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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Strengthen CTCN, Encourage Energy Efficiency & Renewables, Involve Communities

Indian Youth Climate Network Policy Brief on Technology Transfer under UNFCCC

Background & Current Status:The world economy at large is still dependent on carbon intensive sources of energy. There are significant steps undertaken by many developed countries to move from carbon intensive sources to renewable sources. But there is lot left to do. The development trajectory followed the west after the industrial revolution can no longer be a safe pathway for developing countries to move on. Poverty, low access to financial services and political instability have kept many developing countries in the fossil fuel based carbon trap. Thisformed the backdrop for the adoption of Article 4.5 in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that refers to commitment on the issue of transfer technology to help poor countries leapfrog to a less carbon intensive future. The article states

“The developed country Parties and other developed Parties included in Annex II shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and knowhow to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention. In this process, the developed country Parties shall support the development and enhancement of endogenous capacities and technologies of developing country Parties. Other Parties and organizations in a position to do so may also assist in facilitating the transfer of such technologies.”

Technology Transfer in UNFCCC has been one of the most contested issues as it involves added financial costs for developed countries to help developing countries leapfrog. There are additional concerns over “Intellectual Property Rights” that are currently under the rubric of “World Trade Organization” and not the UNFCCC that impede work under article 4.5. Some of these obstacles were addressed in COP 7 in Marrakesh, resulting in an accord, which had Technology needs assessment, technology information, enabling environments and capacity building as its four pillars.  These are described below –

Technology needs assessment: “Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) are a set of country-driven activities that identify and determine the mitigation and adaptation technology priorities of Parties other than developed country Parties, and other developed Parties not included in Annex II, particularly developing country Parties.”

Technology information: “The technology information component of the framework defines the means, including hardware, software and networking, to facilitate the flow of information between the different stakeholders to enhance the development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies.”

Enabling environments: “This component of the framework focuses on government actions, such as fair trade policies, removal of technical, legal and administrative barriers to technology transfer, sound economic policy, regulatory frameworks and transparency, all of which create an environment conducive to private and public sector technology transfer.”

Capacity Building: The capacity building component is a process which seeks to build, develop, strengthen, enhance and improve existing scientific and technical skills, capabilities and institutions in Parties other than developed country Parties, and other developed Parties not included in Annex II, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to assess, adapt, manage and develop environmentally sound technologies.”

These components were expanded in the Cancun Agreement in COP 16 and termed Technology Mechanism, “fostering public-private partnerships; promoting innovation; catalyzing the use of technology road maps or action plans; responding to developing country party requests on matters related to technology transfer; and facilitating joint R&D activities.”

The Technology mechanism consists of Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN).  The Technology executive committee that worked on the technology mechanism, formulated a report based on the needs of 31 parties who submitted their application including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan from South Asia. In order to compile the report, the existing frameworks of the parties were studied, sectors were prioritized for adaptation and mitigation and barriers were identified. Following this recommendations for technology action plans were prepared and submitted for consideration to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in 2013. This has been a good starting point with more parties sending their requests to become the beneficiaries of the technology mechanism in subsequent months.

Last year in Warsaw, COP 19, parties finalized the modalities of Climate Technology Center & Network and its advisory board resulting in streamlining of submissions from National Designated Entities on the issue.

The Road Ahead

Mandate to TEC to provide guidance on CTCN priorities:  The work of CTCN is seen as a developing country driven process, but fact remains that there is no adequate mechanism by which developing countries can voice their collective requests.  The TM needs to adopt and request prioritization procedures that are based on the ADP’s understanding of equity, and how it is measured, to create an “equitable distribution” of the resources of the CTCN.

Long term funding for TEC and CTCN: Long term financing of technologies is must for making Technology Mechanism work. There have been contributions from Indonesia, Netherlands, United States and others under Global Climate Finance that are most welcome. However,developed countries need to mobilize more resources to reach the specified targets. Voluntary commitments from developing countries for climate financing should be encouraged. Private funding can and should be mobilized as private enterprises have a large role to play in the TM. However, there is a note of caution with private funding. It will come with its own set of strings which may hamper the agenda of TEC & CTCN orienting it towards certain interests.Therefore, the core funding for the decision making part of the TM, the TEC and the Climate Technology Centre and its Advisory Board should be supported in the long term through public funding.

The framework of CTCN is sound but there has to be enhanced emphasis on including transfer of knowledge, technology and skills for energy efficiency and renewable energy. This will help developing countries to diversify their energy portfolio, thereby reducing their dependence on coal.  Many countries like India & China are already moving in that direction. Setting up CTCN at regional levels could then be the next step.

