Context

  • Bonn, Germany will be witnessing world leaders and delegates for the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP – 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • The meeting will primarily concentrate on various aspects associated with the implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA), which was negotiated at COP-21 and entered into force, or became legally binding.

What significant issues will be covered at COP – 23?

The meetings in Bonn will cover a wide range of issues:

  • Adaptation to climate change and reduction in greenhouse gases, referred to as mitigation.
  • Sessions on loss and damage, or the means of addressing economic and non-economic forfeitures and potential injury associated with climate change.
  • Discussions will be about the implementation of targets that were decided by each country ahead of the Paris meeting, referred to as the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and the finance, capacity building and technology transfer required by developing countries from rich nations.

What is Paris Agreement?

  • It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Accord is considered as a turning point for global climate policy.

What are the aims of the Paris agreement?

  • The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • It further aims at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • The agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • It also aims at making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

Points to Remember

  • The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCC in Paris on 12th December 2015.
  • It came into force on 4th November 2016. As of June 2017, 195 countries have signed the agreement. Total 148 countries have ratified it.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs):

  • NDCs are contributions that each country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goals.
  • The level of NDC that each country sets determines the targets to be achieved by the particular country.These contributions should be reported every five years.
  • The principle of ‘progression’ prevails which indicates that the next NDC should be more ’ambitious’ than the previous one.
  • Nicaragua and Syria are the only countries who have not signed the agreement.
  • S.A recently joined the league as Trump announced to pull U.S.A out of the Paris Agreement.
  • The Paris Agreement is not legally binding as a whole.It does not penalize the countries who fail to fulfil their commitments.However, it imposes obligations on countries to implement their plans.
  • This includes a review process every five years, designed to pressure them into compliance and increase their efforts to fulfil their commitments.

India’scommitment to climate change

  • Post US withdrawal from Paris Agreement, India announced that it would continue its support for climate action.
  • Given the current scenario, India could play a leadership role in mobilizing the climate-vulnerable countries, to recommit to and strengthen the Paris Agreement.
  • India could also formally make clause with China and the European Union (EU).China and EU have reportedly planned alliance to lead the implementation of the Paris Accord.
  • Recently, the price of solar energy has fallen and the need for coal has also decreased substantially, indicating that India is well placed to make a transition to clean energy use.
  • As a strategy to reduce its emission, India has embarked on a massive renewable energy programme.
  • Upscaling the National Solar Mission, India has set a target of 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar energy capacity by 2022. This is five times higher than the original 20 GW target. May 2017 has seen record drop in solar power prices to Rs 2.44/kWh.
  • India also recently became the fourth largest producer of wind energy in the world and announced plans to cancel 14 GW of coal plants. Indeed, India is currently in a strong position not only to meet, but exceed its Paris climate targets.
  • Even under India’s new tax regime, 18% of tax is proposed to be levied on electric cars, vis-a-vis 28% tax on conventional cars.
  • The green power revolution is envisaged to attract millions in investment and create job opportunities, while providing a substantial boost to export of new commodities.
  • In the aftermath of creating the largest market of solar power for itself, India has now proposed a pioneering commitment to sell only electric cars by 2030.

What are India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) targets?

Reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

  • India will introduce new, more efficient and cleaner technologies in thermal power generation.
  • Reducing emissions from transportation sector.
  • Promote energy efficiency, mainly in industry, transportation, buildings and appliances.
  • Develop climate resilient infrastructure.
  • Pursue Zero Effect, Zero Defect policy under Make in India programme.

Produce 40 per cent of electricity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, if international community helps with technology transfer and low cost finance.

  • India will install 175 GW of solar, wind and biomass electricity by 2022, and scale up further in following years
  • India will aggressively pursue development of hydropower.
  • Will try to achieve the target of 63 GW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2032

Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 through additional forest and tree cover.

  • India is looking towards full implementation of Green India Mission and other programmes of afforestation.
  • Develop 140,000 km long tree line on both sides of national highways.

Develop robust adaptation strategies for agriculture, water and health sectors

  • Redesign National Water Mission and National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture
  • Active implementation of ongoing programmes like National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture, setting up of 100 mobile soil-testing laboratories, distribution of soil health cards to farmers.
  • Additional impetus on watershed development through Neeranchal scheme
  • Effective implementation of National Mission on Clean Ganga
  • Early formulation and implementation of National Health Mission
  • Complete Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan. Mapping and demarcation of coastal hazard lines.

Major Climate Laws in India

National Action Plan on Climate Change, 2008 –

  • The Plan outlines eight “national missions” running until 2017. These include solar, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, Green India (REDD & LULUCF), water, Himalaya ecosystems, agriculture and strategic knowledge of climate change.

