Climate change will make poverty reduction more difficult: Sunita Narain of CSE
Sunita Narain is one of the most prominent activists and thought leaders on environmental issues today. As the Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an influential not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, she has won numerous Indian and global awards, including the Padma Shri and the World Water Prize, for her pathbreaking vision and work. In an exclusive interview with Rajiv Tikoo, she not only highlights India's environmental challenges, but also flags the direction the country should take to pursue a sustainable development path. Excerpts from the interview:
While the Bhopal tragedy is still awaiting a closure, what has India learnt from the tragedy, if anything, and done to avert such accidents in the present or future?
Sunita Narain: Post-Bhopal we saw relevant legislation coming up; however compliance has been an issue. The Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) of 1986 was the first major piece of legislation after the Bhopal tragedy. Amendments were made to Factories Act in 1987. By 1989, the country got the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules. And in 1991, the Public Liability Insurance Act was enacted to provide immediate relief to persons affected by accidents while handling hazardous substances.
While we have managed to avoid a disaster like Bhopal, but mini-Bhopals continue to happen. Industrial accidents are frequent and leave thousands injured per year; many are unreported. There is a growing problem of contamination of land and water. Thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste is lying across several sites in the country.
There is a need to improve the tools for compliance and enforcement. Penalties need to be increased and processes made transparent. Participation of local people in governance needs to be increased. This could be done through transparent public hearings and more public data dissemination. We also need to have systems to establish corporate liability.
While we are far from getting right our broader act on the environment, what do you think of India's response – direction and pace -- in fighting climate change?
Sunita Narain: It is evident from the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change will impact the world severely and the risks are intensifying. This is expected to put the lives of the world’s poor at stake. India is especially vulnerable since it houses 33% of the world’s poorest people.
India, according to a report published by UK-based global risks advisory firm Maplecroft, is the country which is 13th most vulnerable country to climate change out of 194 countries of the world. India has faced many floods, droughts, cyclones, heat and cold waves in the past and they form part of the natural climatic landscape of the country where depending on the region, communities have adapted to such events to varying degrees. Climate change will slow down economic growth and make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security and “prolong existing and create new poverty traps”.
India formulated the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in June 2008, which identified eight missions and outlined the existing and future policies and programmes addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation in India.
The most recent review of the progress made under the eight National Missions of the NAPCC by the newly reconstituted Executive Committee on Climate Change (ECCC) on shows that more efforts need to be taken for effective implementation of the missions.
Progress on other initiatives envisaged under the NAPCC – Greenhouse Gas (GHG) mitigation in power generation; other renewable energy technologies (RET) programmes; disaster management links; protection of coastal areas; health sector; and creating capacity at different levels of the government on climate change – has been slow to date and the Executive Committee has suggested that relevant ministries prepare a work programme on these initiatives at the earliest under the coordination of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC).
Other areas of concern under the NAPCC have been the lack of progress in allocation of sub-targets within the existing earmarking of 3% for solar projects and implementation of Sustainable Habitat standards by the States. The lack of adequate funding has been flagged as the major challenge in this regard, while recommendations include having new missions in the field of wind energy, health, waste to energy conversion and coastal management.
The question is whether India is prepared to face the climate change challenge and develop resilience. The answer is no. if we keep moving at the current pace then it will be very difficult to face the challenges due to climate change. India cannot afford to not act on climate change.
How do you see India's climate change position evolving over the next one year, particularly with respect to Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)?
Sunita Narain: It’s a must for the Indian government to put forth its position on how to incorporate equity in the allocation of carbon budget. The principle of equity must be inherent in any mechanism that deals with a global problem such as climate change. Since 1990, CSE has said that since atmosphere is a global common, we all need to share this space equitably. Today we are in this position because not only the developed countries did not reduce their emissions in pursuit of relentless industrialisation, but the rest of the countries in the world also increased their 'survival' emissions. The need of the hour for all countries is to have a low carbon growth plan.
Now, the way ahead is for India to lay down its emission targets or emission intensity targets but in consonance with its capacity and bearing in mind the benchmark set by developed countries -- such actions are the keystone of the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities (CBDR-RC). Everything else is cheap talk.
In India, different states seem to be on different pages on fighting climate change. For example, states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are leading in renewables like solar. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh have more climate-friendly policies from a mitigation perspective. And so on....what can be done to promote sharing and learning among various states?
Sunita Narain: We fully agree that different states are on different pages, when it comes to fighting climate change. All the states have been asked by the central government to prepare their State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs). However, 22 states have submitted the SAPCs as of November 2014, which have been uploaded at the MoEF & CC website. The action plans for several large states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are yet to be finalised. The ECCC in its recent meeting urged the completion of the remaining SAPCCs to be expedited and also recommended launching of a new Central Sponsored Scheme (CSS), if required, for implementing some of their priority projects. However, even where the SAPCCs have been completed and approved, States still face significant and multiple challenges in implementation. The challenges to the implementation of the State Action Plans and the rising costs of adaptation suggest an urgent need to review the government strategy on addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation. To date there is no specific national programme on adaptation. For the first time in 2014, a National Fund for Climate Change Adaptation was announced, but much remains to be understood on what the focus of this fund will be and how it is going to be operationalised.
Various states need to come on the same platform, especially those sates which have similar climate change concerns. For example, when it comes to climate change adaptation, states like Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh have similar concerns. Frequent interactions among states need to be promoted by states and the central government. As of now, state specific climate research and evidence building including time series data mechanisms are absent in many states, and very little documenting of community voices and perceptions of climate change and its impacts has been carried out. Many states do not yet have detailed climate vulnerability analyses available at the state level (both in general and for various sectors). Overall it seems that SAPCCs of various states have various gaps, which need to be addressed.
