CLIMATE CHANGE

INTRODUCTION

  • Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
  • ‘Climate change’ represents a change in the long-term weather patterns.
  • Humans are creating climate change by burning large amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), deforestation (when forests are cut down or burned, they can no longer store carbon, and the carbon is released to the atmosphere).

 

GREENHOUSE EFFECT AND GLOBAL WARMING

  • The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon that blankets the earth lower atmosphere and warms it, maintaining the temperature suitable for living things to survive.

 

 

  • Water vapor and green house gases warm the Earth.
  • A greenhouse/ glasshouse is a building made of glass chambers in which plants are grown in cold countries or in cold climate areas.
  • There is a continued increase in temperature in green house even when the outside temperature remained low.
  • It protects plants from frost.

A) Importance of Natural Greenhouse Effect

  • Life on the earth has been possible because of this natural greenhouse effect which is due to water vapour and small particles of water present in the atmosphere.
  • Together, these produce more than 95 percent of total greenhouse warming.
  • Average global temperatures are maintained at about 15°C due to natural greenhouse effect.
  • Without this phenomenon, average global temperatures might have been around –17°C and at such low temperature life would not be able to exist.

 

GREENHOUSE GASES (GHGS)

  • Greenhouse gases means those gaseous constituents ofthe atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, thatabsorbs and re-emit infrared radiation.

A) Water vapour

  • Water vapour is the biggest overall contributor to thegreenhouse effect and humans are not directly responsiblefor emitting this gas in quantities sufficient to change itsconcentration in the atmosphere.
  • However, CO2 and othergreenhouse gases is increasing the amount of water vapourin the air by boosting the rate of evaporation.
  • One unique feature about this greenhouse gas is that it absorbs both incoming (a part of incoming) and outgoing solar radiation.

B) Carbon dioxide

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gasemitted through human activities.
  • Carbon dioxideis naturally present in the atmosphere as part of theEarth’s carbon cycle (the natural circulation of carbonamong the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, andanimals).
  • Human activities are altering the carbon cycle both byadding more CO2 to the atmosphere and by reducingthe natural sinks, like deforestation, to remove CO2from the atmosphere.

Sources

  • The combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline anddiesel used for transportation.
  • Many industrial processes emit CO2 through fossil fuelcombustion.

C) Methane

  • Methane (CH4) is emitted by natural sources such aswetlands, as well as human activities such as leakagefrom natural gas systems and the raising of livestock.

Sources

  • Natural sources:
  • Wetlands are the largest source, emitting CH4 from bacteriathat decompose organic materials in the absenceof oxygen.
  • Smaller sources include termites, oceans, sediments,volcanoes, and wildfires.
  • Human induced:
  • Agriculture: Domestic livestock such as cattle, buffalo,sheep, goats, and camels produce large amounts of CH4as part of their normal digestive process. Also, when animals’ manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, CH4 is produced.
  • Industry: Methane is the primary component of natural gas. Some amount of CH4 is emitted to the atmosphere during the production, processing, storage, transmission,and distribution of crude oil & natural gas.
  • Waste from Homes and Businesses: Methane is generated in landfills as waste decomposes and from the treatment of wastewater.

D) Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is naturally present in the atmosphereas part of the Earth’s nitrogen cycle.
  • However, human activities such as agriculture, fossilfuel combustion, wastewater management, and industrialprocesses are increasing the amount of N2O in theatmosphere.

Sources

  • Human induced:
  1. Agriculture
  • Nitrous oxide is emitted when people addnitrogen to the soil through the use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Nitrous oxide is also emitted during the breakdownof nitrogen in livestock manure and urine, which contributedto 6% of N2O emissions in 2010.
  1. Transportation
  • Nitrous oxide is emitted when transportationfuels are burned.
  1. Industry
  • Nitrous oxide is generated as a byproduct duringthe production of nitric acid.

Removal

  • Nitrous oxide is removed from the atmospherewhen it is absorbed by certain types of bacteriaor destroyed by ultraviolet radiation or chemical reactions.

