The Big Picture – Climate Change and Pollution in 2016

  • January 27, 2017
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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Climate Change and Pollution in 2016



General Studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General Studies 3

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Climate Change

The World Met Organisation Report            published at Global Climate Summit in Morocco found the global temperature in 2016 is 1.2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is close to the 1.5 centigrade target included as an aim of the Paris Climate Agreement.

2016 was recorded as the hottest year on record and high temperatures prevailed for the third year in a row. It means 16 out of the 17 hottest years on record belong to this century. The effects of climate change are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected as there are now extreme temperatures leading to frequent changes in weather.

Several efforts have been made over the years to understand and mitigate global warming challenges and resultant climate change effects. 2016 saw President Obama spearhead the challenge of trying to contain environment pollution but somehow the results have not beenupto the mark.

This proves the difference between talks and actions. The talks at conferences and meetings continue, but hardly countries are putting into effect the outcomes of such meetings. The climate protection leaders at the global level continue to talk and write about it but don’t practice thus making them ‘non-practising’ environmentalists. Even Gandhiji was not a supporter of those who preached but did not practice. He wanted the freedom fighters to use charkha, clean their surroundings including toilets in their struggle towards gaining freedom.

Today, the problem arises when non-practitioners are occupying important positions in world.Once they begin acting on their promises, the climate change mitigation will actually begin.

Role of India

The role of India is increasingly becoming important in this area as it has been proactively undertaking leadership roles in mitigating climate change effect. 2016 has been significant as India has been bolder and more ambitious than it was expected in expressing its concerns about climate change and steps to mitigate it. The INDCs are more than expected and same goes with renewable energy targets.

However, USA’s role in coming years has generated worrisome reactions with new President’s primary indications not in support of finding it necessary to address the climate change effect in terms of Paris accord. If the largest emitter in the world and the most affluent and industrialised country begins to retract from its commitments, then it is not a good sign for the world. The new President and his team have been in support of fossil fuels and oil industry. There is also scepticism in US if the clean energy projects will get that sort of funding that was available during Obama’s regime. Obama’s clean energy initiatives are also in doldrums and this will impact the world as many countries follow US and with its retraction, many countries might follow its footsteps. The next thing to watch is upcoming round of negotiations where the new climate team of USA would be present.

Business in backdrop

Climate change negotiations is not about environment but more about business. Europe and USA are pushing for climate change deal primarily because 80-90% of the patents of clean energy projects is with them. In next 20-30 years, the big business deals are expected to come from clean energy projects which will increase their business prospects as well as income.

Such technology and projects are available at very high cost for countries like India. These are not feasible until the financial base is provided. They have to be subsidised by the western countries to make it affordable for emerging.

Many years ago, carbon capture was promoted as the big thing for thermal power projects but it failed because of high cost. None of the western countries were willing to subsidies it, provide financial incentives for the poor or developing countries to adopt the new technologies.

If the western countries are not willing to provide the funding which they have committed, then it will be difficult to walk the talk for mitigating climate change impact. For example, USA has committed 100 million dollars by 2020. Out of it, so far only 13 billion dollars have been disbursed where it should have been 50 billion dollars.

If the commitment of financial support, technology transfer is not there, the negotiations or the process will not move forward in a positive way.

Development vs. environment debate

Much has been talked about increased focus on development and decreased environment protection. However, none can be ignored given the experience that a country needs to develop as well as maintain its ecology and environment for it to have ‘sustainable development’.


2016 has been landmark year because the year started with lot of movement across different cities in India where pollution became the buzz word for an average citizen (Delhi’s odd-even scheme). Concerns have been expressed over increased pollution, especially air pollution but steps taken to clean it have not been consistent as well as prioritised.

The pace of replacing conventional technology with green alternatives is far from what is desired. In next few years, India is going to see rapid growth in urbanisation which will have more demand for vehicles and thereby increase in pollution.

Make in India promotion

Clean environment and clean technology come at a cost. While making policies for the nation, there should never be comparison with what other countries are doing. India has initiated the project of International Solar Alliance which was announced during Paris meeting. Once it is ratified by 15 countries, it will come into force. However, for clean and green energy, India has to do research in it. Rather than bringing the technology from outside all the time, India will have to make new technologies with help of Make in India.

It is necessary to understand conditions prevailing in India- the kind of soil present, raw materials required, finances available etc. and then make appropriate technology. Currently India is making a rule book for Bonn Climate Change Conference taking place in 2017. India has to work keeping in mind its national as well as citizen’s interests. It will include how INDCs will be achieved. This topic has to be converted into mass movements instead of just talking about it in seminars and conferences.

Air pollution

It is the introduction of harmful substances including particulates and biological molecules into atmosphere which may cause diseases, allergies or death in humans.

Delhi is known to be among the most polluted city with its air pollution standards being worse than accepted levels.

Air pollution in India is hurting today. The lung capacity of 50% of children is being adversely affected because of new normal in Delhi. This should not be accepted and people have to come out on streets to protest against it.

As soon as air pollution goes up, the administrators target the vehicles. Which fail. So out of the box thinking is required which is possible only with individuals making an effort to control pollution.

Also, the problem is not of funding as far as pollution is concerned. Rather it is prioritisation. For instance, places are require no improvement are repeatedly improved by spending unnecessarily. In Smart cities project implementation in Delhi, the government has chosen NDMC area which already has well placed greenery, pavements, sufficient walking space for pedestrians and other relevant infrastructure. Whereas on other side in low income areas, where actually many cyclists live, there are no exclusive cycling paths, no pedestrian facilities, no access to public transport. Thus, a lot priorities are differently oriented than needed.

India has National Electric Mobility Mission programme which is focusing on incentivising growth of electric vehicles. This scheme should help in gaining momentum for all the vehicles segments including 2W, 3W, 4W, LCVs and Buses.

Possible steps

  • Increase in access to last mile, affordable, accessible, safe public transport system.
  • Quickly transferring to cleaner Euro 6 standards
  • Increased electric vehicles in cities, especially in public transport like taxis, buses and three wheelers.
  • Dedicated pedestrian and cycle paths are also required.
  • Personal involvement of people at individual and organisational levels to push clean environment motto.
  • Addition of pollution into political agenda to get it prioritised.

Connecting the dots:

  • Climate change and pollution are interlinked.

Related articles:

Clearing the Air: An alarming rise in pollution levels

Air pollution levels up by 8%: U.N. report

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