Finally, how hopeful are you that there would be a desirable climate change draft document in Lima for arriving at the much needed agreement in Paris in 2015?
Sunita Narain: At Peru it is expected that parties will announce their emission reduction targets, emission intensity targets or even targets covering specific sectors like energy and forestry. Nations have been asked to prepare their Intended NDCs (INDCs) by March 2015. The Kyoto Protocol was designed to be top-down binding treaty. Current discourse revolves around a ‘bottom-up’, rather than ‘top-down’; of a ‘Framework of Various Approaches’ (FVA) within which ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) can be measured, reported and aggregated into a globally consistent action plan; and, of ‘New Market Mechanisms' (NMMs).
But the major emitters seem to be caving pathetically to the oil, gas and coal lobby – the US and China who announced a deal recently -- stated that the US will reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Now this is a very neat manipulation of numbers because when you unpack and analyse the statement you will find that the US will reduce its emissions by less than 3% by 2020 and by 12-14% by 2025 compared to the 1990 levels. China, on its part, will peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and then start reducing it. It has also agreed to raise the share of non-fossil fuels to 20% of its primary energy mix by 2030. It has not, however, announced any specific emissions targets.
What is happening now is that despite the facts given in the Emission Gap Report, which says the current pledges are insufficient to keep us on this side of the 2 degree guardrail, and the 5th IPCC Report, countries are trying to haggle with the scientific facts. Pledges are just not ambitious enough. This is not a problem for which we can patiently wait knowing we will prevail in the next century. The 2 degree tipping point; and the diminishing carbon budget and the tussle over its allocation will make it too late. It remains to be seen if and how big ticket issues like climate finance, adaptation, forestry and technology transfer can be tackled. Unless the developed nations take a lead in these efforts, possibly of any concrete outcome remains bleak.
- OneWorld Foundation India
The longer the world delays, the more costly the action would be: Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC
As the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres is the most sought after climate change leader in the world today. The UNFCCC is currently organising the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima to come up with a universal climate change draft agreement for final negotiations in Paris in 2015. Ms Figueres took time off from her busy schedule to respond to Rajiv Tikoo on a wide range of issues.
Excerpts from the interview:
With various countries making pledges to cut down on emissions and contribute to climate financing, what would be your priority to arrive at a desirable climate change draft agreement in the run up to the concluding conference in Paris in 2015?
Christiana Figueres: The Paris agreement is a universal agreement—every country has agreed to contribute to its success. That means by around the end of the first quarter of 2015, all nations will need to have submitted their support to Paris in the form of what are termed Intentionally Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs.
Some of those are already coming through, and well in advance of the planned submission period. For example, we have had contributions from the European Union and more recently China and the United States. With over 190 Parties to the Convention, clearly a lot more contributions have to come in and we look forward to ambitious submissions from all governments over the coming weeks and months.
Finance is also clearly important, including public finance to the Green Climate Fund for it to be able to leverage considerably larger amounts from the private sector. The recent pledges by governments, amounting to just under $10 billion is a good start, but the door is wide open to all nations to contribute in ways that reflect the size of their economies and ability to provide finance -- both here in Lima and throughout 2015.
What's a realistic outcome expected from the Climate Change Conference in Lima?
Christiana Figueres: There are many dovetailing outcomes that can build from Lima to Paris, so let me touch on a few:
Clarity on the INDCs—what they should contain given that while developed countries are setting economy-wide emission reductions targets, developing country contributions are likely to be more varied ranging from contributions such as sector-wide targets covering, for example, the power industry or forests to energy intensity targets
In terms of the draft text for the 2015 Agreement— which will be further refined in Geneva in February and then circulated in May to governments for the final negotiations up to Paris— we are looking at Lima to provide text that is balanced, well-structured and coherent. It needs to be clear about its direction and not over-burdened with multiple, competing proposals or ideas.
What can be other key outcomes from Lima that can lay the foundation for the 2015 Paris Agreement?
Christiana Figueres: The other key outcomes from Lima that can lay the foundation for Paris include: The Lima Action Agenda to 2020. While Paris is often characterized as action post-2020, there really needs to be an elevation of ambition up to 2020 given the science and the reality that the longer the world delays the more costly the action will be and the more expensive the risks of impacts. So raising ambition not only among governments but also cities, business, investors and citizens needs to happen now. We are already seeing it across the globe as evidenced by the many inspiring initiatives that flowed from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September. We need to build on these ambitions and partnerships in Lima.
What about climate finance?
Christiana Figueres: Understanding how much climate finance is actually flowing is key to unlocking, focusing and leveraging more. Indeed at Lima, the Standing Committee on Finance to the Conference of the Parties will release a report assessing these multi-billion dollar flows coming from governments via funds like the GCF. Ditto for the Global Environment Facility, the Multilateral Development Banks; special funds under the UNFCCC, Overseas Development Assistance and private sources. The conclusion is that a lot more climate financing is happening than perhaps many are aware of but more is needed and the flows need to be better understood, focused, better coordinated, reported upon and leveraged.
What are the other issues that would get traction?
Christiana Figueres: The Lima conference will also focus on areas that need more support ranging from adaptation and areas like sustainable transport, which has multiple environmental, social and economic benefits. A good outcome on adaptation will also be important from Lima including on how to achieve political parity with mitigation, and how to achieve a prompt start for adaptation funding. Many countries have developed National Adaptation Plans and again an agreement on how they are supported would be very positive as well as fully operationalizing the Loss and Damage Executive Committee by agreeing to a two-year work plan and electing members
In respect to forests under the Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), countries need to start moving to more implementation and results on the ground through the scaling-up of finance and support.