E) Fluorinated gases

  • They are emitted through a variety of industrial processessuch as aluminum and semiconductor manufacturing& Substitution for Ozone-DepletingSubstances.
  • Many fluorinated gases have very high global warmingpotentials (GWPs) relative to other greenhouse gases.
  • Fluorinated gases are removed from the atmosphereonly when they are destroyed by sunlight in the farupper atmosphere. In general, fluorinated gases are themost potent and longest lasting type of greenhousegases emitted by human activities.
  • There are three main categories of fluorinated gases—
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and
  • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

Hydrofluorocarbons

  • Hydrofluorocarbons are used as refrigerants, aerosolpropellants, solvents, and fire retardants. These chemicalswere developed as a replacement for chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)because they do not deplete the stratospheric ozonelayer.
  • Unfortunately, HFCs are potent greenhouse gases withlong atmospheric lifetimes and high GWPs, and they arereleased into the atmosphere through leaks, servicing and disposal of equipment in which they are used.

Perfluorocarbons

  • Perfluorocarbons are compounds produced as a byproductof various industrial processes associated withaluminum production and the manufacturing of semiconductors.
  • Like HFCs, PFCs generally have long atmospheric lifetimesand high GWPs.

Sulfur hexafluoride

  • Sulfur hexafluoride is used in magnesium processingand semiconductor manufacturing, as well as a tracergas for leak detection.
  • Sulfur hexafluoride is used in electrical transmissionequipment, including circuit breakers.

F) Black Carbon or Soot

  • Black carbon (BC) is a solid particle or aerosol, (thoughnot a gas) contributes to warming of the atmosphere.
  • Black carbon, commonly known as soot, is a form ofparticulate air pollutant, produced from incompletecombustion.

Sources

  • biomass burning,
  • cooking with solid fuels, and
  • diesel exhaust,etc.

What does BC do?

  • Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing heat in theatmosphere and by reducing albedo, (the ability to reflectsunlight) when deposited on snow and ice.
  • BC is the strongest absorber of sunlight and heats theair directly. In addition, it darkens snow packs and glaciersthrough deposition and leads to melting of ice andsnow.
  • Regionally, BC disrupts cloudiness and monsoon rainfalland accelerates melting of mountain glaciers
  • Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only severaldays to weeks.

G) Brown Carbon

  • Brown carbon is a ubiquitous and unidentified component of organic aerosol.

Possible Sources of Brown Carbon are:

  • Biomass burning (possibly domestic wood burning) isshown to be a major source of brown carbon
  • smoke from agricultural fires may be an additionalsource.
  • “Brown carbon” is generally referred for greenhousegases and “black carbon” for particles resulting fromimpure combustion, such as soot and dust.

H) Ozone

  • Ozone is another important greenhouse gas. But it is in very small proportions at the surface.
  • Most of it is confined to the stratospherewhere it absorbs the harmful UV radiation.
  • At ground level, pollutants like NOreact with volatile organic compoundsin the presence of sunlight to produce ozone (tropospheric ozone).

I) Global Warming Potential (GWP) & Lifetime of Green House Gases

 

 

 

GLOBAL WARMING – IMPACTS

A) Melting of Ice Caps

  • Melting of the ice caps and glaciers will lead to rise in sea level.
  • Thermal expansion also contributes to sea level rise.
  • Fertile agricultural lands on the coast will be submerged and saline water intrusions will degrade the neighbouring land. Ground water in such regions will become useless.
  • Populous cities lying on the coasts will be submerged under the sea.
  • Flooding in Himalayas and Ganga plains in wet season and drought in dry season will severely affect the country.
  • As a result of thawing of snow, the amount of arable land in high-latitude region is likely to increaseby reduction of the amount of frozen lands.
  • At the same time arable land along the coast lines are bound to be reducedas a result of rising sea level and saline water inundations.

B) Extreme Climatic Events

  • Increased likelihood of extreme events such as heat wave, flooding, hurricanes, etc. will offset all the economic advancements made.
  • Changes in rainfall patterns (E.g. 2015 Chennai floods, 2018 Kerala floods) will severely impact agriculture.

