Climate Change And Its Relevance To Indian Subcontinent

Posted on February 7, 2011 in Environment

By Pallavi Devpriya Chauhan:

The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge, but all economies know that the only sensible long term way of developing is to do it on a sustainable basis.

In the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP-16) at Cancun, banners of civil society groups hopefully and expectantly urged “Cancun Can.” And it did; at the end of two weeks of exhausting discussions and negotiations, the world has taken a small but sure step towards a meaningful set of global agreements on climate change. While countries did not agree on a set of final agreements, a set of draft texts was agreed upon as a basis for further discussion. This is a huge step forward, as, for the first time; it breaks the deadlock on key issues such as a “shared vision” for global emissions in the long term, a green climate fund, a framework for technology cooperation, transparency of emission reduction pledges, and deforestation emissions.

Even more important than the text was the buoyant and constructive spirit shared by all countries at Cancun. The conference concluded with a palpable sense of achievement and optimism. Every participating nation felt that while concessions were made by all sides, something positive was achieved. This showed the zeal of various countries working together for a constructive development. Here, by constructive I mean a sustainable development which lasts longer and does not cause harm to the general environment.

Don’t let the cold winter this year blindside you to a contrary phenomenon that is creeping up upon us. Recently I read a meteorological report where they had clearly mentioned that the temperatures are going to soar higher than what the country has recorded in the past 130 years. The monsoon too is going to change; it will rain as much, perhaps higher, but in a short span of time giving rise to extreme floods and crop failure.

Indians should be highly concerned about the climate change since this phenomenon might have substantial adverse impacts on them. Not all possible consequences of climate change are yet fully understood, but the three main “categories” of impact are those on agriculture, sea level rise leading to submerging of coastal areas, as well as frequency of extreme events. All these pose serious threats to India.

The average annual temperatures across the country could rise by 2 degree Celsius by the middle of the century and 3.5 degrees by its end. Scientist on the basis of some mathematical formulae that were used in tandem to predict the temperature rise suggested a model that predicts a rise of 6 degrees by the end of the century.

If the greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled it will create a havoc and may even lead to temperatures as high as 60 degrees in the coming years which might lead to higher heat wave deaths, apart from impacting crops.

India is not subject to any binding emission reduction targets until the year 2012.

In spite of this guarded stand, India has ‘declared’ that even as it pursues its social and development objectives, it will not allow its per capita emissions to exceed those of developed countries. The 11th 5-year plan does make headway in reducing energy intensity per unit of GHG by 20 percent while boosting cleaner and renewable energy.

In June 2008, the Prime Minister released the much awaited National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The NAPCC outlines a strategy by which India will adapt to climate change, while maintaining a high growth rate, protecting poor and vulnerable sections of society and achieving national growth objectives. It focuses on eight areas intended to deliver maximal benefits to development and climate change (mitigation and adaptation). However, detailed action plans for each mission, and any clear targets are missing from the report.

Although the action plan may be a missed opportunity for leadership on climate change, the good news is that change is coming. Realizing that the market is changing, and not to be left behind in the global race, Indian businesses are beginning to take on climate change as a business issue.

What we need now is for the Government of India to capitalize on India’s position as a developing giant, take the lead and engage with governments of the world and the private sector for a low-carbon future.