Finally there is an urgency to implement various outstanding issues from previous Conferences of the Parties.
Let me mention one. In Doha two years ago nations agreed to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 when the Paris Agreement comes into effect. To date only 20 countries have done this and it needs 144 to become operational. In Lima parties need to adopt clear ground accounting rules so that many more nations can ratify so that the 144 mark can be met.
Apart from financing, technology transfer continues to be another contentious issue for developing countries. Do you expect any breakthrough on this issue?
Christiana Figueres: With the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund underway now, I would hope there is more confidence among developing countries on finance and as mentioned, the issue of finance — and quite what is out there and how effectively it is being deployed —is coming to the fore in Lima.
The emergence of new carbon markets; the arrival of new instruments such as a Green Bond and Climate Bond market allied to commitments by banks, insurers and other investors to green investment flows indicates that finance in support of climate action is moving up the agenda.
Moving forward in areas like the Climate Technology Centre and Networks is also underway so I hope developing countries will see progress upon which the world can build in the next 12 months.
What's your understanding of India's position on climate change negotiations and what more would you like to see India do?
Christiana Figueres: India’s new government is taking an increasingly active role and I have been impressed by the various new announcements emerging from India covering issues such as attracting investment for low carbon developments, the scaling up of renewables and phasing down diesel generation.
Far from being a burden to India, action on climate change can be a huge opportunity for India to attract the financial resources and the technology it needs to expand and modernize its power sector, and lift many citizens out of poverty. The key is for India to identify where these opportunities are and maximize them.
Internally in India, central Indian states like Madhya Pradesh seems to be more proactive than say flash flood-hit Himalayan state Uttarakhand or cyclone-hit coastal state Andhra Pradesh. Since such a pattern may be playing out in many countries, do you think there is a need to bring the issue into the discourse so that the global focus is not only on countries getting their national numbers right but also their local acts?
Christiana Figueres: I could not agree more. Cities, local authorities, regions and states have a huge opportunity to contribute to assisting citizens to adapt to climatic impacts as well as put in place low carbon pathways that can deliver healthier, more vibrant and socially inclusive communities.
Indeed we are seeing many 'sub-national' entities acting in India and elsewhere because perhaps they see with greater clarity the challenges and the environmental and social opportunities from transforming their economies.
ICLEI, the local authorities sustainability organization, and C40 have, for example, over 40 Indian municipalities who are members including Madras, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune many of whom are pursuing climate policies and actions with real determination that can not only assist their communities but the country and the world in catalyzing ever greater ambition.
Finally, how hopeful are you about Paris Agreement in 2015 that meets its set goals?
Christiana Figueres: I think it is important to recognize that the Paris Agreement in 2015 is not going to solve climate change at a pen stroke—but it needs to be a turning point that puts in place the policies and pathways to see emissions globally peak in 10 or so years; triggers a deep de-carbonization of the global economy and assists the world to reach climate neutrality in the second half of the century. This is the only pathway toward a development that is truly sustainable for all.
- OneWorld Foundation India
Effective waste management is required in India: Meenakshi Lekhi
A Lawyer by profession and leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, in an interview said that urban areas need to learn the art and science of converting waste into a valuable resource.
Excerpts from the interview:
How in your opinion recycling urban waste can lead us to energy sufficiency?
Meenakshi Lekhi: With the limited resources for energy, the greatest potential is that the wastage in urban areas has to be minimised and the cost of energy generation has to be brought down. We need to try and work at these solutions. A waste is a waste because we don’t know how to use it.
Once you know how to use it (the waste), and convert it into full energy potential, it becomes a valuable resource.
What is your idea of smart cities which the present government is trying to develop across the country?
Meenakshi Lekhi: When we say green smart city, I will say only when you are green, can you be smart. A city cannot be smart without being green.
So, smart is not being away from green, but it is about efficiency of energy system which ensures that you don’t waste, you convert waste into energy, and you generate low cost energy.
If we pull local resources in order, we have a huge potential for generating energy as even the existing landfill sites can become gas filled sites.
Madhya Pradesh government launched a website for public participation on climate change in September this year. Do you think that more such portals are required?
Meenakshi Lekhi: What the government of Madhya Pradesh is doing is fantastic. But, similarly there is a huge initiative taken by Gujarat too. I think our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat also wrote a book on climate change.
I think this is the intellectual input which will open up the brains and the minds of the people which have been clogged due to a long term slavery of ideas. The moment we unclog, energy potential of each Indian will come out and we will be able to achieve our real potentials.
How can Indians as a community move towards sustainable development?
Meenakshi Lekhi: We are basically very hygienic people. We are huge and because we are huge, there has been a systemic failure which has led to so much of garbage generation and hence, the idea of recycling.
Earlier, we were wasting less. For example, a piece of cloth was used for a longer period of time by using it in as many ways as possible. When I look back, say 20-30 years ago, I think a piece of cloth in house used to be reused many times over. A father’s shirt will be converted into child’s shirt or the next generation will use it, and the next to next generation will use it for making quilts and other possible items out of it.
At the national level, we must understand our age old values. It’s not enough just the UN declaring the Minimum Development Goals, even the UN is now moving away from Minimum Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. Our entire civilization is based on sustainable development and sustainable growth, but unfortunately, we dumped it to become a society driven by consumerism.
There has to be an overhaul of the thought process.