C) Environmental Degradation

  • Reduced hydroelectric power generation due to abnormal behaviour of glaciers will further increase dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Widespread vanishing of animal populations due to habitat loss will add more species to the ‘threatened’ and ‘extinct’ list.

D) Rising Health Related Issues

  • Spread of diseases (like malaria, etc.) in tropics will put more pressure on the health care sector.
  • It is anticipated that there will be an increase in the number of deaths due to greater frequency and severity of heat waves and other extreme weather events.
  • Lack of freshwater during droughts and contamination of freshwater supplies during floods compromise hygiene, thus increasing rates diseases like cholera, diarrhoea etc.

E) Biodiversity Loss

  • Loss of Planktondue to warming of seas will adversely affects marine food chain.
  • Bleaching of Coral Reefs(rain forests of the ocean) will cause great loss of marine biodiversity.
  • Rising temperature would increase fertilizer requirement for the same production targets and result in higher GHG emissions, ammonia volatilizationand cost of crop production.
  • Rising temperatures will further affect the physical, chemical and biological properties of fresh water lakes and rivers, with adverse impacts on many individual fresh water species.

F) No Food Security

  • Climate Change affects crops by impacting irrigation, insolation as well as the prevalence of pests.
  • Increased frequencies of droughts, floods, storms and cyclones are likely to increase agricultural production variability.
  • Moderate warming (increase of 1 to 3°C in mean temperature) is expected to benefit crop yields in temperate regions, while in lower latitudes the crops will take a hit.
  • However, the natural calamities due to global warming can offset the benefits in temperature regions.
  • In coastal areas, sea level rise will exacerbate water resource constraints due to increased salinization of groundwater supplies.

G) Deterioration of Carbon sinks

  • High latitude forests store more carbon than tropical rainforests.
  • One third of the world’s soil-bound carbon is in taiga and tundra areas.
  • When the permafrost melts due to global warming, it releases carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane.
  • In the 1970s the tundra was a carbon sink, but today, it is a carbon source, all because of global warming. (global warming leads to more global warming).

 

 

 

SEA LEVEL CHANGE

  • Sea level change means the fluctuations in the mean sea level over a considerably long period of time.

A) Processes that cause Change in Sea Level

  1. Eustatic changes occur when the volume of sea water changes due to factors such as
    • global warming and melting of ice sheets (rise in sea level) or ice ages (fall in sea level) and
    • changes in the volume of mid-oceanic ridges.
  1. Tectonic changes occur due to a change in the level of land.
    • Isostatic changes take place due to addition or removal of load: during ice ages, landmass subsided due to the load exerted by the glacial ice. On the other hand, landmasses rise as the glacial ice is removed.
    • Epeirogenic movement occurs due to broad scale tilting of continents which may result in the rise of one part of the continent even as the other part may subside causing an apparent rise in sea level.
    • Orogenic movement (mountain building) results in the formation of lofty mountains and an apparent fall in sea level.

B) Importance of understanding Sea Level Changes

  • It provides key evidences regarding climate change in the past.
  • It helps in estimating the rates of tectonic upliftment in the past geological periods.
  • To assess the suitability of coastal locations for industrial and agricultural development.
  • To protect low-lying countries by building coastal dykes and embankments.
  • The task of mapping of areas likely to be affected by storm surges and periodic flooding becomes possible only if we know the likely areas to be affected by future sea level rise.
  • By identifying the areas of possible submergence in the near future it becomes possible to set up tidal power generation plants in suitable locations.

