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RSTV IAS UPSC – Climate Change & India

  • IASbaba
  • December 6, 2019
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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Climate Change & India

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TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

In News: The 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Spain from 2nd December this year. CoP 25 holds a lot of significance as countries prepare to move from pre 2020 period under Kyoto protocol to post 2020 period under Paris Agreement. 

India is all set to stress upon the need for fulfilling pre 2020 commitments by developed countries and that pre 2020 implementation gaps should not present an additional burden to developing countries in the post 2020 period. 

The Situation

According to the 2019 WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned, in its 2019 Emissions Gap Report, that greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 are needed to meet the internationally agreed goal of a 1.5°C increase in temperatures over pre-industrial levels. Scientists agree that’s a tall order, and that the window of opportunity is growing smaller. 

The 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, more commonly known as COP25, will be the “the COP of implementation”. At the summit, countries will finalize the mechanisms for meeting their climate commitments, and at least try to stave off the worst-case scenario.

Because the UNFCCC had non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries, and no enforcement mechanism, various extensions to this treaty were negotiated during recent COPs, including most recently the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, in which all countries agreed to step up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.

COP25 is the final COP before we enter the defining year of 2020, when many nations must submit new climate action plans. Among the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of climate action worldwide.

Currently, not enough is being done to meet the three climate goals: 

  1. Reducing emissions 45 per cent by 2030
  2. Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 (which means a net zero carbon footprint)
  3. Stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5°C by the end of the century

Setting rules for international carbon markets

A carbon market allows countries, or industries, to earn carbon credits for emission reductions they make in excess of what is required of them. These credits can be traded to the highest bidder in exchange of money. The buyers of carbon credits can show the emission reductions as their own and use them to meet their own emission reduction targets.

A carbon market already existed under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the earlier climate agreement that will expire next year and get replaced by Paris Agreement. In the last one decade, as several countries walked out of the Kyoto Protocol and no one was feeling compelled to meet their emission reduction targets, the demand for carbon credits had waned. As a result, developing countries like India, China and Brazil had accumulated huge amounts of carbon credits. These credits are now in danger of getting redundant.

What happens to the carbon credits already accumulated?

Brazil has been arguing that these accumulated carbon credits should remain valid under the new carbon market to be instituted. But the developed countries have been resisting this, claiming that the weak verification mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol had allowed dubious projects to earn credits. India, which has accumulated 750 million certified emission reductions (CERs), is backing Brazil’s position on this.

Resolution of this tussle is key to the success of the Madrid meeting. But there are other pending issues as well, like those related to ensuring transparency in the processes, and methods of reporting information. Developing countries will also try to ensure that there is greater appreciation and recognition of the issue of loss and damage. They are trying to institute a mechanism to compensate countries that suffer major losses due to climate change-induced events like cyclones or floods.

Many countries plan to meet their climate goals in part by buying carbon credits to offset their own emissions, paying to prevent deforestation in other countries, or planting trees. 

  • Changes in land use, including deforestation, currently accounts for around a quarter of global emissions.
  • While long-lived trees in diverse, native ecosystems have the potential to store tremendous reserves of carbon, trees planted for offsets are often temporary. 
  • In some cases, eucalyptus or palm oil plantations can be counted as “reforestation,” despite the fact that they are planted only to be cut down (eucalyptus) or have measurably devastating impacts on the environment (oil palms).

Cabinet approves India’s stand at upcoming UN COP 25 on climate change

India is a Party to the 

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  2. Kyoto Protocol (KP)
  3. Paris Agreement (PA): Has mechanisms like global stock-take and ratcheting up action every 5 years to address climate change and avoid adverse consequences.

For addressing the challenge of climate change, India adheres to the paramountcy of the UNFCCC processes. It has proactively contributed to multilateral efforts to combat climate change and continues to do so while undertaking its own independent, enhanced initiatives in climate mitigation and adaptation besides meeting all its commitments under the UNFCCC, its KP and PA. Independent studies rate India’s efforts highly and compliant with the requirements under PA.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure: Will serve as a platform to generate and exchange knowledge on different aspects of climate and disaster resilient infrastructure

‘Leadership Group for Industry Transition’ launched jointly by India and Sweden, will provide a platform for government and the private sector in different countries to work together on accelerating low carbon growth and cooperation in the area of technology innovation.

India will also insist upon the principle of ‘equity and common but differentiated responsibilities’: It means that while all countries should do their best to fight global warming, developed countries – with deeper pockets, who were primarily responsible for the climate mess – should take a bigger share of the burden than the developing and under-developed countries.

Conclusion

Because the clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time, and a bold, decisive, ambitious way forward needs to be agreed. The Madrid meeting will determine how, or whether, the promises of the Paris Agreement will be turned into action.

Note:

The abbreviation ‘COP’ expands as ‘Conference of Parties’ and here the word ‘parties’ refers to the countries that were parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These ‘parties’ generally meet every year and next week’s meeting will be the Silver Jubilee conference.

COP 22: Marrakesh, Morocco

COP23: Bonn, Germany

COP24: Katowice, Poland

COP25: Madrid, Spain – The effort would be to get the ‘Paris rulebook’ all done and dusted so that all rules are in place for the agreement to kick-in.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM):

  • The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. 
  • Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.
  • The mechanism is seen by many as a trailblazer. It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardized emissions offset instrument, CERs.
  • A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.
  • The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.

Zero Carbon Law

  • New Zealand’s Parliament passed The Zero-Carbon Act, which will commit New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, as part of the country’s attempts to meet its Paris climate accord commitments.
  • This is the first legislation in the world to make a legally binding commitment to living within 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.
  • The key aims of the Act include: 
    • Reduce all greenhouse gases (except methane) to net zero by 2050,
    • Reduce emissions of biogenic methane (produced from biological sources) up to 24-47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050 and to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030
    • Establish an independent Climate Change Commission 
    • Establish a system of emissions budget.

About Biogenic methane 

  • It is emitted by livestock, waste treatment and wetlands.
  • The Act proposes separate targets for biogenic methane because methane is a short-lived gas and degrades into the atmosphere over the decades even though it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide

Must Read: 

60 Crore Indians at Risk

Rising Oceans, Sinking Cities

Connecting the Dots:

a) What does this canvas of global climate politics mean for India?

b) Discuss the factors responsible for long term climate change. What evidences do we have that support current global warming. Explain.

c) Which of the following are the possible impacts of Climate Change?

  1. Decline in average yield potential of maize and rice 
  2. Rise in infectious diseases
  3. High frequency of deadly heat waves

Select the correct answer from the codes given below.

1 and 2 only

2 and 3 only

1 and 3 only

1,2 and 3

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