Saturday, December 5, 2015

[Editorial # 5] Funding holds the key at Paris

Funding holds the key at Paris

As the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases among individual countries, India is under pressure at the Paris Climate Change conference to commit itself to a future trajectory of low emissions. All countries with a significant role in the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which leads to global warming, have made voluntary pledges that are aimed at the stabilisation of global temperature rise below 2° Celsius. India’s own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) promise to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030, over 2005 levels. A base agreement of this coalition of the willing is now possible at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, but problems lie ahead. Among the contentious issues is monitoring and verification of performance, which would inevitably be linked to grant of funding that is vital to help affected communities adapt to the impact of climate change. The colossal losses arising from the Chennai deluge underscore the importance of access to funds for adaptation. On the other hand, a five-year monitoring period from 2020, when the pledges go into effect, would ratchet up the pressure tremendously. With such high stakes, it is vital that India continues its strong cooperation with the G77+China bloc, which has been aggressively pursuing the principles of equity and differentiated responsibilities, and simultaneously engage the developed world as the negotiations move into the high-level segment next week.
The dichotomy of ambitions on halting dangerous climate change has been evident at Paris, with the most vulnerable island states and the least developed countries expecting rising targets for emissions cuts to keep global temperature rise below 1.5° C, and liberal funding from rich nations. But even with sincere implementation of the 157 INDC submissions from 184 countries (including the European Union member-states) which cover about 94 per cent of carbon emissions, the global temperature is expected to rise beyond the target. India also has to contend with the growing movement to persuade investors to withdraw from companies using polluting fossil fuels including coal, and tax these fuels at higher rates to consumers. Moreover, although it has the largest emissions, China has won plaudits with its pledge to peak coal use in 2020, and all greenhouse gases by 2030, something that India cannot. For developing countries in Paris, however, the real challenge is to enshrine in the agreement strong provisions for funding that have been promised but not delivered in the past. Many of them have submitted their INDCs with funding as a condition, and India has estimated a staggering $2.5 trillion as its climate finance requirement until 2030. By contrast, the total cross-border flows of funds is calculated to be $2.2 billion. It will take a great deal of diplomacy and commitment to bridge the gulf in Paris.
Note: Attempt the following questions after doing some research on the internet or otherwise.
Try to write the answers in your own words. The objective of this exercise is to break your inhibitions related to writing. I have purposefully kept the level of questions a little  low. This would give you the required momentum to start writing. 
1. Name the top 5 greenhouse gases emitting countries.
2. What are Green House Gases?
3. What is Green House Effect?
4. What is meant by emissions intensity of GDP?
5. What is UNFCC?
6. What is understood by Equal But Differentiated Responsibilities?
7. What are Intended Nationally Determined Contributions?
8. What is meant by adaptation and mitigation in the context of Climate Change?
9. What could be the possible fall outs of the climate change?
10. Is India geared up for handling the effect of Climate Change? What actions the government has taken in this regard?


  1. China, the United States , India , Russia and Japan in that order are top 5 emitters of greenhouse gases on an individual country basis. If the analysis is not country specific then the European Union is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

  2. 2. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone are gases in the earth's atmosphere that trap infrared radiation from the sun .
    3. These gases trap such radiation and prevent its release from the earth's atmosphere. As a result, the earth becomes warmer. This is known as the blanket or greenhouse effect as it is similar to the greenhouses utilized for keeping plants in optimal temperatures in colder countries.

  3. What are other green house gases? Make your research exhaustive. What about PFCs, SF6 , CFCs, Water Vapor?

    Give an example of green house effect from your day to day life? Parked Car under the Sun? Any other example?

    1. when car or any vehicle is parked (with packed closed glasses) under the sun, it become extremely hot after some time and we need to open all the glasses. this happens due to the greehouse effect. glasses are transparent to incoming solar radiations but it arrests the outgoing solar radiations. the heat gets trapped in the car with closed glasses - thus becomes very hot inside. similar the case with global warming.

  4. 1) The top five greenhouse emitting countries are responsible for more than 50% of pollution emission.
    Following are the top 5 emitter of Greenhouse Gas: -
    • China – 1,05,40,000 - (7.6) emission per capita
    • USA – 53,34,000 (16.5) emission per capita  CO2 (kt)
    • European Union – 34,15,000 (6.7) emission per capita
    • India – 23,41,000 (1.8) emission per capita
    China is the largest polluter country in the world which followed by the USA, European Union, and India. In terms of an individual country, India is the third largest polluter country in the world after the USA.