C) Changes in Global Sea Level

Short-Term

  • Short-term changes occur during a year.
  • Commonly, seasonal variations of 5-6 cm in sea level are observed in a year.
  • Short-term sea level change may be due to a complex interaction of the following factors:
    • Marine water density:Temperature and salinity control the density of sea water. Low temperature and high salinity produce high density of sea water and lower sea level.
    • Atmospheric pressure:Low pressure results in higher local sea level and vice versa. E.g. Storm surge.
    • Velocity of ocean currents:Fast-flowing ocean currents when taking a curved path cause a rise in sea level on their outer fringes.
    • Generally, a difference of 18 cm in sea level is observed between the two sides of a fast-flowing current.
    • Ice formation and fall in sea level:During winter the ocean water trapped in the icecaps of the northern and the southern hemispheres leads to a fall in sea level.
    • Piling up of water along windward coasts:A local rise of sea level occurs in the coastal region as water is driven towards the coasts by an air mass, for example, the sea level rises in south and east Asia during the monsoon months due to landward movement of the air mass.
  • The twentieth century has observed short-term global sea level rise due to the following factors.
    • Global warming in the last century due to anthropogenic activities has resulted in thermal expansionof ocean water. So, the sea level has risen by about 10 to 15 cm in the past 100 years.
    • Melting of ice-sheets in the Antarctica by about 3 per cent of its total volume of ice has, to some extent, contributed to global sea level rise.
    • In the last century, about 15 per cent of the total volume of the Greenland ice cap melted.
    • Besides these areas of ice-melt, other glaciers are also estimated to have contributed about 48 per cent of the global sea level rise.

Long-Term

  • Global sea level changes which exceed 100 m are possible only if the major ice-sheets melt or there are substantial changes in the volume of the world’s mid-oceanic ridge.

D) Impact of Sea Level Fall

  • A drop in sea level causes the death of coral reefsas the continental shelves on which they are formed are left dry. So, fresh coral reefs emerge along the fringe of dead corals.
  • In places of shallow continental shelves, the fall in sea level leads to greater aridity in the continental hinterland due to reduced surface runoff.
  • A fall in sea level in temperate and high latitude regions causes extension of ice caps and glacial tongues onto the continental shelves.

E) Impact of Possible Rise in Sea Level

  • Ice melt in the Antarctica may prove to be dangerous in the near future if the temperature of the atmosphere continues to increase.
  • A vast segment of the populated land, viz., the low-lying densely populated coastal areas, will be submerged. Even the small islands will be wiped out.
  • An estimated global population of about one billion will be affected by rise in sea levels.
  • Immense damage may be caused to the coastal structures like ports, industrial establishments, etc.
  • As a result of the rise in sea level, almost 33 per cent of the world’s crop lands could be submerged (coastal plains and deltas are made up of very fertile soils).
  • Accelerated coastal erosion may cause damage to and destruction of beaches, coastal dunes and bars.
  • As a consequence, a vast section of the coastal land will remain unprotected against the direct attack of sea waves.
  • Groundwater resources of the coastal regions will be severely affected by salinization due to marine water intrusion.
  • The ecosystem will suffer heavy damages as the deltas, coral atolls and reefs will be destroyed. New coral reefs on the outer fringe of the dead corals will be formed.
  • As a result of rise in sea level, the mouths of drainage basins will undergo submergence. This will lead to a readjustment of the long-profiles of the rivers, which are likely to show a rise.
  • Islands are the worst affected by the recent rise of sea level. Some of the affected islands are the Carteret Islands, located on the north-east of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, and Tuvalu Islands, about 1000 km north of Fiji in the South Pacific.

To check the phenomenon of sea level rise that the ‘Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme Activity Centre’ was set up in 1987 under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to identify the countries facing maximum risk of submergence.

 

MITIGATION STRATEGIES

A) CARBON SEQUESTR ATION:

  • Carbon capture and storage, also known as CCS or carbonsequestration, describes the technologies designedto tackle global warming by capturing CO2 at powerstations, industrial sites or even directly from the airand permanently storing it underground.
  • Carbon sequestration describes long-term storage ofcarbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigateor defer global warming.

 

 

 

 

Sinks

  • Carbon sequestration may be carried out by pumpingcarbon into ‘carbon sinks’— an area that absorbs carbon.
  • Natural sinks – Oceans, forests, soil etc.
  • Artificial sinks – Depleted oil reserves, unmineablemines, etc.