Application of Precautionary Principle: CTCN should also have a mandate to ensure that the socio-environment impact of all environmentally sound technologies is studied thoroughly. There are many technologies that may seem less carbon intensive but can have high ecological, economic and health costs. Funding to such technologies should be refrained.

Stakeholder identification and community participation in decision making on technology assessment and action plan should be made compulsory. The methodology for stakeholder identification and participants should be evolved and adapted to varying local conditions of countries. It is important to ensure the participation of youth, women, indigenous peoples and local communities and other marginalized groups as stakeholders in the process.  Inputs collected should be presented by the national designated entities while filing the request. Any opposition from the communities should also be recorded for consideration. Technology Transfer should be done in an inclusive way and the goals of poverty alleviation intertwined with it. More Green jobs for youth, skill building of the poor and marginalized groups on priority basis should be encouraged.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) norms should be revisited for ensuring that past mistakes of funding “efficient but still carbon intensive technologies” are not repeated. For technology transfer non-market based approaches should also be identified, which currently is considered as anti-thesis of innovation in technology.

Stronger engagement with other conventions and agreements: International and other national Patent Rights norms of developed countries can be a hurdle and obstacle in technology transfer. Parties should be encouraged to remove those barriers for accessing the resources. If possible, creating a common pool of technologies and best practices should be evolved for the benefit of the commons.

Youth has an important role to play. With their energies and risk taking abilities they can take charge of innovating and adapting shared technologies, marketing them at affordable prices thereby creating more green jobs and better growth model.

Prepared by Kabir Arora after consultation with Indian Youth Climate Network members.


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Oracle of the Oriental: Gandhiji

Could Gandhiji predict where the emissions-producing industrial world will lead us to? Did he know we will poke holes in the Ozone, bleach & finish up the corals, irrigate fields with acid rain, cause floods or cloud bursts or hurricanes every month somewhere in the world? Why did he have to warn us that India will be made a nation of homeless people as a result of driving people out of villages by building dams, ports, industries, highways & SEZs out of them?

How could he a century before the world cup of climate change (read COP15, 2009) warn the world against unrestricted industrialism & materialism? (read Hind Swaraj, 1909). He rejected western development as a culprit back then and today we are talking of polluter pays principle, historical responsibility to highlight western world’s share in the problem.

Did he actually predict all this? Was he an Oracle?

From his writings and speeches, it seems he was simply making an attempt to show the path of harmony with nature. He was emphasizing on the importance of pure air, clean water, and nutritious food to the vitality of each person’s body.

Let’s dig deeper.

He was saying all this at a time when colonial rule was influencing India/Bharat/Hindustan to veer from its ancient systems of living. He profusely criticized and rejected with examples the western technology driven lifestyles that know no limits. Many other Eastern Hemisphere countries also have ancient civilizations with similar values like India. Gandhiji was speaking from age-old wisdom of all these cultures.

Gandhiji could create a whole movement out of charkha, swaraj, salt, fast. These are the keywords of the movements of today as well – people in the west want to buy things made locally, the current government has launched Make-in-India campaign.

Everything Gandhiji did or say had a flipside meaning as well – he hinted at what could/will go wrong. He pointed out what could go wrong if:

We don’t respect & cater to the needs of our people in the non-urban areas aka villages, forest dwellers – led to resistance movements, slums
We don’t respect the limits of nature – led to climate tipping points, species extinction
We don’t value gifts of nature, that is, free & clean air, water, abundant food – now we pay for water, we pay for cleaner air (by buying homes in expensive, cleaner places), we fight over resources (state & clan disputes)
We consume more than we need – carbon footprint has now become a buzzword
We trade our values of decentralized self-reliance with centralized mass production – everything we need now has to be transported to us and we need to pay for it, thus, money assuming supremacy over everything else.
Gandhiji articulated the India of his dreams wherein he thought for the welfare of every form of life. All his virtues gained him the title, Father of the Nation or Bapu. We might add one more title to his name, Oracle of the Oriental.

Let’s make our life rather than a status update our message.


Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer and India’s Climate Strategy

File:San Gorgonio Pass Wind Power Plants.jpg

At the beginning of this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Tokyo Declaration along with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, mentioning among other things, the decision to “spur cooperation… in cutting edge fields such as…clean and renewable energy, water technology, climate change science and outer space”. The recently concluded meeting comprising leaders of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC), at New Delhi, there was discussion on the approach of the BASIC countries for the 2015 Paris CoP, with an emphasis on how developed countries must fulfill their obligation towards developing countries in the form of funding, technology and support for capacity building.

