9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 14th, 2021

Dear Friends
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Sowing better to eat better

Source: This post is based on the article “Sowing better to eat better” published in The Hindu on 14th October 2021. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to poverty and hunger. 

Relevance: To understand the need of reformed Food-Agri system in the light of today’s reality. 

Synopsis: Understanding the new challenges plaguing the agricultural system and remedies needed. 

Introduction 

The health of a country’s agri-food systems determine the health of its people.

Findings from the first round of the 5th “National Family Health Survey” suggest that nutrition related indicators have worsened in most States. The survey covers 17 States and five Union Territories, which comprise 54% of India’s population. 

On the similar issue “Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey” (2016-18) has also highlighted the role of micro-nutrient malnutrition. 

Addressing the complex problem of malnutrition means India shall need a resilient agri-food system.

What is the current scenario of agriculture in India? 

India produces sufficient food, feed and fibre to sustain about 18% of the world’s population (as of 2020). 

Agriculture contributes about 16.5% to India’s GDP and employs 42.3% of the workforce (2019-20). 

What are the new challenges that have emerged in the agri-food system? 

COVID-19- This has increased hunger and nutrition deficiency problem in India owing to loss of jobs and logistical issues. 

Climate change- India’s bio-security remains vulnerable to disasters and extreme events. 

Agricultural technologies- the outdated and obsolete technology needs a change in order to improve productivity and minimise agri-losses. 

What is the way forward?/What kind of agri-systems we need?

In light of the ongoing hunger and malnutrition challenges and the added impact of climate events on agri-food system, we need a “sustainable agri-food system”. 

A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious and safe foods are made available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody remains hungry or suffers from malnutrition. Under such a system, less food is wasted, and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks. 

The agri-food system should not only enhance farm incomes but also ensure dietary diversity by sowing safe and nutritious food crop. 

It needs to be reoriented to minimise cost on the environment and the climate.

Different combinations of integrated crop-livestock- forestry-fishery systems can help farmers produce a variety of products in the same area, at the same time or in rotation. 

Post-harvest losses needs to be minimized. 

Safety net programmes should be more nutrition sensitive. Women’s empowerment, enforcement of standards and regulations,  

Awareness regarding water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition education. 

Effective use of digital technology. 

What steps have been taken in this regard? 

FAO in collaboration with NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Agriculture convened a national Dialogue for the transition to a more sustainable agri-food systems by 2030 and thereby enhancing farmers’ income and achieving nutritional security. 

Additionally, FAO has been engaged with the Indian government for mainstreaming agrobiodiversity, greening agriculture, promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture and strengthening national food security. 


Aiding Afghans: On G20 meeting on Afghanistan

Source: This post is based on the article “Aiding Afghans” published in “The Hindu” on 14th October 2021. 

Syllabus: GS2-International Relations: India and its neighborhood- relations. 

Relevance: to understand the unfolding Afghanistan humanitarian crisis. 

Synopsis: Owing to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan the shortage with regard to fund and food availability has multiplied the crisis. 

Introduction 

At a meeting of G-20 countries, PM of India highlighted about the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. He also called for the international community to provide Afghanistan with immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance. 

The meeting came as the UNHCR published a new appeal for funds. The report states that half the population (more than 20 million people) is in need of “lifesaving humanitarian assistance”, and the UN has received only 35% of the funds needed for its relief operations. 

What is the current financial situation of Afghanistan? 

As a result of the Taliban takeover, most direct aid to the Afghan government has been stopped; its reserves have been frozen by the U.S., making it impossible for salaries to be paid. 

The Taliban government’s refusal to allow women to work and its stopping girls from schooling have made the situation more problematic. 

As the recognition of the Taliban and any governmental engagement is still a long way off, the world is faced with a critical choice of ensuring that Afghanistan does not suffer further.

What is the strategic ambiguity faced by India? 

Taliban took over of Afghanistan, with support from Pakistan while maintaining links with terror groups including those that target India.

This leaves the Government in an ambiguous position of increasing engagement or sending aid directly to the new regime.

How can India help? 

India could contribute to international agencies that are working with displaced Afghans, particularly for about one million children at the risk of starvation. 

It could also help Iran and the Central Asian states that are housing refugees with monetary assistance. 

The Government could also consider liberalising its visa regime for Afghans, which at the moment has cancelled all prior visas to Afghan nationals, and is releasing very few e-visas for Afghans desperate to travel here. 

As a goodwill gesture, India could once again send food aid, including wheat, grain, fortified biscuits and other packaged food, directly to Kabul. 

What is the way forward?