There are three main steps to carbon capture andstorage (CCS) –

  • trapping and separating the CO2 from other gases,
  • transporting this captured CO2 to a storage location,and
  • storing that CO2 far away from the atmosphere (undergroundor deep in the ocean).

Types of Sequestration:

  • Ocean Sequestration: Carbon stored in oceans throughdirect injection or fertilization.
  • Geologic Sequestration: Natural pore spaces in geologicformations serve as reservoirs for long-term carbondioxide storage.
  • Terrestrial Sequestration: A large amount of carbon isstored in soils and vegetation, which are our naturalcarbon sinks.

B) CARBON SINK

  • Unlike black and brown carbon that contribute to atmosphericgreen house gases, green and blue carbonsequestrate the atmosphere green house gases.

Green Carbon

  • Green carbon is carbon removed by photosynthesis andstored in the plants and soil of natural ecosystems andis a vital part of the global carbon cycle.
  • Afforestation and reforestation are measures that canbe taken to enhance biological carbon sequestration.

Blue Carbon

  • Blue Carbon refers to coastal, aquatic and marine carbonsinks held by the indicative vegetation, marine organismand sediments.
  • In particular, coastal ecosystems such as tidal marshes,mangroves, and seagrasses remove carbon from theatmosphere and ocean, storing it in plants and depositingit in the sediment below them by natural processes.
  • Why is Blue Carbon Ecosystem Important?
  • Preventing degradation and destruction and promotingrestoration of coastal ecosystems is a significant tool tomitigate climate change.
  • The coastal ecosystems of mangroves, tidal marshes,and seagrasses are some of the most rapidly disappearingnatural systems on Earth.
  • When lost they not only stop sequestering carbon butalso release their stores of carbon and become newsources of climate change causing.

C) CARBON CREDIT:

  • A carbon credit is a tradeable certificate or permit representingthe right to emit one tonne of carbon or carbondioxide equivalent (tCO2e).
  • One carbon credit is equal to one ton of carbon dioxide,or in some markets, carbon dioxide equivalent gases.

 

 

How does one earn a carbon credit?

  • An organisation which produces one tonne less of carbonor carbon dioxide equivalent than the standardlevel of carbon emission allowed for its outfit or activity,earns a carbon credit.

How does it help?

  • Countries which are signatories to the Kyoto Protocolunder the UNFCCC have laid down gas emission normsfor their companies to be met by 2012. In such cases, acompany has two ways to reduce emissions.
  • It can reduce the GHG (greenhouse gases) by adoptingnew technology or improving upon the existingtechnology to attain the new norms for emission ofgases.
  • It can tie up with developing nations and help themset up new technology that is eco-friendly, therebyhelping developing country or its companies ‘earn’credits. This credit becomes a permit for the companyto emit GHGs in its own country.

D) CARBON OFFSETTING:

  • Carbon offsets are credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions made at another location, such as wind farms which create renewable energy and reduce the need for fossil-fuel powered energy.
  • Carbon offsets are quantified and sold in metric tones of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
  • Buying one tonne of carbon offsets means there will be one less tonne of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there would otherwise have been.

E) CARBON TAX:

  • Carbon tax is the potential alternative to the ‘cap and trade’ method currently used by the protocol.
  • This tax is based on the amount of carbon contained in a fuel such as coal, etc.
  • The aim of this tax is to cause less fossil fuel use and hopefully cause an incentive to use other sources of energy.

