary commitments which parties can undertake for enhancing actions in pre-2020 period. Apart from mitigation measures like emission reduction, developing countries also want adaptation and capacity building strategies in the iNDCs. For iNDCs to be effective adequate financial resources need to be mobilized. These two are critical issues which hopefully will be looked into in the coming days and later months. India on its part is having internal evaluation for iNDCs, the report will be out this month. Between March- June, 2015 formal submission of Indian iNDC will be made to UNFCCC Secretariat.

Indian Youth Delegation with Indian NegotiatorAccording to Mr. Prasad US- China climate deal is a minor announcement. They have agreed only on two issues i.e. China peaking its green house gas emissions by 2030 and US reducing its emission by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. It’s not as amazing an announcement, but is a good starting point. He denied the fact that it will have major implications on India and also rejected the suggestion that India is going to announce its Green House Gas peaking anytime soon.

Apart from iNDCs and adequate resource mobilization, he also reflected on technology mechanism. According to him, India is pushing for relaxation of global Intellectual Patent Rights Norms so as to access efficient technologies. Conducive global IPR regime will provide enabling environment for developing countries to move towards greener economy.

Rest as they say, the charm of negotiator is determined by the way he hides his thoughts and not the revelation of it. It’s just the first day, and nothing is final till the deal is sealed.

With inputs from N. S. Prasad.


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Need for Resilient Agricultural Systems in the face of Climate Variability

Indian Youth Climate Network Policy Brief on Agriculture under UNFCCC

Background & Current Status: Agriculture contributes to and is threatened by climate change, thus jeopardizing global food security. Increasing variability in weather patterns makes agriculture one of the sectors this is most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Smallholders, comprising approximately 500 million small farms globally, are particularly vulnerable to climate change, potentially making nearly two billion people food insecure worldwide.

Agriculture is recognized as integral part for both adaption and mitigation on climate change. Article 2 of the UNFCCC outlines as ultimate objective the need to stabilize concentration of green house gases to ‘ensure that food production is not threatened’ by climate change. Article 4.1 (c) of UNFCCC detailing the commitments of parties provides for ‘promotion and cooperation in the development of technologies, practices and processes that can mitigate emissions from the relevant sectors’, including agriculture. It also states that parties need to cooperate in preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans for agriculture amongst other things Art 4.1 (e).

At COP 13 in Bali, parties had agreed to ‘develop and elaborate cooperative and sectoral approaches and sector specific actions to implement Art. 4.1(c)’, under the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).

The text from LWG-LCA in COP 15 in 2009 at Copenhagen was agreed to be protected. The text mentioned the need to improve the efficiency and productivity of agricultural production systems in a sustainable manner. Interests of farmers, rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge practices were also recognized along with the link between agriculture and food security, adaptation and mitigation. It was also argued that agriculture sector should not become a reason for imposing trade barriers. A Work Programme on Agriculture under Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA- a technical body that advises parties to UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol on scientific, technological and methodological questions) was sought to be established.

At COP 17 in Durban (2011), parties agreed to include Agriculture as an agenda item in SBSTA, thereby, moving it from the LCA discussions. At Doha in COP 18, no agreement was reached on the work programme on agriculture and the discussions on agriculture continued under SBSTA. As SBSTA mandate is to look at scientific and technological aspects and not policy matters, it also invites reports from the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) including the report by the High-Level Panel of Experts on food security and nutrition to feed into its own working and at the workshops it organizes.

Some key areas and interventions on Agriculture:

  • Developing countries have argued for emphasis on adaptation to climate change given that it will impact a majority of their population that are directly dependent on agriculture as an important source of livelihood.
  • EU is in support of a Work Programme on Agriculture that addresses mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation within one umbrella.
  • Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) argue for inclusion of agriculture in Adaptation Committee and discussions in Ad Hoc Durban Platform (ADP).
  • Coalition for Rainforest Nations have stressed on agriculture as a source of food security and livelihoods, and therefore need for greater adaptation.
  • Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean(AILAC) underlined the potential of adaptation efforts and associated co-benefits on agriculture.
  • Farmers’s NGO’s have repeatedly asked for work programme on agriculture under SBSTA.

At Bonn in June 2014, SBSTA agreed to consider the development of early warning systems and contingency plans in relation to extreme weather events; assessment of vulnerability and risk of agricultural systems in relation to different climate change scenarios; identification of adaptation measures; and identification and assessment of agricultural practices and technologies to enhance productivity in a sustainable manner, food security and resilience (FCCC/SBSTA/2014/L.14) at the SBSTA 42 /44 inter-sessional discussions. [1]

Developed countries continue to stress on the need to develop the work programme which addresses adaptation and mitigation together,it is still under discussion.