As pointed out by UN Secretary General this is a “make or break” moment for the Afghan people.

If the international community, which includes a regional leader like India, does not help in coming out of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, not only Afghans but also the rest of the world will pay a heavy price. 


Freebies, handouts and other myths loved by income taxpayers

Source: This post is based on the article “Freebies, handouts and other myths loved by income taxpayers” published in The Hindu on 14th October 2021.Syllabus: GS 2 Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Relevance: Understanding the purpose of freebies offered by the government to their people.

Synopsis: Instead of blaming the government to offer freebies, people should decide what all services/ benefits they want from the government.

Introduction

Recently, the idea has been floated by an income tax officer to have a” taxpayers union”. A section of the people welcomed this idea as they think that income taxpayers are the main funders of government.

They also think that their hard-earned taxes are mostly routed on undeserving poor through populist programmes announced before the election.

What is wrong with this idea and belief?

Income taxpayers are not the main funder: Presently, less than one-third of the combined spending of state and central governments in India is raised through income tax.

It’s the taxes on commodities that meet more than half the expenditure of the government and these taxes are paid by all citizens whether rich or poor or accused of using freebies. The rest of the spending comes from borrowings, grants, disinvestments and various non-tax revenues.

The demand for taxpayer’s union is like demanding an exclusive veto power over spending decisions by paying only one-third of the government bill. So, it is not feasible.

India already has a “taxpayers” union: All the voters (including those who pay income tax) elect the legislators. They form India’s taxpayer’s union. They approve government budgets after a lengthy debate in state assemblies and Parliament.

How government provide various benefits to citizens?

In the 1990s, the government compiled and published a budget annexure called “Tax Expenditures”. The annexure explains clearly how the government subsidise various citizens’ groups.

The government uses different methods to help the beneficiaries. They spend more on one section, give subsidies to the other, or reduce the prices on items needed by the poor. It is not that they give all the facilities to a particular section. This can be understandable from the following examples:

Taxes: Government demands lower taxes from different taxpayer groups. The income tax code has as many exemptions aimed at different professions for promoting various kinds of economic activity as the expenditure budget.

Tax deduction benefits target only a selected few. And this standard deduction is in fact seen as a subsidy by businessmen and farmers.

Subsidised food grains, power etc: There is a need to rethink the subsidy models. The reduced price given on cooking gas and food grains to poor households can be called as subsidies. But giving free power to all households, which also include well-off households, cannot be called a subsidy.

What citizens can demand from the government?

Citizens should collaboratively decide what they want from the government. For Example, citizens can demand sufficient numbers of good quality schools and clinics. These things will not consider as Freebies as these facilities will be available to everyone and have the capacity to make the citizen productive and efficient and raise the growth rates for GDP and per capita income.


Bombay High Court POSH guidelines risk silencing victims of sexual harassment

Source: This post is based on the article “Bombay High Court POSH guidelines risk silencing victims of sexual harassment” published in Indian Express on 14th October 2021.Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for Protection & Betterment of These Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the problem with POSH.

Synopsis: There is a need to take a deeper look into the POSH Act after the guidelines given by the current judgement.

Introduction

Bombay High Court in P v. A & Ors has released guidelines to protect the identities of those involved in POSH (prevention of sexual harassment) trials.

What are these guidelines?

Disclosure: It prohibits the disclosure of the identities of the victim, accused and witnesses. It also prohibits the parties from disclosing any information relating to such trials (including the final order/judgement) to the media or publicizing the same via social media, without securing permission from the Court.

Limited Access: It limits the entry of the people with only court stenographer, plaintiff, defendant and their lawyers to be present. Even court orders and judgements will not be delivered in open court.

Judgments in POSH cases will no longer be published or uploaded for public consumption without the permission of the court. Even if the court allows to do it, the publication can be done only in an anonymized version. For any lawyer to access this judgment, a court order will have to be obtained.

Hearing: It mandates all the hearings to be held in-camera or in Judges’ Chambers.

Breach of these conditions will be contempt of court.

What is Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act)?

It mandates government and private organizations to redress matters quicker than the judicial process.

Read more: Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace – Explained pointwise
What is the problem with the current judgement?

Physical Attendance: The revised guidelines mandated to appear physically in order to keep the proceedings confidential. This can bring delay in the judicial process and further discourage victims from pursuing the trials.

Confidentiality: Like in the case of sexual abuse complaints, the identity of the victims should be kept secret to prevent ostracisation from society. This is expressly prohibited by Sec 228 A of the Indian penal code. However, in the case of POSH, this is not done expressly as the complainant and respondent can reveal their identity.