Do you think ideas from Gujarat’s Sabarmati river rejuvenation plan can help Delhi government to revive river Yamuna?
Meenakshi Lekhi: Good ideas can be taken from anywhere including the Sabarmati river rejuvenation plan. Whatever the idea, it has to be supplemented by a comprehensive plan for affluent treatment plants all over the city.
The water treatment plants need to be of the smaller quantity equally distributed across the city because the transport cost itself to carry waste to a particular plant gets very high. Therefore, we need to urgently decentralise the system and treat waste water locally.
Renewable technology is the future: Raman Mehta
Raman Mehta is an unaffiliated consultant based in New Delhi. He is a climate policy expert and has been working on aspects of climate and development on one hand and renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment on the other. In addition, he has also worked on aspects of climate change vulnerabilities and required responses in sectors such as agriculture, water, urban settlements etc. Raman has also participated in several intercessional and conferences of parties of the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations and has a keen understanding of climate politics both at the national and international levels.
Excerpts from the interview:
Climate change is already happening which can be observed by the sudden changes in the weather. How do you rate India’s strategies for addressing climate change concerns and issues?
Raman Mehta: Well climate change is happening that’s for sure, the recent Jammu & Kashmir floods is a prime example about that. In terms of India’s strategies, India has put in place a National Action Plan which has flowed into State Action Plans. So the planning process is beginning to happen but I still feel the government is yet to fully gear up for the threats from climate change. For example, Jammu & Kashmir has a state action plan but the state was caught by surprise during the floods due to excessive rainfall.
Despite knowing the benefits of renewable technology, it is still not used more coherently. What should be done to boost renewable technology in India?
Raman Mehta: Renewables are the way to go and the future is renewables. The problem lies in the transition phase. The transition problem is primarily: 1) Cost, and 2) Efficacy and efficiency on the other. There are two aspects of the problem. First, renewables are economically more expensive even if one does not include the environmental concerns in to the costing as compared to conventional energy sources. Secondly, the renewable technologies do not have all the answers. For instance, there are certain industrial processes that require high heat applications but renewable technology doesn’t have the solution at this point of time.
However, in the long run for its own energy security, India needs to move towards the renewables and India needs to do that much faster than it is at the present. But there are various impediments including the fact that a transition in the initial phase requires a very high level of effort before it becomes an automatic process. That is the major issue in India at the moment.
The common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) principle has been decided in 1992. Do you think it is fair to follow the principle in the present when countries like India and China are leading the carbon emission list?
Raman Mehta: The common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) principle is a principle which it is still valid in the international context. For example, if one observes the developmental indicators of India with other ‘Annex I’ countries, India is far behind and would at least require 30 years to catch up. Now, the CBDR principle as it was implemented in the negotiations was a binary differentiation of Annex I and Non-Annex I countries with developing countries like India was placed under the Non-Annex I category and therefore having no obligations for any restrictions. The Annex I countries have not lived up to their responsibilities and therefore global emissions have continued to grow partly because of the developed countries inability to cut the required emissions and the fast development of the developing countries is also producing high emissions.
There is a need to replace the binary differentiation to implement the CBDR principle. But there cannot be a complete symmetry between countries like India and China, and EU and the USA. Therefore differentiation is still required and what is more important is that the Annex I countries have to realize that big developing countries like India have a certain development burden that they have to carry and they not just have alleviate poverty but to also provide prosperity to the people. It is only when this kind of enlightened mindset begins to operate in the international negotiations there certainly will be a good outcome from the international environmental negotiations.
India is country with 29 states with varying diversities. There are cold deserts in one part like Lahaul and Spiti, then there are the biological hotspots like the Western Ghats. How should the policy makers address the diversities with regard to climate change?
Raman Mehta: One cornerstone of accounting the diversity of impacts of climate change and the abilities of the communities to withstand the impacts is that one needs to a) empower communities to be able to cope with the impacts of climate change and b) there has to be a big change in the way development decisions have been taken in the country to handle the problems that we are going to have in the future. For instance, agriculture is the sector which is most vulnerable to climate change; hence the planners have to look at climate risks very seriously. The government should encourage the farmers to invest on growing resilient crops like millet as a part of the process to withstand the impacts of climate change.
What are your views on the Madhya Pradesh State Action Plan on Climate Change? How can the state government make implementation of policies more efficient?
Raman Mehta: Madhya Pradesh State Action Plan on Climate Change (MPAPCC) is one of the first plans on climate change to be finalized in India. It is a good beginning for the state. Emphasis has to be on two to three things. The plan needs to have a process whereby it keeps on getting updated as the risks are getting clearer with the passing time. This has to be a continuing process. The implementation of the MPAPCC has to be more clearer and new institutions are required and these institutions have to be empowered with increased human capacity and financial capacity to being able to deliver what is expected from the state action plan.
For more information on the Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle, please check the following links:
- OneWorld Foundation India
Climate change poses a huge risk on women: Aditi Kapoor
Aditi Kapoor is the co-founder of Alternative Futures and Fellow, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD).A post-graduate in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, Aditi Kapoor has over two decades of experience in policy research, advocacy, media and capacity building. She began her career as a full-time journalist with The Times of India (1987-98), and then worked with UN agencies before leading media and climate change work with Oxfam GB (2002-10).
According to you, how is climate change related to gender issues?