    2) & 3)
    Green house Gases: - these are the product of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, methane, Fluorinated gases. While other gases are synthetic in nature. These gases are both natural and man-made in which CFCs, HFCs, SF6 and PFCs are man-made gases. These greenhouse gases are thermally so potent that its small amount can cause the dramatic rise in the temperature of the Earth. The fact is that, without greenhouse gases the temperature of the planet would be no more than 35 degree Celsius on an aggregate. These gases are transparent to the incoming solar radiations but not permit solar radiations to go out of the earth’s atmosphere. The effect caused by such arresting of solar radiation is known as “Greenhouse Effect”. Under such effect, the temperature of the planet rises which is further assisted by the man-made gases such as CFCs, HFC’s etc.
    These greenhouse effects further harm the soil components, marine life and it globally alters the average temperature year by year. Under the greenhouse effect, changes like rising sea water level taken into consideration which is resulting in sinking of various islands and countries such as Maldives, Indonesia and Japan as well upto some extent. Trapped greenhouse gases stays in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years and adversely affects the existing ecosystem.
    Numerous factors are responsible for the occurrences and rising of greenhouse gases such as population with their increasing demands for fossil fuels, their consumption pattern, technology used in developed countries (especially in making and using of arms and ammunitions), various economic activities (trading through road, railways, ships) and industrial sector contributes around 45% of the pollution in unison. Net warming of the earth’s atmosphere is called “Natural Greenhouse Gas” but the contribution in the raising greenhouse gases by human activities is termed as “Enhanced Greenhouse Gas”.

  5. 4. Emission intensity is the level of GHG emission per unit of economic activities measured at the national level as GDP of a country. Emission intensity varies from country to country as per their potential of polluting economic activities relative to their GDP status. Fact to be noted here is that, developed or wealthy countries carry less emission intensity than developing or poor countries and vice-versa. The emission intensity of developing countries is generally 40% higher than developed countries; CO2 plays a common and equal role in both sides of countries. The inclusion of non CO2 gases raises all country’s emission intensity level.
    Primarily there are two drivers of the emission intensity level: population and the GDP of the country. In several countries, fall in the emission intensity level were determined by notable rise in GDP, leading to increase in absolute CO2 level. China and USA are the prominent examples.
    (Data taken – copy & paste source)  Among the major emitters, GHG intensity varies almost sevenfold – from 344 tons per million dollar GDP in France, to 2,369 tons in Ukraine.

    5. UNFCCC: - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty held in Rio de Janeiro in the year 1992 and came into force in 1994. The ultimate aim is to maintain the stability of the global temperature by constantly monitoring the greenhouse gases influence and greenhouse effect. This treaty was complemented by the signing of Kyoto Protocol, which a legally binding protocol, by 192 countries that excludes the USA. “The common but differentiated responsibility” was the sole motto of the protocol but unfortunately the mismatch amidst various developing and developed countries led to its predictable failure. Around 37 industrialised countries and European community committed to reduce the emission by 5% till 2005.
    The UNFCCC treaty is not a legally binding in itself neither it carries any forcible mechanism over countries to follow the treaty. It does not put mandatory limit of emission over any country. New role of UNFCCC has proposed that it has become a knowledge and technical matchmaker amidst climate change stakeholders that is comprises of policy makers, UN delegates, NGO representatives and the public.

  6. 6. “Common but differentiated Responsibilities” is the most prominent phrase used by the developing countries, especially by India at the time of signing of Kyoto Protocol in 2005. The phrase explains that the countries which have recently inaugurated their journey for industrial development are not the major contributor in the ruining of the global climate. Developed countries have had all the opportunities to utilize and exploit all the major resources and thus they are the major villain for resulted global climate change. Developing countries claim that now it’s their turn to efficiently utilize available resources for their development. According to them developed countries are responsible to arrest the rising temperature, and developing counties will do upto their best without compromising with their development agenda.
    Instances of “common responsibility” appear as early as 1949, where TUNA and other fishes were described as being “of common concern” to all the parties. Examples such as out space, moon, global commons, international resources – these all are common heritage of mankind which is not supposed to be consumed by any specific party or community.