F) Clean coal technology to reduce CO2in atmosphere

  • Half of the world’s electricity is generated by burning coal.
  • Coal will remain a dominant energy source for years to come.
  • CO2and CO (carbon monoxide) are the major greenhouse gas which are released during burning of coal.
  • Along with the above gases, nitrogen oxides (destroys ozone) and sulphur oxides (acid rains)are also released.
  • Clean coal technology seeks to reduce harsh environmental effects by using multiple technologies to clean coal and contain its emissions.
  • Some clean coal technologies purify the coal before it burns.
  • One type of coal preparation, coal washing, removes unwanted mineralsby mixing crushed coal with a liquid and allowing the impurities to separate and settle.
  • Other systems control the coal burn to minimize emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates.
  • Electrostatic precipitatorsremove particulates by charging particles with an electrical field and then capturing them on collection plates.
  • Gasification avoids burning coal altogether. With gasification, steam and hot pressurized air or oxygen combine with coal in a reaction that forces carbon molecules apart.
  • The resulting syngasa mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is then cleaned and burned in a gas turbine to make electricity.
  • Wet scrubbers, or flue gas desulfurization systems, remove sulphur dioxide, a major cause of acid rain, by spraying flue gas with limestone and water.
  • Low-NOx(nitrogen oxides) burners reduce the creation of nitrogen oxides, a cause of ground-level ozone, by restricting oxygen and manipulating the combustion process.

 

RECENT ISSUES

CLIMATE ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS

  • Climate engineering refers to the deliberate and large scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system with the aim of limiting adverse climate change.
  • Generally two categories of engineering solutions:
    • Greenhouse gas removal: Examples
      • Carbon capture and storage (CCS), where some of the carbon dioxide being emitted by coal-fired power stations is recaptured by physically sucking it in and transporting it elsewhere (like oilfields) to be sequestered underground.
      • Biochar which is created by pyrolysis of biomass
      • Enhanced weathering involves a chemical approach to remove carbon dioxide involving land or ocean based techniques. Examples of land based enhanced weathering techniques are in-situ carbonation of silicates.
      • Afforestation
  • Management of Sunlight: Here the plan is to reduce global warming by cutting down the heat absorbed by our planet from the sun. Examples:
    • Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI): SAI involves spraying into the stratosphere fine, light-coloured particles designed to reflect back part of the solar radiation before it reaches and warms the earth. Sulphur Dioxide gas is used for the process.
    • Cirrus cloud manipulation: Here the cirrus clouds are removed or thinned so that their long-wave trapping capacity is reduced and thus cools the surface.
    • Marine cloud brightening: The low warm clouds which are highly reflective to sunlight are modified to increase their reflectivity.
    • Space sunshade: Obstructing sunrays with space based mirror
    • Using pale-coloured roofing material or growing high albedo crops.

 

CARBON TAX

  • Burning of hydrocarbon fuels release CO2 which affect the environment and society adversely. Thus it has a social cost that it higher than the private cost. Carbon tax is imposed on these hydrocarbon fuels so that these negative externalities are taken into account for. The purpose is to dissuade people from using products that require burning of hydrocarbon fuels and also use the revenue thereby collected for production of alternate products.
  • It has been regularly suggested by international organisations like IMF

A) Indian Position

  • In 2010 India introduced a nationwide carbon tax of 50 rupees per metric tonne of coal both produced and imported into India. In 2014, govt. has increased the Price to 100 rupees per metric tonne. It has been further increased from 100 Rs per tonne to 200 Rs per tonne now.
  • A carbon tax will help India to meet their voluntary target to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide

B) Pros

  • Using revenue for developing green technologies
  • shifting the people from hydrocarbons to renewable methods; habits like cycling, car pooling etc which are healthy would be inculcated
  • leads to socially efficient income

C) Cons

  • Revenue might not come efficiently- implementation might be difficult, cost of administration would be high,
  • Covert operations by tax evasion
  • Production shift; to ‘pollution havens’
  • Developing countries cannot manage increase in cost of essential fuels
  • The increase in cost might be too less to lead a substantial influence

 

COP 21: PARIS AGREEMENT

The ‘Paris Agreement’, the biggest environment agreement ever, was ‘adopted’ by more than 190 countries

  • The overall goal of the Paris agreement, to keep global temperature rise to a specified quantum compared to pre-industrial levels, is pegged at either “below 1.5°C”, or, as “well below 2°C”.
  • India felt that a transparency and accountability regime should not treat rich and poor nations alike
  • India Position is based on logic that developing nation still lacks necessary technology to measure perils of climate change. For example, India does not have the capacity to measure automotive emissions based on vehicle use accurately, while the U.S. does that every year.