Moreover, POSH Act requires the company to reveal in its annual audit report are the actions it has taken(without revealing the names of parties) against individuals who have indulged in the Act of sexual harassment. This blanket ban by the court on revealing the identity of perpetrators of crime can result in the perpetrators operating under the radar and carrying out their heinous acts.

Transparency: Keeping the judgments out of reach of lawyers or media goes against the norm of transparency. Since India follows the principle of common law, the judiciary relies on the previous judgements to make current judgements. So making judgements publicly available is important.

What should be the way forward?

As the #MeToo movement had shown, such sexual harassment goes unnoticed and unspoken. Making such judgements inaccessible will only further lead to the silencing of such movements.


NHRC’s remit: Human rights body has an incredibly important job, Praising govt is not part of it

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • NHRC’s remit: Human rights body has an incredibly important job, Praising govt is not part of it” published in Times of India on 13th October 2021.
  • “Human rights and basic needs are one and the same thing-PM Modi’s sequencing is fraught” published in Indian Express on 14th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Human rights.

Relevance: Understanding the role of NHRC.

Synopsis: NHRC as an institution, need to keep a check on the government and executive and not shower praises or seem compromised in its job.

Introduction

The government of India enacted the National Human Rights Act in 1993. As a result of which, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Councils were created. Their job was to uphold human rights and protect against abuses of human rights by the government or its agencies or any other body.

This is an important mechanism of check and balances which is vital for the survival of any vibrant democracy

What is the recent issue or controversy?

Recently the Prime minister of India made remarks that human rights are viewed from political ends. Such selective human rights programmes often target and malign India’s image on international platforms.

Recently the chairman of NHRC praised the government for its effort to contain the foreign conspiracy to malign India’s human rights record. He also praised India’s efforts in bringing peace to Jammu and Kashmir.

Why are these considered controversial?

The job of NHRC is to uphold human rights and not praise the government for saving from international conspiracies. That is the job of other ministries. Coming to peace in Jammu and Kashmir and the issues of Articles 370 and Article 35 A, it is to be decided by the stakeholders and not by NHRC.

What should be the way forward?

In India, human rights violations see little or no action is taken by the agencies. This is evident in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, Where farmers were killed by an SUV. It was under these circumstances that the Supreme Court called NHRC a toothless tiger.

NHRC needs to be strengthened, and it needs to keep a check on the executive and uphold human rights in all spheres of public and private life. This is a crucial element in the realization of the goal of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas”


GS Paper 3

Agenda for CoP26

Source: This post is based on the article “Agenda for CoP26” published in “Down To Earth on 13th October 2021. 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment. 

Relevance: Understanding ongoing climate crisis and steps taken to address this menace. 

Synopsis: A potential agenda for the upcoming CoP26 meeting at Glasgow.

Introduction 

The 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is going to happen in Glasgow (UK). At the meeting some of the old issues of previous CoP’s would be discussed. 

This meeting comes after strong warning from the United Nation’s top scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that weather disasters will get worse, much worse. 

What should be the agenda at the “CoP26”? 

Climate justice- The principle of “equity” in climate negotiations was agreed upon through the mechanism of “common but differentiated responsibility” at Rio conference in 1992. This principle of climate justice has been neglected over the last 30years. 

The rich seven and China — have appropriated the most of carbon budget. Their accumulated emissions is the reason the world is hurtling towards disaster. 

The remaining world — roughly 70 per cent of it — still needs the right to development. This implies that the already rich countries should reduce, create space for the emerging world to grow. 

Forcing developing countries towards a low carbon pathway would be an injustice. 

Net zero emissions- IPCC says the world must be net zero by 2050 and halve the emissions by 2030 over its 2010 levels to stay below 1.5°C. 

If the world has to be net zero by 2050, then the differential must apply, and the rich (7+1) must be net zero by 2030 at the very latest. We need clear plans for 2030 from all, particularly from the emitters of the past and the present. 

Spotlight on China- In this coming decade, China will occupy 30% of the available carbon budget; it has no absolute emissions reduction target. This means there is no space left for the rest of the world to grow. This is unacceptable 

Finance- For long this promise has remained inadequately fulfilled. It has led to the breakdown in trust between countries. 

This agenda is linked to “market-based mechanism”, discussed at CoP26.The market mechanism must formulate a way to fund transformational and expensive options in the developing world. 

Currently efforts are being directed at finding creative ways to “buy” cheap emission reductions from the developing world. This is a flawed approach. The real objective should be to reduce emissions, not offset them and transition to a clean energy economy. 