Some key areas that need added focus:

  • As UNFCCC seeks experts reports and feedback from FAO and CFS on its discussions on agriculture, SBSTA needs to analyse how it can ensure greater coherence on agricultural policies while at the same time avoid high transaction costs that are associated with duplication of efforts.
  • SBSTA’s workshops can be used as a forum to foster greater dialogue on contentious issues with an aim to arrive at policies that are necessary for an equitable, food secure, sustainable, and humane farming future in the face of climate change.
  • As the scientific and technical body, SBSTA should identify research and exchanges that are necessary to fulfill these goals.

The Way Forward: For the deal between and after Paris, it has become important to ensure that climate policies encompassing agriculture include considerations and safeguards that protect and promote food security, biodiversity, equitable access to resources, the right to food, animal welfare, and the rights of indigenous peoples and local populations, while promoting poverty reduction and climate adaptation. Given the extreme vulnerability of small farmers and producers, policies need to promote biodiverse, resilient agricultural systems that achieve social and gender equity and are led by small producers. Depending on the contextual requirement, systems should be developed, demonstrated, tested, and implemented, so as to transform farming which is environmentally, economically, or socially unsustainable into farming that improves ecosystem health, communities, and cultures – even in the face of a changing climate.

Prepared by Supriya Singh after consultation with Indian Youth Climate Network members.

[1]Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vol. 12 No. 598, pp 15.


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Everyday Life & Climate Change– What can we do?

By Dimple Ranpara*

Recently, prior to the Summit on Climate Change in New York, the “People’s Climate March” was held on 20th September in New Delhi. It was a march to demonstrate the climate change concerns of the citizens to the political leaders. Students, young professionals, rights groups, farming communities and welfare associations came together and adorned the capital with this global movement. The ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ launched by Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, on October 2, 2014, is a huge initiative taken to tackle the issues of solid waste management. There will be a trickle down impact on the sectors of water and sanitation, sewage supply and related infrastructure supply chain. All of these concern the actions and impacts of preparing the country to be climate change resilient.

The consciousness is growing, but climate change cannot be left at the mercy of mere perception. Climate skeptics,who believe that climate change is a natural cycle, pose hindrance to the changes in adaption and mitigation that is required at the micro level. A group of people from Bangalore, who call themselves ‘The Ugly Indians’ work on the philosophy of ‘Kaamchalumoohbandh’ (Stop Talking, Start Doing).They work against the filth in the city and this movement has brought about a radical change in the way people view their public spaces. Such an effort is an excellent example that can motivate individuals to take responsibility, individually and collectively.

Having understood the stimuli to climate change at the government and corporate level, the question arises, how can YOU adapt to climate change and what’s YOUR plan? How can YOU contribute through YOUR actions that can bring about a paradigm shift in the way you consume and dispose resources? One has to go beyond the myopic vision and share civic responsibility towards Mother Nature.  The journey is a long one and to start with baby steps, let’s talk about what can we do for real and be consistent in our efforts to make it a sustainable lifestyle of our own.

  •  Goodbye to Standby

Use the ‘on/off’ function of the appliance to save energy. Pull the changers off the sockets because even if your mobile phone, iPod or tabs are unplugged, the charger is still draining energy. Out of the total energy consumption by mobile devices in the charging mode, 20% is consumed by the standby mode. [1] Imagine the quantum of power wastage for a nation who’s expected mobile users are 1260 Million by 2020.

  • Light up guilt-free

Replace the most frequently used bulbs of your house with CFLs or LEDs. CFLs facilitate up to 70% [2] energy savings over the conventional incandescent bulb and LEDs is even 50% lower consumption compared to CFLs. It can be a huge impact over 246.7 million households (Census 2011) in India.

  •  Covered cooking

Pressure cooking is economical and fastest way of cooking. For example, there are fuel savings of 20% on rice and 41.5%[3] on meats as compared to ordinary cooking. Covering the pots while cooking reduces loss of heat by 2.5 times thereby lowering fuel consumption.

  •  Shop Intelligently

Buying in bulk would reduce millions of tons[4] of packaging waste from entering the landfill. A bottle of 1.5 liters consumes less energy and produces lesser waste than three bottles of 0.5 liters.

  •  Act Global, Eat Local

Shopping at local farmer markets over supermarkets will save on high fossil fuels used in transporting the groceries to your plate. And fresh vegetables and fruits are way healthier than frozen processed foods (which consume lots of energy to store them). One can eliminate up to 400kgs[5] of CO2emissions in a year by switching to locally produced food.

  •  Drive inflated

Properly inflated tires improve your fuel efficiency by more than 3%[6], lowering the carbon dioxide emissions.

  •  Wash when full

Run your washing machine and dish washers only when they full, for optimized water and energy consumption. Washing machines with Energy Star labels use 35%[7]less water for laundry and 20% less energy consumption.