A) Salient feature of the Agreement

  • Developed country as Role model- Extent to which developing countries would effectively implement their commitments would depend on developed countries living up to their own commitments on financing, technology transfer and capacity building.
  • On peaking of greenhouse gas emissions- The discussion is on making it “as soon as possible” with the caveat that peaking requires deeper cuts of emissions by developed countries and longer periods for developing countries
  • Achieving zero GHG emissions growth by 2060-80 is proposed
  • Fund mobilisation – Appropriate pricing of greenhouse gas emissions in its many forms, is an important instrument for the reorientation of investment and finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low emission and climate resilient economies and societies.
  • Technology framework – By providing overarching guidance to the work of the Technology Mechanism”. It would promote and facilitate enhanced action on technology development and transfer.
  • The agreement is much more comprehensive than the Kyoto Protocol which was limited to assigning greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for a group of developed countries
  • It asks every country to make “nationally determined” contributions in the fight against climate change.
  • It also seeks to establish a mechanism by which the climate actions of all the countries can be periodically monitored and evaluated to see whether the world was actually able to combat climate change and whether the actions needed to be scaled up

B) Win- Win Situation for all

  • Developed Nation- The developed countries have ensured that henceforth climate actions would be taken by every nation and not just them, as was the requirement in the existing climate framework represented by the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.
  • Developing Nation- The developing countries were able to take heart from the fact that the all-important principle of ‘differentiation’ – that developed nations, being primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, must take greater action to fight climate change – has been retained, even though in a diluted form
  • The island nations and least developed countries — Most vulnerable to climate change were happy to have forced the rest of the world to acknowledge the need to take a 1.5 degree path instead of the 2 degree it is more comfortable with.

C) Few of the issues with Paris Agreement

  • No clarity on finance and technology transfer issues; the related IPR issues have not been covered.
  • No mechanism for updated targets for countries based on stocktaking of carbon dioxide or equitable distribution of the remaining carbon budget for the world.
  • Ignoring the CBDR-RC principle; putting developing and developed countries at same level. Though INDCs still allows the space for equitable targets for reduction, it is not guaranteed and it is thus believed that developing countries would be at a disadvantage.
  • Binding targets: Countries have pledged their emission reduction targets. But these are only pledges. Even though China and USA have recently ratified Paris Agreement, the implication for violation of the pledges is not clear.
  • Periodic Revision of Target- The emission reduction numbers don’t add for now and they need to be revised every 5 years or so. Developed countries don’t accept any criteria that includes historical accumulated emissions
  • Reporting action: After 2020 once the agreement comes in to force countries will have to report back periodically how they are faring against their pledges. This could become the Trojan horse that brings parity between the two without saying as much.
  • Developing country targets- most developing countries have made their targets for the Paris agreement conditional on the nature of the Paris agreement as well as the delivery of finance and technology
  • Developed countries want at least a part if not the full target from each developing country to be enshrined unconditionally
  • Technology transfer: Developed countries oppose the proposals from different developing country groups including India to address issues of intellectual property resources, future technology development and an institutional arrangement for this under the Paris agreement.
  • Adaptation- Developed countries see the core agreement as only about reducing emissions and accounting for these reductions
  • Experts say that target of reducing the temperature by 2°C is over-optimism and not feasible.

 

 

 

CBDR TO INDC

  • Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR–RC) is a principle within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that acknowledges the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change.
  • The principle of CBDR–RC is enshrined in the 1992 UNFCCC treaty, which was ratified by all participating countries.
  • CBDR-RC has served as a guiding principle as well as a source of contention in the UN climate negotiations. Reflecting CBDR-RC, the Convention divided countries into “Annex I” and “non-Annex I,” the former generally referring to developed countries and the latter to developing countries. Under the Convention .Annex I countries have a greater mitigation role than non-Annex-I countries.