Aditi Kapoor: Usually people don’t think there’s anything common between climate change and gender issues. But the fact is, if you look at the impacts of climate change in India, it impacts your agriculture, effects on how disaster prone you are and in both cases women are in the forefront. Natural resources wise, women shoulder more than 70 percent of agricultural tasks and according to the 11th planning commission, most of the work done with livestock and non-timber forest produce is done by women. This implies that when the natural resources are affected by climate change, women would face the most impacts. In terms of disaster, there is a UN study which shows that Women and girls are 14 times more likely to die than men.
When we look at climate change and gender issues, there are three concrete conclusions: a) Women are more affected than men. b) Women are affected first. c) Women have fewer resources to adapt to climate change. People working on women’s issues, should look at climate change and what it does a woman’s livelihood and support system.
India has seen the rise of civil societies in the last decade. How can civil societies contribute in disseminating awareness and knowledge on climate change?
Aditi Kapoor: Civil society is a very loose term. Think tanks, practitioners, lobbyists are all a part of the civil society. I would rather say there is need for the average person to understand much more about climate change. All institutions should try to understand the links that their work has with climate change. If the institution is doing research on WTO or subsidies, they should find out the links their work has with climate change. There is need to mainstream climate change because the links are already there, we just need to find it. I think the learning probably starts with the self and then try to make the people around aware about climate change. Yes civil society has a role to play but at the same time the government, academia has a large role to play in this. There is tendency to push climate change under the carpet, but we should acknowledge the ongoing variablities in the environment and start looking for ways to understand and take some action.
Do you think that National Action Plan on Climate Change has succeeded in addressing gender related issues?
Aditi Kapoor: The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) has in principle recognised that women are more affected then men and they have fewer resources than men. But I don’t think that really constituents a gendered look at climate change. Unfortunately, the State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC) started out without being gender responsive. That is something that we have picked out and worked with the state governments as well as the national governments and they have been very responsive and now you do see some of the state plans do reflecting some of the gender concerns. Even at the central level, the minutes of the expert committee which approves the SAPCCs does say that the gender concerns do need to be integrated into the SAPCCs.
Renewable technology is still an expensive technology. How can it be made more economical and feasible for a country like India?
Aditi Kapoor: Yes, renewable energy is expensive but does that mean fossil fuel is cheap? No. We have been subsidising fossil fuels for decades and we never calculate it. Fossil fuel usage is not a start-up whereas renewable technology is a start-up and there is an increasing number of interest and investment in renewable technology. Based on this fact, renewable technology should get more subsidies.
In Germany and India, car manufacturers get subsidy. If you do the economics, fossil fuels have been getting tremendous amount of subsidies over the years. International Energy Agency in its 2012 report states that fossil fuel was subsidised to the extent of $544 billion whereas renewable energy was subsidised with $100 billion in the same year. There is a need to shift some subsidies to renewable energy and see where that leads to.
- OneWorld Foundation India
Tiger density and occupancy need more attention: Mr Dipankar Ghose
“Madhya Pradesh government is gearing up for protection of tigers not just in the protected areas but also in the reserve forests and the movement corridors.”
Dr. Dipankar Ghose is presently the Director of Species & Landscapes Conservation Programme of WWF-India. Based at the organisation's headquarters in Delhi, he supervises a team of biologists and social scientists for working in ten landscapes across the country who are working to conserve populations of six priority species which includes tigers, elephants, rhinos, red pandas, snow leopards and Nilgiri tahrs and their habitats.
Recently, the Indo-Nepal trans-boundary tiger report was released. In this interview, Mr Ghose talks about the report and other important wildlife issues.
Here are the excerpts from the interview
How do you think neighbouring countries can help in the protection of bio-diversity?
Dipankar Ghose: Nepal and Bhutan are extremely important from eastern Himalayan perspective. Bangladesh is really important in terms of mangroves and Sundarban's perspective. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has already started monitoring trans-boundary tigers and has done it for Bhutan and Nepal. In terms of the importance of neighbouring countries, it is to be seen whether the management regime of the connected habitats are same and at par with the management regime on the Indian side. Otherwise, the animals from Indian side will move on to other parts of the boundary and might get killed. So, it is important to India that the neighbouring areas serving as connected landscapes are also protected for posterity.
What are the highlights of the trans-boundary tiger survey between India and Nepal?
Dipankar Ghose: The report is about the common number of tigers in both the countries. For tigers, it’s not India or Nepal, but their habitat. The report shows that animals are moving back and forth and there is also the danger of fragmentation.
Such joint reports help in identifying the corridors which can be protected for animal’s safety. The report highlights the dangers of fragmenting of corridors due to construction of roads and other infrastructures. The very fact that the tigers are moving through the corridors is a very positive feedback from the report.
How can the trans-boundary tiger survey between India and Nepal help in better conservation efforts?
Dipankar Ghose: This kind of a survey is very important because if one looks at the population recruitment and dispersal of tigers, one can observe what is happening in terms of the trans-boundary movement of the animals. It looks at the corridors and increases protection in all these corridors so that the tigers are not only protected in the protected areas but also when they move out to the reserve forests where adequate protection is available.
According to 2011 report, Karnataka has surpassed Madhya Pradesh in terms of the tiger population. What should Madhya Pradesh do to regain its ‘No.1’ position?
Dipankar Ghose: One should not look at the population of the tigers, state wise, as usually they are observed landscape wise. In terms of Madhya Pradesh, the monitoring that WWF has done in the corridors, tangle movement in the Satpura Maikal corridor and the Kanha-Achanakmar corridor to some extent has been observed and WWF has been doing some monitoring in the Satpuda reserve as well.