    10. In recognition of the growing problem of climate change, India has decided, as other countries, to arrest its emission upto some extent which is proposed in its draft. India domestically has taken serious steps to curb non renewable resources and steps to curb pollution with rising population. India has declared the voluntary goal of reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 20-25%, over 2005 levels, by 2020, despite having no binding mitigation obligation as per the Convention. As a result our GDP has decreased by 12% between 2005 and 2010. It is a matter of satisfaction that UNEP in its Emission Gap Report 2014 has recognized India as one of the countries on course to achieve its voluntary goal.
    India seems to be a challenge for the Paris Conference due to its stand over “common but differentiated responsibility”. Mr. Modi will try his diplomatic level as best as possible to meets his commitment of development domestically. Since India has been recognized as the emerging economy by the developed states, developed countries might pressurize India by ensuring its level of development in so called ‘near bright future’. India will be expecting well defined funding from the developed states to help out India for at least coming next 15 years. The biggest dilemma with India is that China has declared its peak emission year i.e. 2030 even after being a developing country. So, if China can stand on such a daring commitment than why cannot India? – This is the pressure from most developed nations.
    India has a defined plan for action for clean energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, step to achieve lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, a major thrust to non –fossil based electricity generation and the building sector based on energy conservation.
    India has submitted its proposal in major 5 key aspects in the Paris Conference. Its goal of 175 GW of renewable resources capacity by 2022 by setting a new target to increase its share of non fossil based power capacity from 30% currently to 40% by 2030 and created an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through additional tree cover.

  7. Good work guys!!! Keep up the good work...

  8. The emissions intensity of GDP is the average rate at which a pollutant is emitted from a given source in relation to the extent of the concerned economic activity. In simple terms it may be described as the ratio of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of GDP. For example, the average rate of methane production can be calculated for the activities involved in animal husbandry , particularly cattle rearing. Similarly the amount of sulphur dioxide emitted per unit of steel production can also be calculated. In this manner the emissions intensity, or the amount of polluting gases emitted due to each economic activity can be arrived at. The aggregate of them all would be the emissions intensity to GDP, i.e. the total polluting gases emitted in the course of all economic activities. The terms emission factor and carbon factor are also used interchangeably although carbon factor becomes problematic in as much as it does not consider other pollutants such as sulphur doixide and CFCs. The unit carbon intensity per megawatt is also used in order to compare the polluting effects of different sources of electrical power.

  9. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international and multilateral treaty/agreement that was opened for signature at the 1992, Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit and was ratified in 1994. Its objective is to stabilise the level of greenhouse gas concentartion in the atmosphere to " prevent anthropogenic interference", in the climate system. The anthropogenic interference the UNFCCC wishes to avoid is described as " dangerous interference". Although the UNFCCC itself does not impose any binding obligations upon individual countries, nor does it have any enforcement mechanism, it prescribes that international agreements, which it refers to as "protocols", should be negotiated in such a manner as to create legally binding agreements among the member countries. There are 196 parties to this convention and as a result of such a large membership, it enjoys a great deal of legitimacy. The parties to the convention have been meeting annually since 1995 as the Conference of Parties. The recently concluded Paris talks are a part of the COP21, its 21st edition. The Kyoto Protocol was held under the aegis of the UNFCCC in 1997 and imposed legally binding commitments on thedevloped countries to reduce their emissions intensity.

    1. What is the difference between 'signing' and 'ratification' of any treaty/protocol?

    2. Signing of any treaty involves the initial negotiations amidst participant countries or parties, it involves the required steps to be taken by every participant before the approval of the treaty. Signing means that the parties DO AGREE for delegations to attain their goal.
      Whereas, ratification of any treaty refers that each party will deal with the delegated agreement in its own manner since the social, economic and political structure varies from nation to nation. Ratification of any treaty implies that the agreement HAS BEEN APPROVED by every state after an exhaustive negotiation.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Ratification usually is meant when a particular participating nation's highest representative body like the Parliament, Senate gives its go ahead to the signed treaty. Find out when did India sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Can you also find other such treaties/protocols signed and ratified by India. Also, is there any treaty which India has not signed and any which India has signed but not ratified yet?

    5. Ratification usually is meant when a particular participating nation's highest representative body like the Parliament, Senate gives its go ahead to the signed treaty. Find out when did India sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Can you also find other such treaties/protocols signed and ratified by India. Also, is there any treaty which India has not signed and any which India has signed but not ratified yet?

