What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Time for India to step out of the Climate Shadow

Riddhima Yadav*

The announcement last week by the United States and China of a deal setting limits on greenhouse gases has set the ball rolling for the UN climate talks at Lima next week. But it has also done something long overdue – turned the spotlight on India. India has been under some pressure from the US and EU in the run up to the Peru talks to revise its INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), which would push the country to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, India’s long-held position is that it will not sacrifice eradicating poverty to limit carbon emissions. In the words of Environment minister Prakash Javadekar, “Poverty is India’s greatest environmental challenge.”

But is this really an excuse? Not really, according to several climate campaigners and experts. “Energy poverty is no longer a justification for coal expansion,” said Ashish Fernandes of Greenpeace India. In the last five years alone, India increased its coal power capacity by 73 percent. To fuel the new plants, India plans to double domestic coal production to one billion tons a year by 2019, and boost imports, notably from Australia. Pollution from India’s coal plants — largely unregulated and unmonitored — kills up to 115,000 Indians a year, and costs India’s economy as much as $4.6 billion. India’s air is among the world’s dirtiest.

India, the world’s third highest emitter of greenhouse gases has long been hiding in the shadows of Chinese climate policies. Indian delegates have long been ardent defenders of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” – the concept that the burden of emissions reductions and financial assistance on climate change for poor countries belongs to developed countries, who have a historical responsibility.The concept has often hampered global climate negotiations, especially as some developing countries became emerging economies.Jairam Ramesh, India’s former environment minister and chief negotiator, believes it is time to rethink that approach.”Differentiation is essential but is this distinction made in a completely different era over two decades back still meaningful? Simply put, it is not,” he said.

Maybe that is why, sensing the change in global sentiment on climate change strategies, Prime Minister Modi recast the almost defunct Prime Minister’s council on climate change, seeking to reinvigorate the body ahead of a pivotal year for global talks. The council, which was set up in 2006 under the erstwhile UPA government, had not met in the past three years due to differences in the government ranks over climate policy. Aware of the global expectations, the Modi-government has also commissioned a study to assess India’s current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, the results of which will be out by December. These results, along with the internal assessments of the government, will be used to prepare India’s new voluntary targets to the international community under the new pact to be signed in 2015. Furthermore, this has been followed up by an announcement on renewable energyIndia has indicated it aimed to increase the share of renewables to at least 15 per cent of its total energy usage, up from 6 per cent currently. India also hopes to bring in nearly USD$100 billion investment in renewable energy projects and install 100GW of solar capacity.

It remains to be seen whether this announcement will be followed through with concrete action – the long standing issue with a majority of climate committments. In the run up to Paris, pressure is now building on india to take a clear stance at the UN Climate talks. The negotiations next week will be intently watched to see what India comes up with!

*Riddhima Yadav is a member of Indian Youth Climate Network

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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


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Climate Change Mitigation – an equitable solution?

A few weeks back, I was at attending a symposium on climate change, sustainability and equity in Hyderabad, organized by reputed institutions, and attended by prominent figures in academia and civil society. The symposium was informative and lively, consisting of numerous presentations on subjects ranging from climate change and gender to the future of ‘the protocol’. One topic that captured my attention was the issue of equity, and how climate change was creating inequity not only through its far reaching impacts, but also how even mitigation efforts were turning out to be an inequitable undertaking for the majority of the worlds’ population.  It is clear that the 36 Annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC, with their energy intensive lifestyles and their relentless but inequitable pursuit of progress have been responsible for the vast majority of emissions. Through this indiscriminate and inconsiderate pathway of development, they have created and reinforced inequity time and again.

Developing countries now have a very small window of opportunity for following this unsustainable but demonstrated development pathway before we reach the crucial tipping point of 550 ppmv of CO2 equivalent, following which the magnitude and frequency of impacts would far outweigh opportunities for development. Meanwhile, wealthy Annex 1 countries are perpetrating further injustices on the poor of the world, and are arm-wringing India into submission and into committing to binding emissions reductions. IsClimate Injustice portrayed by Center for Science & Environment this equity? Climate change will undoubtedly increase socio economic imbalances in society. Poorer segments of the population, especially those dependent on natural resource management such as farmers, livestock herders, fisher folk and other marginal communities would be most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, while they themselves would have contributed very little to emissions. Even within a country like India, climate change is gradually revealing how inequitable the future will be. The section of the population which can afford air travel will also be the segment of the population which has an energy lifestyle comparable to the west, and is therefore most responsible for climate change.

Paradoxically, they are also the section which will be least impacted by climate change. Poorer people who can’t afford energy intensive lifestyles instead will have to face the brunt of climate change, and will be forced to adapt or perish. Is it equitable to ask these segments of the population to alter their lifestyles, which are already low carbon intensive, while they are going to suffer greatly because of no fault of theirs? It is crucial in future to maintain equity in society, and to protect those communities that are least equipped to adaptation to the impacts. Creating livelihood opportunities for vulnerable segments of the population who have been impacted, displaced and traumatized, and helping them during this period, would go a long way in preserving equitable development in our society.