So, Madhya Pradesh government is gearing up for protection of tigers not just in the protected areas but also in the reserve forests and the movement corridors. It is extremely important to maintain the connectivity between the source sites on which the government is working. WWF is also in touch with the senior officials of the forest department. If, the corridors and the connectivity is restored or secured then Madhya Pradesh will surely get better tiger numbers or at least better tiger movement.
How do you think these reports are going to contribute in the policy making process?
Dipankar Ghose: It is pertinent not to look at the numbers but look at the density and the occupancy. If one looks at the reports between 2005-6 and 2010, in those 4 years, the occupancy has reduced by more than 10% although the tiger numbers went up from 1411 to 1706.
So, it is very important to not lose more tiger occupied areas because presently there is only 4 % of protected area, but besides the protected area there are some movement corridor and it is very important that these corridors are well protected.
- OneWorld Foundation India
Sustainable development holds the key: Elizabeth Gogoi
Elizabeth Gogoi joined the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) in 2011 and is currently the India Country Programme Manager, based in LEAD India in New Delhi.
Prior to CDKN, Elizabeth worked on climate change and development public policy, including in the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London, as a researcher in the European Parliament and a fellow in the US Senate.
In addition, she has also worked on community projects in Tanzania and South Africa. Elizabeth has a Master’s degree in international political economy from London School of Economics (LSE) and an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Manchester.
How do you relate climate change with the increasing disasters like floods, landslides in one part of the country and drought like situations in other parts of the same country?
Elizabeth Gogoi: The IPCC’s latest 5th Assessment Report shows that global warming has occurred, at a country scale, across most of South Asia over the 20th century and into the 2000s. Across large parts of the region, heat waves are increasing. Rainfall trends are more variable, but there have been more extreme rainfall events across the region. The world’s leading scientists have stated in this report that with 95% certainty, these observed climatic changes is the result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the atmosphere due to human activities.
The increased number and erratic nature of extreme weather events causing floods, landslides, heatwaves and droughts etc. across the country are all part of this trend. This has a negative impact on lives and livehoods. For example, in 2008, the embankments of the Kosi River, a tributary of the Ganges, broke, displacing over 60,000 people in Nepal and 3.5 million in India, and disrupting transport and power across large areas.
But, there are also widespread non-climatic reasons for the transformation of an extreme weather event into a ‘disaster’ which causes tragic loss of life and property.
The Government of India’s 4x4 Impact Assessment Report tells us that within India climate change will be felt differently. For example, water yields are expected to increase in the Himalayas by 2030, but be variable in Coastal region, and decrease in some places. How prepared we are for these risks and how much our economy and development is adapted to the changing climate, will depend on the extent to which it harms lives and livelihoods.
What should be India’s policies for a sustainable future when it already is in pursuit of development?
Elizabeth Gogoi: India has already declared its commitment to sustainable development. The 12th Five Year Plan has as its subtitle “faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth”’ and there are repeated references to the need to protect the environment, promote renewable energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and the related missions provide the specific detail of how India should move towards climate compatible development. More recently, the Government’s announcement of investing in smart cities, renewable energy and protecting the Ganga all indicate the commitment of the Government. However, the challenge is to translate these priorities and programmes into actual action on the ground.
The priority is to reduce the large numbers of people still living in poverty in India, and growth and development are essential to achieve this. However, this is not contradictory to addressing climate change. In fact, addressing the risks of climate change including natural disasters such as floods and heatwaves are necessary in order to tackle poverty. For example, A disaster micro insurance scheme in some districts in Odisha is helping to protect those whose homes and livelihoods were affected by natural disasters from falling back into poverty.
Efforts to grow the economy and tackle poverty can also produce co-benefits for reducing the amount of dangerous GHG emissions India puts into the atmosphere. As Navroz Dubash and colleagues state in their recent paper: “A systematic approach is required to consciously identify areas where development goals and climate mitigation objectives not only align but also reinforce each other, in other words, co-benefits.” For example, a shift from private vehicles to public and non-motorized forms of transports in our cities would improve access to transport for the poorest (due to it being cheaper), improve their health indicators (due to pollution levels reducing) and according to the National Planning Commission save approximately 24 million tons of CO2 by 2020.
Madhya Pradesh has been declared as being the state with the largest forest cover of 77,522 sq km according to India State of Forest Report 2013. What steps should Madhya Pradesh take to ensure that it increases with respect to the coal mining illegally happening all over the state?
Elizabeth Gogoi: The Government of Madhya Pradesh has already outlined what steps it needs to take to protect forest cover in their SAPCC. An assessment of the impact of climate change on forest ecosystems in Madhya Pradesh indicates that, in the short-term, about 23% of the State’s forested area could be affected; over the longer term, nearly 50% could be impacted. The changing climate in Madhya Pradesh is likely to affect the composition and distribution of its forests. This could take a heavy toll on forest biodiversity and the availability of forest resources, such as fuelwood, fodder and non-timber forest products, all of which are critically important to the livelihoods of local communities. In addition, climate change may lead to increased migration and conflicts between forest dwellers and wild animals over suitable habitats, as the animals search for water and more favorable environments.
The SAPCC commits to various actions to protect forest cover, which are related to increasing the capacity of forest managers, officers and workers, as well as the Joint Forestry Management Committees which promote people’s participation. Improving governance of forests also involves tackling illegal mining. However, this also requires a high-level political solution and commitment to improve monitoring and accountability of such activities.
Madhya Pradesh has come out with a State Action Plan for Climate Change along with 7 other states. According to you, how effective are the State Action Plans?
Elizabeth Gogoi: The nation-wide effort to develop SAPCCs was the largest exercise in sub-national climate change planning anywhere in the world. There is lot for other countries to learn from the SAPCCs.