Loss and damage- With each repeated disaster, people lose their ability to cope. This adds to their insecurity and to the insecurity of the world. An effective agreement to underwrite the losses and damages and giving effect to “polluters pay” is the need of hour. 


GST rationalisation: Challenge and response

Source: This post is based on the article” GST rationalisation: Challenge and response” published in Business Standard on 14th October 2021.Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: GST council, Tax reforms, Industry competitiveness, Resource mobilisation

Synopsis: A revision of GST slab rates may create some disquiet, but, if cleverly crafted, it could be a game-changer for manufacturing.

Introduction

Recently, the group of ministers (GoM) was formed by the GST Council for rate rationalisation and correcting the inverted duty structure.

The GoM has a very difficult task of balancing a number of objectives. The most important being to raise the average incidence of duties from the current level of 11.8% to about 14% (revenue neutral rate) as suggested by the Fifteenth Finance Commission.

The other objective of course is to make the whole process non-inflationary while also giving a boost to labour-intensive manufacturing.

The entire GST rate rationalisation exercise must not look at it purely from the narrow prism of revenue but also keep an eye on the larger macro economy.

What are the suggestions/solution given by the author to achieve the above objectives?

Firstly, to keep the whole process non-inflationary, the standard GST rate must be brought down from 18 per cent to 16 per cent. This will especially benefit the services sector, which now bears the primary responsibility of creating employment.

However, to do this, the rates at the extremities of the GST rate spectrum have to go up. For example, there is a strong case for phasing out a lot of exemptions, which is in line with the recommendation of the Committee on Dual Control, Threshold and Exemptions.

Secondly, the import regime has also to be changed as it has become too protective in the last few years. The average import tariff rates have gone up from 10 per cent to 18 per cent. This is hurting industry. Exports growth requires cheap imports of critical raw materials.

A recent study by Arvind Subramanian and Shoumitro Chatterjee showed that the import content in the total value added in the textile sector was 40 per cent for China, 46.1 per cent for Vietnam and 16.4 per cent for India.

Thirdly, the other extremity of the GST rate spectrum, the peak rate of 28 per cent-plus cesses must move to 30 per cent-plus cesses. To cushion the impact of this increase, two-wheelers could be brought under the 16 per cent rate slab.

Fourthly, two sectors will have to be tapped in order to raise the revenue weighted average GST incidence. This would require revisiting of GST rate on gold, which is now at the special rate of 3 per cent. With 80 per cent of gold purchases and ownership being concentrated within the top income decile of the population, there is a case to raise this rate to 5 per cent. This could be justified if the merit rate moves to 8 per cent.

In the case of tobacco, the present GST rate is 5 per cent for unprocessed tobacco levied under the GST reverse charge mechanism. This GST rate could move towards the general tobacco rate of 28 per cent, as there is at present a lot of mis-declaration of processed tobacco as unprocessed. Further, this measure would also garner more revenues for the government to the extent unprocessed tobacco finds direct use in the exempted downstream tobacco products.

Fifthly, the inclusion of petroleum was debated in the recent GST Council meeting. However, this is not the appropriate time to bring petroleum under the GST net. The measure could probably be considered when international oil prices soften in the future. As a start, we could bring aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and natural gas into the GST net. With the aviation industry facing a difficult time, bringing in ATF under GST will help.

Finally, there are two other segments which need to be brought under GST, electricity and real estate. But their inclusion will require a serious dialogue with the states because a substantial amount of their revenues is involved.


Energy policy preparedness

Source: This post is based on the article” Energy policy preparedness” published in Business Standard on 14th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure – Energy sector

Relevance: Energy demand and its implication on Indian economy

Synopsis: Energy policy preparedness would help reduce the impact of global market disruptions on the Indian economy.

Introduction

The ongoing recovery and the medium-term growth potential of the Indian economy could be adversely affected by the unfavourable energy sector outlook.

Deficient coal supply is affecting power availability in many states and could hurt industrial production.

The government has now asked power generators to import coal for blending in order to address the shortage.

Must Read: Coal crisis in India – Explained, pointwise
Is India’s problem limited to coal only?

India’s problem is not limited to coal.

Firstly, Global crude oil prices have doubled over the last year, while those of natural gas have also increased significantly. Prices are likely to remain elevated in the foreseeable future because of both cyclical and structural factors.

Secondly, Lower energy prices over the last several years and the ongoing shift towards renewables have resulted in a significant decline in investment to build fossil fuel capacity.

