With rising popular concern, global climate discourse may well change

| Updated on September 29, 2019 Published on September 29, 2019

We need renewables, more forests and super efficient appliances and buildings, accompanied by resource sharing mechanisms from the global North to the South

It was amidst unprecedented public protests the world over — from Europe to Australia and New Zealand and finally India’s schoolchildren — that the UN Climate Summit held last week pressed world leaders to augment their Paris accord commitments. The urgency to go beyond the Paris accord has been driven home by the experience of the last four years — “the hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by three degrees Celsius since 1990”, according to the UN website on the summit. But notably, with the possible exception of India, major emitters have failed to rise to the occasion. India’s emissions curtailment plan, led by its push for renewables and electric vehicles, is in line with reducing world temperature rise to 2 degrees centigrade, whereas China, the US and the European Union (the top three in terms of total emissions) need to do much more to get there. There can be no denying that, in view of the principles of equity and climate justice, the developed world must bear the brunt of reducing “greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and to net zero emissions by 2050.” They have ‘developed’ their economic standards by accounting for the bulk of the global stock of carbon emissions in the atmosphere and must cough up the money and the technology, which they possess, for reducing emissions across the world.

As the world readies for the climate ministerial at Chile in December, the US, the EU and China will be under considerable pressure to offer something extra. The EU grandstanding on this subject — notably led by Germany — has not been matched by action on the ground. Coal remains in favour, more so after the shutdown of nuclear facilities after the Fukushima accident in 2011. The solar wave has stalled in Germany, for a variety of reasons. China’s renewables and EV push has been significant but its reliance on coal continues. As for options, the developed world has been stingy in putting money into the Green Climate Fund. Carbon credit markets have flopped in the absence of a mandatory framework for meeting emission reduction targets, and with it fines for missing them. But a new paradigm may emerge, as young people the world over, with Greta Thunberg lending them a voice, visualise a grim future.

We need renewables, more forests and super efficient appliances and buildings, accompanied by resource sharing mechanisms from the global North to the South. India’s efforts in reducing emissions’ intensity of growth need to be accompanied by steps to enhance its green cover. The International Union for Conservation of Nature points out that one third of carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by forests every year. Besides, 12 per cent of global emissions accrues from deforestation and degradation. Action here can be local as well as global.

Published on September 29, 2019
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