THE layman knew that there was this danger of global warming looming ahead. The experts told him so. But he also knew that policymakers were aware of it and were taking the necessary steps to stop the phenomenon in its tracks.
But in the last few months, the rampages of global warming in the form of extreme weather events have hit him in the face. It is a real and active danger which is present here and now and has to be countered. In these months, extreme weather has killed thousands and millions have been displaced.
Bangladesh has seen disastrous flooding, China, too, most recently; brutal heatwaves have hit most of South Asia; prolonged drought has brought East Africa close to famine; and Europe and the US have had to douse forest fires even as temperatures have risen to historic highs. In India, the heatwave, which made maximum temperatures hit 50°C, has done serious damage to the standing crops and the late arrival of the monsoon has delayed kharif sowing.
What has made many Indians sit up is the economic toll that the extreme weather events will likely take. Not only will the post-Covid recovery be adversely affected (a succession of financial research firms have already lowered their projection of growth in the current year), damage is likely to be caused where the cost will be high and hit those who are least able to bear the loss of income.
Mumbai, India’s financial capital, now faces the active risk of being ‘swallowed up’ by the sea, along with other cities like New York, Indonesian capital Jakarta, Bangkok (Thailand) and Dhaka (Bangladesh).
When financial and national capitals are hit, the elite who live there at least have the resources to take care of the adverse conditions and extreme developments. But this is not the case with the poor in rural areas whose incomes are hit even as they have no resources to fall back upon. Most iniquitously, as low polluters, they have played no role in creating the crisis.
Small farmers in rain-fed areas have been driven close to starvation as heatwaves and delayed monsoon have taken their toll by withering standing crops and delaying sowing. The ultimate inequity is that it is the rural women who have been hit the hardest. They are the ones who not only work in the farms even as they run households, but they also mind the cattle whose fodder has dried up in the heatwave.
It is not as if the world has been sitting idle. Global leaders, meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow late last year, agreed on a series of actions to lower the emissions, increase the resilience and provide the much-needed finance.
First was to define the goal of adaptation to help address the climate impacts already happening across the world. Countries would also get enhanced technical support to strengthen resilience.
Second, on the most critical issue of finance, the governments agreed on the need for a much greater support for the developing countries. The attending parties agreed that not only did the vulnerable need much more finance for adaptation, but also its flow should be predictable. There was acknowledgement that the pledge of $100 billion a year to the developing countries made at the earlier Paris conference had not been fulfilled. There was an agreement on defining new goals on finance as soon as possible.
Third, on the key issue of bringing down emissions, there was a collective agreement by the governments to look for ways to closing the current gap between promise and delivery on the emissions. This was seen as a significant area of focus in order for the planet to move forward.
Fourth, COP26 was able to finalise guidelines to fully implement the Paris accord. Critically, a compromise was reached so as to bring into place a functioning carbon market which would ensure a level playing field for all.
Additionally, negotiations were finalised on the Enhanced Transparency Framework which would raise the trust level of the countries in connection with what they claimed and said.
While the agreements reached were substantial in themselves, the UN climate chief’s position was that this was not enough to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C from the pre-industrial revolution levels. So, there was a need for the countries to keep collaborating for the world to be on track to achieving this goal.
What can the countries do now? They have to get together to make fresh commitments which go beyond what they had made during COP26 and, what is equally important, set out goals and ways of measuring progress in a way which lends credibility to the whole exercise.
At COP26, Prime Minister Modi pledged to cut India’s total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030, reduce the carbon intensity of the nation’s economy by 45 per cent by the end of the decade and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. Net-zero means not adding to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Importantly, India missed a key goal of the summit to achieve net-zero status by 2060. In contrast, China has announced that it will stick to the 2060 target. The US and the EU will seek to achieve this target by 2050.
India stands in a peculiar position. It is the fourth largest polluter (emitter of carbon dioxide) in the world after China, the US and the EU. But in terms of per capita emission, it is way behind the other major economies. In 2019, its per capita CO2 emission stood at 1.9 tonnes compared to 15.5 tonnes for the US and 12.5 tonnes for Russia.
India’s argument has been that it is seeking to raise income levels rapidly in order to remove poverty by reaching a higher level of development. But a rapid growth invariably leads to a rapid rise in emissions. Additionally, India has had no role in creating the excessive load of greenhouse gases that the planet is bearing.
But what the recent experience has made strikingly clear is that the time has come for all to give up arguing and start acting in far greater earnest and concert. The need of the hour is to quickly arrange a conference of the major producers of greenhouse gases, where they promise higher and stiffer goals to reduce emission than was done at COP26. They will, thereby, be doing no more than saving themselves and planet earth.
Most Read In 24 Hours
Don't MissView All
Atiq Ahmad, 2 others get life sentence in Umesh Pal kidnapping case
7 others, including Ahmed's brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf...
Rahul Gandhi to abide by deadline on vacating official residence
Writes to Mohit Rajan, Deputy Secretary in the MS Branch of ...
Police close to arresting Amritpal, Punjab Advocate-General tells high court
Amritpal's counsel on the other hand contended that he was i...
Govt extends deadline for linking PAN with Aadhaar to June 30
The earlier date for this was March 31
Couple from Punjab's Goraya shot dead in Philippines
Sukhwinder Singh ran a finance business in Manila for the pa...