Thirdly, India also remains dependent on imports for clean energy transition because most of the basic material required is produced by a handful of countries. According to a study presented in the latest World Economic Outlook of the IMF, the prices of lithium, nickel, and cobalt, which will be required for the energy transition, could increase substantially.

A slower than expected transition would keep the demand for fossil fuel elevated. All this will have implications for India and the policy establishment should prepare for the emerging situation.

What is the way forward?

Since India is dependent on imports for the bulk of its energy requirement, it would need to prepare for sustained higher prices. This will have direct implications for inflation, growth, and current account management.

India needs to prepare on multiple fronts to secure the supply of both fossil fuel and the material needed to push renewables.

At the same time, the country would need to reform the pricing of energy, particularly in the case of power.

Generators in circumstances like these should be able to pass on the higher input cost to consumers, which will ensure a steady supply. This would warrant reforms in distribution companies.


CoP-26: We must shift gear from climate intention to actual action

Source: This post is based on the article “CoP-26: We must shift gear from climate intention to actual action” published in Livemint on 14th October 2021.Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation.

Relevance: Issues that merit discussion at CoP26,

Synopsis: There is an urgent need to address climate change which continues to mount. The future of each one depends on the actions of all.

Introduction

Recent catastrophic flooding in Asia and Western Europe, record-shattering temperatures in North America, and raging wildfires in southern Europe remind us that no country is safe.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is now putting the finishing touches on its next major climate-change report, to be issued prior to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (CoP-26) in Glasgow.

Each successive IPCC report has been starker than the last, and there is no reason to think the next one will break this pattern.

What is the current scenario?

Rising temperature: In May, the World Meteorological Organization warned that there is a 40% chance that the annual average global temperature will exceed 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, at least temporarily. This could trigger potentially disastrous tipping points.

World is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal: last February’s preliminary issue of the synthesis report of all nationally determined contributions (NDCs) showed that we are headed toward a rise of 3°C, or even more, by 2100.

What are some important issues that must be resolved at CoP-26?

Past promises must be kept: Demonstrating that commitments made up to 2020 have been fulfilled is essential to build trust among countries. For example, the goal of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 to aid developing economies in the green transition and offering support in the form of capacity-building and technology transfer.

Responsibility of Developed countries: They must show a level of commitment to drive the transition toward a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.

Resolution of disagreements: Outstanding disagreements on finance, transparency, adaptation and resilience, loss and damage, and technical support and guidance for developing countries must be resolved.

Ambitions must be raised: Countries must commit to do much more in all three key areas of the climate agenda: mitigation, adaptation, and finance. The next NDC synthesis report, to be delivered before CoP-26, will give a more complete picture of progress so far, as it will include more major emitters.

What is the way forward?

First, balanced representation of all regions and groups is essential to a successful CoP-26, with observers and other non-Party stakeholders, including the nine NGO constituencies, engaging positively in the process.

Second, initiatives such as the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action and the Race to Zero campaign should make meaningful contributions to climate action and promote climate ambition globally.

Third, world needs only a balanced package of decisions and actions reflecting the expectations, concerns and needs of all stakeholders. It is up to our governments to lead, our businesses to innovate and our societies to come together in service of a common cause.

Terms to know:


Deconstructing climate finance

Source: This post is based on the article “Deconstructing climate finance” published in The Hindu on 14th October 2021.Syllabus: GS3- Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Relevance: Green debt and Climate finance

Synopsis: Behind the rhetoric of mobilising climate finance lies the grim reality of burdening the G77 and its people with a fresh load of “green” debt.

Introduction

Media reports have claimed that developed countries are inching closer to the target of providing $100 billion annually in climate finance to developing countries by 2025 (the original target was 2020).

This view has been supported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which claimed that climate finance provided by developed countries had reached $78.9 billion in 2018.

These claims are false.

What are the issues underlying in climate finance?

Flawed and erroneous claims: the OECD figure includes private finance and export credits. Developing countries have insisted that developed country climate finance should be from public sources and should be provided as grants or as concessional loans.

Currently available adaptation finance is significantly lower than the needs expressed in the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by developing countries.

Less public financing: the OECD report makes it clear that the public finance component amounted to only $62.2 billion in 2018. Between 2013 and 2018, the share of loans has continued to rise, while the share of grants decreased.

Non-concessional loans: Of the public finance component, loans comprise 74%, while grants make up only 20%. From 2016 to 2018, 20% of bilateral loans, 76% of loans provided by multilateral development banks and 46% of loans provided by multilateral climate funds were non-concessional.

Debt crisis: The overwhelming provisioning of climate finance through loans risks exacerbates the debt crisis of many low-income countries.

