2015 Paris climate Conference
All that you need to know about the Paris Climate talks
To arrest the inexorable increase in the earth’s temperature due to global warming, the United Nations has organized meeting of all the countries. It is being held in Paris. It is known as The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, in short.
What does COP 21 stand for? .. It is the Conference of Interested Parties -21. The number 21 denotes the fact that 20 such meetings have been held earlier. The Paris meeting is the 21st annual session.
Who are the interested Parties? .. Countries who were signatories of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are known as the parties.
What is United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)….. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty aimed at combating climate change caused by global warming. It sought to accomplish this by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a scientifically acceptable level. The treaty was negotiated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. It became effective roughly two years later – from March 1994.
The framework set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries. Its other inadequacy was that it contained no enforcement mechanisms.
What is Kyoto Protocol? … The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in the Japanese city of Kyoto in December 1997. It is an international treaty that gave a further lease of life, and took forward the spirit generated by the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Protocol commits State Parties (countries) to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, because it was accepted that
(a) global warming exists and
(b) man-made CO2 emissions have caused it.
The Kyoto Protocol became effective from February 2005. Nearly 192 Parties (Countries) have adopted this Protocol.
The Protocol has a very important underlying principle. As per the consensus, cutting greenhouse emission and conserving the climate system is the responsibility of all the countries, although it varies greatly from one country to another. It acknowledges the fact that industrially developed nations have contributed greatly to the build-up of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the years in which they went on adding one factory to another to generate wealth. Poorer and less industrialized nations have contributed much less to the build-up of the obnoxious gases. Hence, the burden of the clean-up responsibility has to be determined on a differential basis.
What is the present issue? .. The earth’s temperature is rising. We are almost about to touch 1.5 degrees Celsius. If unchecked, it may creep to 2 degree Celsius. That would mean disaster of cataclysmic proportions. This slide towards doom would be irreversible, for all practical purposes. Somehow, this rise has to retarded, arrested and, if possible reversed.
Why and how the problem got so worse? … The fast pace of growth of the industrialized nations, unfortunately, contributed to the present day crisis. These countries burnt fossil fuels (mostly coal) with no restraint or introspection. This resulted in the build-up of green-house gases (Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrous Oxide etc.) in the earth’s atmosphere leading to gradual rise in earth’s temperature, also known as global warming.
Why the problem appears so daunting? .. Corrective actions to arrest and subsequently reduce global warming are needed urgently, but are proving to be very difficult to adopt and implement because of the following reasons.
Already, 75% of the maximum permissible build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been used up by the industrialized nations. So, the world has gust a quarter of the space within which, it has to limit and hold its fresh green house gas emission.
In the last few decades, China has sharply increased its coal-based power generation, emerging as the top ‘polluter’ of the world. The United States is in the second position. India is the third largest polluter of the earth’s atmosphere today. China, and especially India are finding it hard to limit their emissions. India has a huge need of electricity to accelerate its economic growth. There is no way India can meet its burgeoning demand for electrical energy other than by burning coal, so abundantly available in the country.
Techno-commercially, other sources of power like nuclear, solar, wind etc. are all bedeviled by one constraint or another. So, top polluting countries like China and India find it very difficult to switch over to other non-coal sources of power.
Without collective and whole-hearted effort, green house gas generation can not be curtailed, but the countries find it hard to reach a consensus as they are in different stages of economic and industrial growth. America, Britain, Japan, the EU countries are very rich and industrially advanced where as countries like India, China are far behind. This leads to a conflict of interest each time discussions are held on charting a global road map for retarding green house gas build-up.
How exactly the earth’s temperature may rise? … It is useful to take a stock of how the average temperature of earth has risen in the last decades and the projections for the future.
During the 50 years period between 1850 to 1900 AD earth’s average temperature was 13.7 degree Celsius. Since then, it has been rising continuously thanks to the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. By the end of 2015, the increase may just exceed one degree Celsius. By 2100 AD, even if all 193 nations earnestly agree to cut emissions as stipulated in the COP 21 agreement, the earth’s average temperature rise will touch 2.7 degree Celsius. By 2060, the rise in average temperature might reach 4.5 degree Celsius. This would spell doom for all forms of life on earth.
What the global community wants India to do? … Although India’s per capita consumption of coal is almost one fifth of America’s, and one third of that of the OECD countries, India (along with China) has come under severe pressure from the global community to limit its thermal power generation. The reason is obvious. India’s thermal power generation has gone up sharply and would soar to dangerous levels as it accelerates its pace of economic growth in the coming years. How can India do it? There is no easy answer.
What is INDC? …. It means Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. To bring the intransigent nations like India, China and so many others on board, it was decided to ask the individual nations to voluntarily give an action plan that would list their calibrated road map for limiting emissions in the coming thirty years. Most nations, including India, have submitted their INDCs so far. Some have mentioned caveats such as availability of international monetary assistance to effect switch to green sources of energy.
What does the Indian INDC promise? … 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. This implies that India’s utilization of energy derived from fossil fuel to propel its GDP growth must reduce dramatically in the coming years. As calculated as a percentage of its GDP, the decrease must be at least 33 to 35% by the year 2030.
By any account, this is an uphill task for India whose success in tapping green sources of energy is far from credible. India needs to mobilize huge amount of funds to reorient its energy generation and utilization to reach this target.
What can India do now? ….