National Electricity Plan, 2012 –

  • The Plan’s 4th chapter deals with initiatives and measures for GHG mitigation, and aims to keep CO2 intensity declining while massively expanding rural access and increasing power generation to meet the demands of a rapidly growing economy.

Post – Copenhagen domestic actions, 2010 –

  • On 10 May 2010, India released its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for 2007, with the aim of enabling informed decision‐making and to ensure transparency. India has become the first “non‐Annex I” (i.e. developing) country to publish such updated numbers.

National Clean Energy Fund

  • India has announced a levy, a clean energy cess, on coal, at the rate of Rs. 50 (US$1) per tonne, which will apply to both domestically produced and imported coal. This money will go into a National Clean Energy Fund that will be used for funding research, innovative projects in clean energy technologies and environmental remedial programmes. Expected earnings are US$500 million for the financial year 2010–2011.

What is Global warming?

  • Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth’s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation caused chiefly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases namely Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), Per fluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur Hexafluoride(SF6) resulting from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes and other sources.

What are the causes of Global warming?

The Greenhouse effect –

  • The cause of global warming is the increasing quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produced by human activities, like the burning of fossil fuels or deforestation. These activities produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions which is causing global warming.

What are greenhouse gases?

  • Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere to keep the planet warm enough to sustain life, this process is called the greenhouse effect.
  • It is a natural process and without these gases, the Earth would be too cold for humans, plants and other creatures to live.
  • The natural greenhouse effect exists due to the balance of the major types of greenhouse gases. However, when abnormally high levels of these gases accumulate in the air, more heat starts getting trapped and leads to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect.

What are the causes of rising emissions?

  • Human-caused emissions have been increasing greenhouse levels which is raising worldwide temperatures and driving global warming.Burning coal, oil and gasproduces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
  • Cutting down forests (deforestation). Trees help to regulate the climate by absorbing CO2from the atmosphere. So when they are cut down, that beneficial effect is lost and the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect.
  • Increasing livestock farming. Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food.
  • Fertilizers containing nitrogenproduce nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Fluorinated gasesproduce a very strong warming effect, up to 23 000 times greater than CO2. Thankfully these are released in smaller quantities and are being phased down by EU regulations.

Impacts of global warming

Desertification

  • Increasing temperatures is resulting into arid and semi-arid areas even more dry than before.
  • The water cycle is changing and rainfall patterns are shifting to make areas that are already dry even drier. This is causing water shortages and an intense amount of distress to the over 2.5 million people in dry regions which are degrading into desert. This process is called desertification.

Increased melting of snow and ice

  • Around the world, snow and ice is melting at a much faster pace than in the past. This has been witnessed in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa but is particularly true at the Earth’s poles.
  • Perennial ice cover in the Arctic is melting at the rate of 11.5% per decade and the thickness of the Arctic ice has decreased by 48%.
  • During the past 30 years, more than a million square miles of sea ice has vanished.
  • The continent of Antarctica has been losing more than 100 cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice per year since 2002. Since 2010, the Antarctic ice melt rate has doubled.

Sea level rise

  • The Earth’s sea level has risen by 21 cm (8 inches) since 1880. The rate of rise is accelerating and is now at a pace that has not been seen for at least 5000 years.
  • Global warming has caused this by affecting the oceans in two ways: warmer average temperatures cause ocean waters to expand (thermal expansion) and the accelerated melting of ice and glaciers increase the amount of water in the oceans.

Stronger hurricanes and cyclones

  • Tropical cyclone activity has seen an obvious upswing trend since the early 1970s.
  • This is a direct consequences of the rise in the oceans’ temperature over the same period of time. Since then, the Power Dissipation Index which measures the destructive power of tropical cyclones has increased in the Pacific by 35% and in the Atlantic it has nearly doubled.
  • Global warming also increases the frequency of strong cyclones. Every 1-degree C increase in sea surface temperature results in a 31% increase in the global frequency of category 4 and 5 storms.

Dirtier air

  • Rising temperatures worsen air pollution by increasing ground level ozone, which is created when pollution from cars, factories, and other sources react to sunlight and heat.
  • Dirtier air is linked to higher hospital admission rates and higher death rates for asthmatics. It worsens the health of people suffering from cardiac or pulmonary disease.
  • Warmer temperatures also significantly increase airborne pollen, which is bad news for those who suffer from hay fever and other allergies.

Higher wildlife extinction rates

  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 assessment, many land, freshwater, and ocean species are shifting their geographic ranges to cooler climes or higher altitudes, in an attempt to escape warming.
  • They’re changing seasonal behaviors and traditional migration patterns, and yet many still face increased extinction risk due to climate change.
  • A 2005 study showed that vertebrate species, animals with backbones, like fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles are disappearing 114 times faster than they should be, a phenomenon that has been linked to climate change, pollution, and deforestation.
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