Inflating climate finance figures: The OECD reports on climate finance have long been criticised for including funds for development projects such as health and education. Oxfam estimates that in 2017-18, out of an average of $59.5 billion of public climate finance reported by developed countries, the climate-specific net assistance ranged only between $19 and $22.5 billion per year.

Hollowness of the OECD claims: The 2018 Biennial Assessment of UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance reports that on average, developed countries provided only $26 billion per year as climate-specific finance between 2011-2016. This rose to an average of $36.2 billion in 2017-18.

How USA has performed with respect to climate financing?

Broken promises: U.S. President recently said that the U.S. will double its climate finance by 2024. But it is Congress that will decide on the quantum after all. The U.S. also has a history of broken commitments. It had promised $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under President Barack Obama, but delivered only $1 billion before President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. support from the GCF.

Private funds: the future focus of U.S. climate finance is the mobilisation of private sector investment. As per the USA, public finance would only contribute to “de-risking” of investment.

Only commercially viable projects: the funds will be directed to those projects judged “bankable” and not selected based on developing countries’ priorities and needs.

What is the way forward?

Climate finance need balance between adaptation and mitigation. The 2016 Adaptation Gap Report of the UN Environment Programme had noted that the annual costs of adaptation in developing countries could range from $140 to $300 billion annually by 2030 and rise to $500 billion by 2050.

Delivering on climate finance is fundamental to increase trust in the multilateral process.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Over 100 countries sign Kunming Declaration on biodiversity conservation

Source: This post is based on the article “Over 100 countries sign Kunming Declaration on biodiversity conservation” published in “Down To Earth on 13th October 2021. 

What is the news? 

The “Kunming Declaration” was adopted by over 100 countries in the ongoing virtual 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD)

The theme of the COP-15 is “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth”. 

COP15 is being held to review the achievement and delivery of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

What are the key points in Kunming Declaration?

It calls upon the parties to “mainstream” biodiversity protection in decision-making and recognise the importance of conservation in protecting human health. 

They should ensure that the post-pandemic recovery plans contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, promoting sustainable and inclusive development. 

The declaration expects signatory nations to synchronize Biodiversity plans with the three UN decades programs which are on ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ and ‘Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’. 

Note: Conference of Parties (CoP) is the governing body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. 


Covaxin junior: Bharat Biotech’s kids’ vaccine is good news. But why is its vaccine for adults yet to get WHO clearance?

Source: This post is based on the article “Covaxin junior: Bharat Biotech’s kids’ vaccine is good news. But why is its vaccine for adults yet to get WHO clearance?” published in “Times of India” on 13th October 2021. 

Syllabus: GS 2- Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology. 

What is the news?

Bharat Biotech is on the threshold of becoming the second Indian vaccine maker to receive an emergency use approval in the domestic market for a children’s Covid vaccine. 

The company’s vaccine for children has received a conditional approval from an expert committee of the drug regulator.

The next steps will have to be a final approval and a clearance from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to be included in the national programme.

Covaxin, if it gets emergency use clearance, will span the age group 2-18.

What is the significance of this development? 

These developments are timely. India’s Covid vaccination programme has now ensured about 29.2% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. The vaccination rollout prioritised demographics at greater risk. Now, there needs to be a parallel push to vaccinate children.

WHO data showed that between December 30, 2019 and September 6, 2021, children up to the age of 15 made up 8% of global cases.

Therefore, the Covid containment strategy needs to bring this demographic under a protective umbrella.  

What is the way forward?

Bharat Biotech should now work expeditiously to get emergency approval for Covaxin from WHO. WHO approval is a prerequisite for other benefits. It opens the door to vaccine passports and also export opportunities. Bharat Biotech needs to get past this hurdle at the earliest by satisfying WHO’s data requirements. Till it happens, it inconveniences millions of Indians who have been vaccinated with Covaxin and may now need to travel for work or to study.

Like Covishield, Covaxin manufacturing should also be scaled up faster, it will aid complete normalisation of social interaction in a few months.

The subsequent development and regulatory approvals need a much higher standard of recording data. Drugs and vaccines are an area where India is globally competitive. The stakeholders need to build on this base. 


Global energy transition too slow, needs a ‘low emissions revolution’: IEA

Source: This post is based on the article Global energy transition too slow, needs a ‘low emissions revolution’: IEApublished in Down To Earth on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

The International Energy Agency(IEA) has published its World Energy Outlook 2021 (WEO) report.

What is the purpose of the World Energy Outlook report?

The goal of the report is to assess progress made by countries on their clean energy transitions ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties meeting in Glasgow next month.