  •  Keep reusable bags handy

Buying milk or shopping for veggies, keeping a reusable bag would shun down the consumption of plastic.

  •  Not in my backyard

Keeping your own house clean and dumping the garbage outside your premises is too hypocrite. Adopt your lane and share the responsibility with the neighbors to keep your street clean. A clean neighborhood remains clean and demands respect compared a dirty one which only deteriorates. (See: The Ugly Indian, Bangalore)

  •  Eyes on Water

While brushing our teeth to cleansing your face, the water knob should be turned on only when you require it. 20 liters of water is wasted for every 5 minutes of running tap and 50 liters of water is lost by a dripping tap of one drop per second in a single day[8].

  • Walk and Talk

Sharing a ride together or meeting friends in open spaces is an excellent way to contribute to lower carbon emissions and higher friendship bonds. Carpooling could save an individual about 122 kgs of CO2emissions[9] in a year per km travelled.

  •  Go Digital

Switch to online payments, service complaints, invoicing and ordering. Saves time, energy and emissions.

  •  Cool with sense

Sun control films on windows can reduce air-conditioning cost by 5-10% and lining windows with plants reduces the costs by 40%[10].

  •  Explore Nature’s Beauty

Next time you plan your holiday, instead of going to a luxurious resort, try visiting some natural landscapes of your region or country to experience the beauty of Nature. It shall move you and strengthen your responsibility towards protecting it.

  •  Turn it off

Every driver should switch off his engine at a traffic signal over a halt of 14 seconds. While idling, CO2emissions increase about 5 times[11].

These simple, energy and cost efficient steps can be an easy part of our everyday lives. Collective effort is required but at the same time, individual effort in its own way shall be the driving force to this huge mission of reducing man-made impacts leading to climate change. Let’s be more responsible, involved, and aware to inspire communities around us by being an example of change. Be your own Agent of Change and let the nation follow.

References and Web Links

[1]http://www.cstep.in/sites/default/files/CSTEP_Energy%20Consumption%20and%20CO2%20Emissions%20by%20the%20Indian%20Mobile.pdf

[2] https://www.bijlibachao.com/lights/use-energy-efficient-lights.html

[3] http://www.pcra.org/english/domestic/lastLong.htm

[4] http://www.bulkisgreen.org/blog/post/Portland-St-University-releases-first-US-Bulk-Foods-Study.aspx

[5] Calculated by http://www.carbonindependent.org/

[6] http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/fuel-gas-mileage-tips

[7] http://www.surfexcel.in/machine-maintenance/choose-the-best-washing-machine-in-india-to-save-water-and-energy/

[8] https://www.projectsunlight.co.in/stories/392270/What-s-your-water-quotient-.aspx

[9]http://timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-definition

[10] http://www.bsesdelhi.com/bsesdelhi/wbMyCoolIdea.do

[11] http://ijret.org/Volumes/V02/I10/IJRET_110210006.pdf

*Deepa Ranpara is an intern with Project Survival Media.


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These ‘Green Entrepreneurs’ Are Our Saviours In The Climate Emergency

Informal economy! I’m not sure whether any of the readers have had heard the term ‘informal economy’ ever before. As far as I know, the term is not there in school syllabus. It is apparently absent from Bachelors’ courses too. Informal economy workers are everywhere. Let me also make one thing very clear, that informal economy workers are neither illegal nor illegitimate children of the republic. It is definitely not the other name of black market.

Informal economy, at very basic level, means the economy or sectors which are not regularized or recognized by the state or other state actors. Most of the developing economies are known for large scale informalities in various sectors. South Asia, particularly India, is no different. According to the Employment & Unemployment Survey 2004-05, 84.7 % of Indians work in the informal economy, a majority of those are women and many fall in the category of youth. A street vendor selling vegetables, a cobbler repairing shoes, domestic help, waste picker collecting –sell-able or recyclable waste, agriculture labourer, carpenter and many more are all informal economy workers. They are the backbone of Indian economy. Their contribution to GDP is rarely acknowledged.

Most informal economy workers are poor, marginalized and in context of India, belong to erstwhile lower castes. They live in informal settlements which are disease prone, with no proper water and sanitation facilities. Their access to social, educational and nutritional security is lowest amongst most social groups. In recent years, a few welfare measures like right to food and right to education have come up, but they are too short of addressing the cores issues which make masses vulnerable.

In the troubled times like the ones we are living in, another monster is standing at our door. The monster is Climate Emergency. The nation-states have not taken any stringent action to mitigate the climate crisis. Instead, they agreed to have a 2 degree C rise in temperature without even knowing what it implies. This means that they have agreed to more floods, droughts, irregular rains and falling agriculture production.

The article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and can be read here.