  10. Prior to the COP21 and in preparation for the same, all the parties were required to publicly declare the actions that they would take to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The INDCs represent a bottom-up approach wherein each participating country puts forward its proposals for emissions reduction in the context of their individual capacity, capabilities, priorities and level of development, availability of funds etc. The final goal of these INDCs is to contain the global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. For example one of India's INDCs is to create 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, and to reduce its emissions intensity to GDP by 33-35 per cent from the 2005 levels.

  11. Switzerland was the first nation to submit its INDCs which included a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 50% by 2030. Switzerland has experienced a temperature rise of 1.75 degrees Celsius. Similaraly, the Eurpoean Union , which was the second to submit its INDCs have pledged to reduce its emissions to 40% by 2030 using 1990 as the base year for consideration. The INDCs are also an opportunity for the less dveloped countries to capitalise on. Despite the fact that much of the substantive work will be undertaken by the larger nations , the LDCs stand to gain in terms of greater international assistance both through technology transfer and finance as well as the positive insights and experience they may gain in mitigation and adaptation policies.

  12. Mitigation of climate change is a concept that centres around human intervention. Mitigation refers to actions taken to permanently eliminate or reduce the long-term risks or hazards to human life and property. The International Panel on Climate Change defines it as an anthropocentric intervention to reduce the sources of greenhouse gases and to enhance the sinks of the same ( i.e. increasing the forest cover that can absorb the greenhouse gas emissions). Adaptation refers to the ability of a system to adjust or adapt to climate change, including extreme variability and disasters so as to reduce the extent of damage to the largest extent possible or at the least adequately face the consequences of climate change. The IPCC defines adaptation to climate change as the adjustment of natural or human systems to actual or perceived environmental stimuli or their effects.

  13. India ratified the Kyoto Protocol on 26th August 2002. Since there is no information on when it was signed by India, can we assume that it was signed and ratified on the same date ?

  14. The most prominent treaty that India has not ratified is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The reason that India cites for its non-ratification is that the treaty is inherently discriminatory, as it prevents the possession and spread of nuclear technology among developing countries, but allows the developed countries such as the United States to retain and utilize its nuclear capabilities. India has also neither signed nor ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) since it requires complete elimination or drastic reduction in all forms of nuclear weaponry and testing within a country's jurisdiction. Moreover, United States, Egypt , Iran and Israel have not ratified the treaty.

  15. There are myriad long-term repercussions of climate change ranging from the immediate to the more prolonged. The overall rise in the atmospheric temperatures, the melting of glaciers and inundation and overflow of water bodies, and extreme temperature variations are a few fallouts that have been extensively discussed. In addition the intensity of heat and cold waves are likely to increase. With this extremity in temperatures , the survival of several species become threatened, particularly microbial species which require optimal temperatures for survival. Migratory patterns are affected and this in turn endangers other larger species of birds and animals. Biodiversity can be adversely affected by the extreme temperature variations as several species survive within a very narrow range of optimal conditions. As oceans become over-heated, marine life is also disrupted. The strength and extent of destruction unleashed by natural calamities such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis etc... gain greater intensity. Scientists predict that the intensity of storms and their frequency is bound to rise in the years to come. Sea levels the world round are predicted to rise between one to four feet by the turn of the century. The most worrisome aspect of climate change for India in particular remains the fluctuations of precipitation patterns. The entire nation is dependent upon a regular and abundant monsoon for its food security and to ensure the livelihodd of millions of small and marginal farmers who cannot afford irrigation facilities. Uneven monssons and insufficient precipitation could wreak havoc in a country where millions are sustained by these life-giving rains. Such a situation could result in food scarcity, perhaps even escalating into famine , with the worst-affected being the small and marginal farmers who lead a hand-to-mouth existence on the hope of the monsoon. This coupled with higher intensity droughts and heat waves could cripple the national economy as well deprive the population of its basic necessities. This would in turn result in economic crisis, with precious forex reserves being spent to procure food grains. As always the marginalized communities without access to facilities to deal with droughts and heat waves die in large numbers . We need not look far, the ongoing floods in Tamil Nadu due to incessant rains and the severe heat wave in Andhra Pradesh in April-May , testifies to the devastating impacts of climate change on human lives.