We are seeing a greater emphasis on the need for technological self-sufficiency in India’s negotiating stance. This is because, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the quintessential solution to the mammoth task of emission reductions, and this shift will occur only through large scale investment in R&D and manufacture of accessible green technology. At the climate talks in Warsaw in 2013, India reiterated the need for financing for green technology along with transfer of patents by developed nations to help developing nations achieve their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

From what we have observed through the several rounds of negotiations taking place, India and other Like Minded Developing Countries have consistently pushed for the removal of intellectual property barriers for renewable energy technology in order to aid their domestic climate action. However, this has been equally opposed by the United States, Canada, European Union and Switzerland, citing that intellectual property rights were not hampering technology transfer, but the removal of the same would have a negative impact on innovation and inhibit technology transfer, which would be undesirable to the global community.

In light of this debate, it is crucial to examine the relevance of intellectual property rights in achieving the larger goals of climate action. It has been argued that patents comprise only a small fraction of the cost of developing renewable energy technology and that removing patent protection for the same would not affect the total cost greatly. Patents must be accompanied by technical capacity, expertise and trade secrets in order to be successful. Currently, developing countries are placing a disproportionate emphasis on patents in the international negotiation process, which might just result in a forced and ineffective regime.

Also, we need to keep in mind the massive venture capital required to operate renewable energy companies  and encourage innovation, which is something that cannot be achieved if innovation is not incentivised. I believe that removing or relaxing the patent regime is not the best method to achieve technology transfer, except maybe in very limited areas such as bio-fuels. Moreover, under the obligations of the Montreal Protocol we have seen the successful international diffusion of substitutes for ozone-depleting substances while keeping patent protection in place.

Therefore, India should not place inordinate importance on patents within the technology transfer debate during climate negotiations. Instead, there must be emphasis on removing economic barriers to technology diffusion and this can be achieved by more intergovernmental public private partnerships and investment in developing nations in the development process, along with voluntary dissemination of climate related technology through Climate Technology Centre and Network under the UNFCCC. The UNEP Finance Initiative is also an effective way of ensuring international funding in domestic  renewable energy ventures.

Which is why the Tokyo Declaration is significant because it marks a welcome change from an patent based approach to technology transfer to an approach which recognises the importance of joint research laboratories and growing collaboration in developing climate friendly technologies between India and Japan. One hopes that the upcoming negotiations in Lima will adopt this rationale in international technology transfer between developed and developing countries.


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Indian Youth on Climate Change

Climate Catalysts 2014

Climate Catalysts 2014

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that  alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which occurs in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time and periods.

Climate Change builds elevated levels of insecurity about our future and amidst this uncertainty; there is only one thing certain. We shall leave our planet to our children, the future generations – today’s youth. The swift environmental changes demand humanity to not think in terms of years and decades, but across centuries and generations, where choices made today shall have a spillover on climate across the coming years. This recognizes the high need of making the youth aware about the challenges and opportunities that shall come along the science and policy of climate change. Undoubtedly, it is a must and the right of the youth to have a say in their future, not because of the anticipated impacts but it is their ingenuity, ability to define and bring upon answers with outright determination, that can make a significant difference in evading the catastrophes of climate change.

India is a powerhouse of the youth; not only for itself, but also for the world. By 2020, India is said to be the world’s youngest country with 64 percent of its population to be below 35 (United Nations IRIS Knowledge Foundation Report 2012). Think the quantum of change such millions minds can bring out. But battling with huge population, high poverty rate, weakening Indian rupee and weak governance coupled with its unparallel development schemes, India is a fragile landwhen it comes to impacts of climate change. The techno-economic solutions, financial incentives and political regulations are not enough. Education is the most powerful tool that has the potential to bring about a fundamental change in the way people think. It requires extensive makeover of the conventional education. It calls for learning and knowing climate change, about risk mitigation measures, biodiversity and innovative alternatives.