Madhya Pradesh has shown true leadership in the design of the SAPCC and now the implementation. The Government has facilitated a cross-sectoral and participatory process for identifying the priority actions in the SAPCC. It is now preparing for implementation by developing the knowledge centre and building capacity across the departments on climate change.
The SAPCC is important in focusing minds on what climate change actions are needed, and putting together all the different activities each department will need to take in one document. It also sets the overall vision and strategy for the State on tackling climate change. However, even more important is to mainstream it within existing department annual plans and national and state development programmes. This requires a number of next steps which are already happening in Madhya Pradesh, such as prioritising which actions need to be taken now, costing these, and identifying who is responsible for implementation and how.
- OneWorld Foundation India
Climate Change reporting is increasing in India: Mr S Gopikrishna Warrier
S. Gopikrishna Warrier is the regional environment manager for Panos South Asia. He works with the media in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to enhance journalists’ understanding on climate change and biodiversity. He is also the secretary to the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (FEJI). His specialisation is in environment journalism and communication, and is a trainer and mentor for environment journalists. He has been working in this area of specialisation since 1987.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Can you tell us about climate change communication in India - at present and in the past?
S. Gopikrishna Warrier: Climate change communication in India, especially through the media, almost follows the same pattern as with the rest of the world. There is much reporting on climate change before, during and immediately after the annual conference of parties (CoPs) to the Climate Change Convention. This year, since the United Nations Secretary General called for a Climate Summit on 23 September, there was reporting on climate change in the recent weeks. There was also reporting during the release of the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
It is not as if there is no climate change reporting in the other periods. There are many local environmental stories that appear in the media. These do not always connect to the climate change, even though they may have implications. This is where improving the understanding of the journalists can help.
In the recent years, especially since the Copenhagen CoP in December 2009, there has been an increased reporting in the media on climate change, than it was before. The younger journalists also have greater access to information on the internet and professional trainings on climate change.
The impacts of climate change can be seen in agriculture, health, biodiversity etc. According to you, what are the pressing concerns for India?
S. Gopikrishna Warrier: Considering the size of the country and the fact that it contains almost all ecosystems, India is exposed to most of the problems that are associated with climate change. The Himalayas are vulnerable to melting glaciers. The glacial melts form lakes and when the natural dam holding the water breaks, there can be glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), as was the reason for the Uttarakhand floods of June 2013.
The plains in the country are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, such as increased incidence of drought and floods, and extreme temperatures in summer and winter.
However, what is of greatest importance is the impact of changing temperatures on the food production in the country. If the growing conditions were to change in the Gangetic belt, Punjab and Haryana, coastal Andhra Pradesh and the Cauvery delta, there could be serious adverse impact on food production in the country. This is not to say that food production would not be affected in other parts of the country. When the temperature and monsoon patterns change, it will affect food production across the country.
What should be done to address the issues in the policy-making level and how can a common man contribute?
S. Gopikrishna Warrier: To be able to deal with climate change, the most important precondition is to understand how the climate could change and how it would affect a particular location. On a global or regional scale, the scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) give a picture of where the world and India are heading. These indicate that the average temperature will increase above 2 degrees C by 2100 and the sea level will rise by at least half a metre.
However, despite the broader picture being available, the picture focusing on smaller areas, like each of the states and cities is not very clear. Specific action can be initiated only once these nuanced pictures are available.
For the citizen, the only way to contribute towards the mitigation of climate change is to reduce his/her carbon footprint, which is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through his or her actions. In real terms, that would mean reducing energy use, using public transport whenever possible and saving on the use of natural resources.
Do you think that India should look beyond the ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’ principle and take the lead in developing a low carbon economy?
S. Gopikrishna Warrier: As a principle, the concept of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) is the one that gives equity to developing countries when it comes to climate change. This is a guiding principle in the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change that was developed during the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. Since climate change is caused not only by the present day but also past emissions, the principle of CBDR ensured that the developing countries did not have emission reduction targets in the first reporting phase of the Kyoto Protocol (up to 2008-2012).
Even without agreeing to emission reduction targets, India should work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for climate change will affect the country adversely. India has committed to reduce the emission intensity (amount of GHG emitted per rupee of the GDP) of the economy by 20-25 per cent of the 2005 level by 2020.
How can the issue of climate change induced migration be addressed?
S. Gopikrishna Warrier: If the adverse impacts of climate change make it impossible for people to live in their lands, then climate change migration will happen. The only answer is to promote mitigation at the national, regional and global level, and help communities to adapt at the local level. If communities are enabled to deal with present-day climate vagaries, then the chances are they will be able to deal with climate change in the medium- and long-term
- OneWorld Foundation India
Need to free our agriculture from chemical fertilizers and pesticides: Mr Devinder Sharma
Policy Analyst Devinder Sharma in an interview to OneWorld South Asia has urged the NDA government for providing assured monthly income to the Indian farmers.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How can better incomes be ensured for Indian farmers?
Devinder Sharma: The time for price policy is now over. It is therefore an appropriate time to move to Income Policy. The income that a farmer earns should be de-linked from the price that his crops fetch in the market. The burden of providing cheap food to 1.25 billion people should not be only on the shoulders of farmers. The society too must share the burden.
There is an immediate need to strengthen the network of mandis across the country where farmers are provided with a platform to sell their produce. Leaving it to markets will result in distress sale.