What are the Key Findings of the World Energy Outlook report?

The report explores two scenarios to gain insights into how the global energy sector may develop over the next three decades:

Stated Policies Scenario

It represents a path based on the energy and climate measures governments have actually put in place to date, as well as specific policy initiatives that are under development. 

In this scenario, global average temperatures will rise to 2.6 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Announced Pledges Scenario 

It maps out a path in which the nationally determined contributions and net-zero emissions pledges announced by governments so far are implemented in time and in full. 

In this scenario, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will reduce by 40% by 2050. Yet, global temperatures will still rise by 2.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in 2100.  

Investment in Clean Energy

To achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree goal, investments in clean energy must reach $4 trillion by 2030, 70% of which will focus on developing countries.

Moreover, major energy decarbonisation measures should be on the shoulders of the developed countries. However, developed countries are proceeding with their oil and gas exploration plans, with the United States opening up the Gulf of Mexico for drilling and the UK approving new projects in the North Sea.

World Energy Outlook report on India

The report has praised India as a success story for financing renewable energy towards the achievement of its 450 GW target. 

But coal remains deeply entrenched in the economy, with the auctioning of mines to private investors continuing unabated.


Fish species found only in the Pacific, discovered in the Bay of Bengal

Source: This post is based on the article Fish species found only in the Pacific, discovered in the Bay of Bengalpublished in Down To Earth on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

Researchers have discovered a unique, lesser-known fish species named Hoplosebastes Armatus in the Indian Ocean.This fish species was till now thought to be found only in the Pacific Ocean.

What is Hoplosebastes Armatus?
Hoplosebastes Armatus
Source: Down To Earth

Hoplosebastes Armatus is also known as the flower scorpionfish. It belongs to the order of ray-finned fish that is also known as Scorpaeniforme. 

This fish was first discovered in the Pacific Ocean off Japan almost a century ago in 1929.

The species has now been found in the Indian Ocean in Digha, West Bengal and Paradip in Odisha.

The fish species found in the Indian Ocean resembles the fish species found in 1929. But it differs in the presence of tentacles on the head, extensive spots on the fins, scale-less maxilla, and a number of spines on sub-orbital stray.

Why was it found in the Indian Ocean?

The rise in the temperature of sea water due to global warming might have induced the migration of this species from different regions. However, more comprehensive studies are needed to know about this species. 


Karuppur kalamkari paintings, Kallakurichi wood carvings get geographical indication (GI) tags

Source: This post is based on the articleKaruppur kalamkari paintings, Kallakurichi wood carvings get geographical indication (GI) tagspublished in The Hindu on 9th October 2021.

What is the News?

Karuppur kalamkari paintings and the Kallakurichi wood carvings have received geographical indication (GI) tags.

What are Karuppur kalamkari paintings?
Karuppur kalamkari
Source: News18

Karuppur Kalamkari paintings are done in Karuppur and its surrounding villages in Tamil Nadu.

Purpose: The paintings are done on pure cotton cloth and are predominantly used in temples for umbrella covers, cylindrical hangings, chariot covers and asmanagiri (false ceiling cloth pieces).

Origin: The documentary evidence has shown that kalamkari paintings evolved under the patronage of Nayaka rulers in the early 17th century.

What are Kallakurichi wood carvings?

Kallakurichi wood carvings

Kallakurichi wood carvings are mainly practised in the Kallakurichi district in Tamil Nadu.

Purpose: They are a unique form of wood carving ​​wherein the craftsmen are specialised in carving temple-related items and also furniture using traditional designs.

Origin: The woodcarving skill evolved as an indigenous art when Madurai was an important town under different monarchical regimes in ancient times. 


Why did the Antarctic Larsen C ice shelf break in 2017? NASA has an answer

Source: This post is based on the article “Why did the Antarctic Larsen C ice shelf break in 2017? NASA has an answer” published in Down To Earth on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

According to a study, the A68 iceberg that split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017 was likely caused due to ice-shelf dynamics and not climate change.

What is the issue?

Ice shelves are massive stretches of ice that build up over many thousands of years.

Global warming contributes to the weakening of ice shelves as warmer ocean water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves while rising air temperatures weaken them from above. 

But this theory did not fit well with the A68 iceberg that split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017. This is because the ice had been frozen solid for months.

Then what was the reason for the Larsen C ice shelf split?

To find the reason, NASA scientists studied the ice melange which has natural properties similar to glue: It fills cracks or gaps and sticks to ice and rock. When it accumulates in a crack in an ice shelf, it creates a layer — thin but as hard as the surrounding ice — that holds the crack together.

