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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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.