This key role to the involvement of the young in the matters of climate change was recognized by the United Nations Systems which works in collaboration with the United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change (Joint Framework Initiative). Through this, the youth has a decisive role of raising the national ambitions, which would result into an established new climate change regime by the year 2015. The COP13 (Conference of Parties) at Bali witnessed a paradoxical absence of the Indian delegation. Despite being one of the most vulnerable nations with the leading youth population, there was only a mere representation at the conference. Thus, to empower the Indian youth with a voice and to facilitate communication with the Indian parliamentarians, the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) was born. Such a formulation gave a platform to Indian youth to participate and contribute to the Indian climate dialogues on climate policy and agreements at national and international levels. The onset of COP20, to be held in Lima this year in December, will have IYCN play a very important role as it will take the climate change movement of India youth from the grassroots level to the global arena. A flagship programme called the IYCN Agents of Change, will train hundreds of youth across India around climate change. Through its workshops Agents of Change programme will lay a favorable ground for the Indian youth to formulate their voices for the future international policy on climate change. Selected youth from these workshops will be taken to Lima in December this year to attend COP 20. Agents of Change programme will expose youth to ongoing international climate discussions and gear them to participate at the local level negotiations. The programme will also help in harnessing the youth as a nation’s asset, driving them towards sustainable development where they shall formulate, work and lead the change.

The increasing impact and presence of young people in the climate talks in not only because climate change is inter-generational, but all because climate change doesn’t discriminate between with respect to age. Youth bring a different voice, energy and determinations. A youth attending the Regional Workshop on the Implementation of Article 6 of the UNFCCC in Africa, 2010, rightly said, “Fighting climate change is not about polar bears. It’s about me and about us; it’s about love and about trust.”

Youth can build effectual partnership with printing and social media to exponentially spread public awareness on youth action on climate change. They can produce documentaries, movies and science fiction on anticipated consequence of climate change on the ecosystem. Through networks like IYCN, the youth have immense opportunities to mobilize their ideas and imagination and develop them to drive India on the path of sustainable development. Al Gore in his new climate change awareness campaign, The Climate Reality Project, correctly highlighted the youth as ‘the advocates of the climate change movement.’ — By Dimple Ranpara, Project Survival Media

Agents of Change is a programme of IYCN and being supported by Germany India Cooperation (GIZ). The workshops are being conducted in 8 cities- Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Vizag and Chandigarh. The workshops are open to youth from all walks of life. Please check the schedulebelow to participate in your city. There is no fee for attending these workshops.

SCHEDULE

Date

City

August       23, 24

Hyderabad

                 30, 31

Bangalore

September 6,7

Pune

                 13, 14

Ahmadabad

                 20, 21

Chandigarh

                 27, 28

Delhi

October     11, 12

Kolkata

                 18, 19

Bangalore

November   1, 2

Vizag

 

 

 


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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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दलों का दलदल

(We are all trapped in the quicksand of political parties)

Elections have just concluded in 5 of the 30 states of India.  There has been a record turnout of youth and women voters this election season.  In Delhi alone, youth voters turned out in historical numbers pushing the total number of voters to 65% (the maximum before this was 61.8% in 1993).  While the allure of new political winds ushered in by the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (The Common Man’s Party) may have driven some of the enthusiasm in a population beleaguered by poor governance and the false prophets of established political parties, let’s hope that these demographic shifts are here to stay.  And why shouldn’t youth be engaged?  After all, it is their future that is being whittled away by career politicians who are happy to sell the ecological wealth on which their livelihoods will depend.

So why do Indian political parties fail to acknowledge the need for environmental conservation in their campaigns? Article 48(A) of Part IV of the Indian constitution reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”  In no political party’s manifesto is it apparent that the political class has thought clearly about the matter.  If we can thank anyone for the protection of any ounce of our nation’s ecological capital (from a legal/governance perspective) it is the Supreme Court which has been cited as the greenest court in the world.

Why the empty promises of 30% reduced electricity tariffs which will only further bleed our utilities dry and leave them with no revenue to innovate for the future much less provide reliable access?  Why promise 700 liters of free potable water when you have a fetid and dead river that flows through your city (and there’s hardly any ground water left)?  Why promise new sewage treatment plants when billions of dollars have been spent on sewage treatment plants already and while we still have over 50% of our untreated sewage making its way to the river?  Who needs “Statehood” for what should be the most easily governed unit in the whole Republic of India?  You want to set up child-friendly courts for crimes against children?  How about one that will ensure that these children have their right to life and livelihood protected by having a firm foundation (environment) in place by the time they grow up?  You want a monorail?  Did you forget about the ring rail that is hardly used?  How about refurbishing that and integrating it with the metro system (and continuing to build the Bus Rapid Transit)?  These populous promises mean nothing.  Meanwhile Delhi and India at large are headed nowhere, very fast.  Think about that the next time you are caught in traffic and choking on the ever-increasing fumes while mantri’s whiz past you in their luxury vehicles.

  By Supriya Singh and Kartikeya Singh