To illustrate, let me take the example of rice farmers in Punjab and Bihar. In Punjab, which has a huge network of mandis linked with roads, farmers bring the produce to these mandis. Last harvest, Punjab farmers got an MSP of Rs 1310 per quintal for paddy. In Bihar, where APMC Act does not operate, farmers resorted to distress sale with prices not exceeding Rs 900 per quintal.
The Commission for Costs and Prices (CACP) is now pressurising Punjab Govt to dismantle the mandis and let markets operate, which means, Punjab farmers will soon go the Bihar way.
Madhya Pradesh is moving from being a state of medium rainfall to being a semi arid state. What impact would it would have on the country’s food security since the state is the second largest producer of wheat?
Devinder Sharma: I see no reason why Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh should be cultivating mentha crops, which requires 1.25 lakh litres of water to produce 1 kg of mentha oil. Similarly, I see no reason why Rajasthan, a semi-arid region, should be cultivating water guzzling sugarcane, cotton and rice crops.
Why can't the cropping pattern in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan shift to pulses, oilseeds like mustard and millets? Why can't the government provide special incentives by way of a higher price for these crops so that farmers can willingly shift to more sustainable cropping patterns?
What kind of practices need to be improved so that agriculture’s impact on climate change is reduced?
Devinder Sharma: Climate change is certainly going to affect agriculture. But instead of looking at only strategies to lessen the impact on farmers, the focus should also be on limiting the greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices.
Considering that agriculture share in greenhouse gas emissions is about 25 per cent, the thrust must shift to reducing the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in farming. Following the Andhra Pradesh model of non-pesticides management, the cropping pattern, too, needs a revision.
In the dryland regions of the country, for instance, hybrid crops which require almost twice the amount of water than normal crop varieties, are grown.
Common sense tells us that in rainfed regions, which occupy 65 per cent of the cultivable area, crops requiring less water should be grown. But it is just the opposite in reality thereby accentuating the water crisis.
What should be the NDA government’s agenda on agriculture?
Devinder Sharma: Indian agriculture is faced with a crisis of sustainability and economic viability. The spate of farmer suicides and the willingness of farmers to quit agriculture if given a choice is a stark reminder of the grave crisis.
The present government should focus on providing a guaranteed assured monthly income to farmers. According to the Arjun Sengupta Committee report, the average monthly income of a farm family is just Rs 2,115. This includes Rs 900 from non-farm activities. About 60 per cent farmers are dependent on MNREGA activities to survive, and an estimated 60 per cent farmers go to bed hungry.
The government should also set up a National Farmers Income Commission which should have the mandate to compute the monthly income of a farm family depending upon his production and the geographical location of the farm.
Moreover, the lack of storage facilities for food grain is appalling. It was in 1979 that under the Save Food Campaign, the government had promised to set up grain silos at 50 places in the country. This should become an agenda with top priority for the government.
The NDA Government should launch a nation-wide campaign to shift farming to non-pesticides management techniques. In Andhra Pradesh, no chemical pesticides are used in 35 lakh acres. Farmers have even stopped using chemical fertilisers in some 20 lakh hectares. These practices led to reduced health expenses resulting in a surge in farm incomes by 45%.
- OneWorld Foundation India
Enforcement of environmental laws is very crucial: Mr MC Mehta
A lawyer by profession and a committed environmentalist by choice, MC Mehta has made the fight to protect India's environment his unending mission. He has pioneered legal activism for environmental protection and is proof that one man can make a difference. He has been conferred the Governor's Gold Medal, the Goldman Environmental Prize, and has been considered on alternative Noble Prize in USA and Europe, the UN's Global 500 Award for 1993 and above all the Magsaysay Award for 1997.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
India has a well-defined legal environmental framework, and despite that our environment is depleting. How do we ensure that our natural resources remain protected?
MC Mehta: India has many laws pertaining to the environment. But unfortunately, most of the laws are still on paper. Their enforcement is really less and that's why the environment is degrading. We have polluted our lakes, rivers and even groundwater. Despite having many laws, very little has been done by the governments and pollution control boards for the enforcement of those laws. The need of the hour is the awareness of the environmental laws among general public.
The state of Madhya Pradesh has been putting a lot of effort to fight climate change. How can public participation help the government in such a cause?
MC Mehta: The MP government has to do more in creating awareness and in controlling pollution at source. Be it MP or any other state, climate change is geographically specific. There has to be proper studies carried out regarding the environment related issues. The results should be made public so that the people of the state also know what exactly the problem is. There has to be knowledge dissemination among the public. You see, we cannot expect that a third party will come to solve these problems but it is we who will have to deal with such issues. The Madhya Pradesh state government should focus on the youth of the state by introducing environment related curriculum and programmes in schools and colleges to ensure that the future generations are well aware of climate change.
Will a changing climate impact the rich cultural heritage of India also?
MC Mehta: Look at the Taj Mahal and the change in its colour due to pollution. Off course, it already is having an impact and is going to have some heavy impact on the rich cultural heritage of India. The central and the state governments should look into that otherwise we will be losing precious historical things. The ministry of cultural affairs should have a special cell to monitor the monuments and other cultural heritage sites regarding the changes that are happening there. The information should be made public so that people know what is going on and what steps can be taken to prevent such impacts.
You seem to be working across the South Asian region on environmental matters. Tell us where does India stand in its work on climate change issues as compared to the other South Asian countries?
MC Mehta: India can become a leader and play a major role as far as climate change is concerned since India has a lot of influence and bring other South Asian countries together. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal will undergo changes due to the climatic variations in India and the same thing other way around. Climate change is not going to spare our neighbours and nor it is going to spare us. In these times, the differences should be forgotten and these countries should come together to work on this issue.
- OneWorld Foundation India