However, scientists observed that the layers of ice mélange melt when it comes in contact with the ocean water below. This process continues through the year, and the melange becomes too thin to keep holding the ice shelf together.

Hence, this might be the reason for the Larsen C Ice Shelf split, despite having frozen ice for months.


Centre enhances powers of BSF; Punjab slams move

Source: This post is based on the article Centre enhances powers of BSF; Punjab slams movepublished in The Hindu on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

The Centre has issued a notification declaring the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force(BSF).

What does the notification say?

The Union Home Ministry has increased the powers of the Border Security Force (BSF) to arrest, search and seize within 50 km from the international boundary in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab. Earlier, this range was 15 km.

Moreover, the border stretch under BSF in Gujarat has been reduced to 50 km from 80 km earlier while the area remains the same in Rajasthan at 50 km.  

Further, such operational powers of the BSF will also be applicable to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and five northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. But no such area limit has been prescribed for these states.

What are the violations for which BSF can carry out a search?

The violations for which the BSF carries out search and seizure include smuggling of narcotics, other prohibited items, illegal entry of foreigners and offences punishable under any other Central Act among others.

However, if a suspect has been detained or a consignment seized within the specified area, the BSF can only conduct preliminary questioning and has to hand over the suspect to the local police within 24 hours. The BSF does not have the power to prosecute crime suspects.

What is the significance of this notification?

This notification establishes uniformity in defining the area within which the BSF can operate. This would also enable improved operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crimes.


Climate Resilience Information System and Planning (CRISP-M) tool for Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Scheme launched

Source: This post is based on the article Climate Resilience Information System and Planning (CRISP-M) tool for Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Scheme launchedpublished in PIB on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Rural Development has launched the Climate Resilience Information System and Planning (CRISP-M) tool.

What is the CRISP-M tool?

CRISP-M is a web and mobile phone-based Geographic Information System(GIS) aided tool that has been designed to help communities make climate-smart decisions.

The tool will help integrate climate information in the GIS-based planning and implementation of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA. 

This tool will be used in seven states where the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Government of UK and Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India are jointly working towards climate resilience. 

The states are Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan.

What is the Geographic Information System(GIS)?

GIS is a system that captures, stores, checks and displays data related to positions on Earth’s surface.

It can show many different kinds of data on one map such as streets, buildings, and vegetation. This enables people to more easily see, analyze and understand patterns and relationships.


Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid Northwest Europe Cooperative Event

Source: This post is based on the article Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid Northwest Europe Cooperative Eventpublished in PIB on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has addressed the Ministerial session of the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid Northwest Europe Cooperative Event.

Note: In May 2021, the United Kingdom and India have agreed to jointly launch the Green Grids-One Sun One World One Grid initiative at the COP26 summit being hosted by the UK at Glasgow in November 2021. The concept of OSOWOG is what the UK has called a green grid.

What is OSOWOG or the Green Grid?

The OSOWOG idea was first floated by the Indian Prime Minister in 2018 during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

The idea behind the concept is a trans-national electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe.

The vision behind the OSOWOG mantra is “the Sun never sets” and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time. 

OSOWOG is planned to be completed in three phases. The first phase will entail interconnectivity within the Asian continent; the second phase will add Africa, and the third phase will globalise the whole project.

The project has been taken up under the technical assistance programme of the World Bank.


Telecom secretary asks C-DoT to work on 6G, launches Quantum Communication Lab

Source: This post is based on the article Telecom secretary asks C-DoT to work on 6G, launches Quantum Communication Lab published in Economic Times on 13th October 2021.

What is the News?

Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), the premier telecom R&D centre of the Department of Telecommunications has unveiled an indigenously developed Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) solution Lab.

What is Quantum Key Distribution(QKD)?

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a secure communication technique that uses quantum properties of photons, the elementary particles of light, to encrypt secret keys that can be shared by two parties to protect their communications. 

What makes QKD unbreakable?

The security of QKD stems from the ability to detect any intrusion on the QKD transmission. Because of the unique and fragile properties of photons, any third party (or eavesdropper) who tries to read or copy the photons in any way will change the photons’ state.

The change will be detected by the endpoints, alerting them that the key has been tampered with and must be discarded. A new key is then transmitted. Moreover, since the keys generated are truly random, they are protected from future hacking attempts.

Why is there a need for QKD?

Typical encryption relies on traditional mathematics, and while for now, it is more or less adequate and safe from hacking. But the development of quantum computing threatens that.

That’s why the world needs a more secure means of encryption and QKD was found to be the only provably secure communication method because it uses physics – not math – to encrypt data.


 

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