A) Reasons behind collapse of CBDR-RC

  • Starting of discomfort among Annex-I countries: Many western countries were not ready to put constraints on their economies for a global cause that had no direct and immediate returns.
  • Growth of China: The rapid growth of China from the 1990s too had started to hurt the interests of the West. Stricter emission standards for their industries would have made their products even more noncompetitive against Chinese goods. It helped their case that China’s emissions had overtaken the US as the world’s leading emitter of GHGs.
  • S role: The US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and, for the first time since the birth of UNFCCC, started playing a proactive role in shaping the global architecture on climate change. The argument was that without restraining the emissions of China-and India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, etc.-no effective fight against global warming could be launched.
  • Someof these countries, including Japan, Australia and Canada, walked out of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • After several rounds of bargaining, persuasion and threats, the current formulation-on the basis of which a new agreement is to be finalized in Paris next month-was decided in Durban in 2013.
  • Emission cut in INDCs: Now every country needed to take demonstrable action, the quantum and extent of which was to be decided by the country itself.

B) Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)

  • What are INDCs: INDC outlines the post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement.

C) India’s INDCs contains the following proposals

  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030, from 2005 levels
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030
  • Increase the Share of Non Fossil Fuel Based Electricity
  • Sustainable Lifestyles
  • Cleaner Economic Development
  • Technology Transfer and Capacity Building

D) India’s achievements towards climate change till now

  • Many policy measures have been taken to promote low carbon strategies and Renewable Energy have resulted in the decline of emission intensity of our GDP by 12% between 2005 and 2010.
  • Currently, renewable energy, nuclear energy and hydropower together contribute about 30 per cent of the overall installed capacity.
  • India is running one of the largest renewable capacity expansion programmes in the world. Between 2002 and 2015, the share of renewable grid capacity has increased over 6 times.
  • India is one of the few countries where forest and tree cover has increased in recent years and the total forest and tree cover amounts to 24% percent of the geographical area of the country.

 

 

E) Significance of India’s INDC

  • India stated that the national plans given in the INDC depends on the unencumbered availability of clean technologies and financial resource from around the world. Such a position is consistent with the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that guides climate negotiations.
  • INDCs announced by India are comprehensive, balanced, equitable and pragmatic and addresses all the elements including Adaptation, Mitigation, Finance, Technology Transfer, Capacity Building and Transparency in Action and Support.
  • India has also decided to anchor a global solar alliance, INSPA (International Agency for Solar Policy & Application), of all countries located in between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
  • During preparation of INDCs govt. held stakeholder consultations with the specific involvement of the key Ministries and State Governments. Interactions were also held with civil society organisations, think tanks and technical & academic institutions of eminence.
  • India has to put economic growth before committing itself to cut down emissions.

F) Criticisms

  • The INDC data estimate that between now and 2030, at least $2.5 trillion would be required for the country to meet climate change action requirements. It will be difficult to invest such a huge money without international help.
  • Cutting down emission will slow down the economy, therefore needs is a comprehensive strategy.

G) Steps taken to achieve INDCs

  • A scheme for development of 25 Solar Parks, Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects, canal top solar projects and one hundred thousand solar pumps for farmers is at different stages of implementation.
  • The energy efficiency of thermal power plants will be systematically and mandatorily improved.
  • The switch from Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) to Bharat Stage V (BS V) and Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) to improve fuel standards across the country is also planned for the near future.
  • Urban transport policy will encourage moving people rather than vehicles with a major focus on Mass Rapid Transit Systems.
  • Government of India’s long term goal is to increase its forest cover through a planned afforestation drive through initiatives like Green India Mission, green highways policy, financial incentive for forests, plantation along rivers, REDD-Plus and Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority
  • India will have 40 per cent of the total installed power capacity in 2030 based on non-fossil fuel-based sources.

 

HYDROFLUOROCARBONS (HFC): MONTREAL PROTOCOL

  • HFCs replaced the ozone depleting CFCs under the agreement under Montreal Protocol. The problem is that they are highly potent GHG; so there is a need to phase out the use of HFCs as well
  • Issue: under which protocol should it be kept?
  • Developed countries want it to be covered under Montreal Protocol- which has been very successful in controlling the emission of CFC and thus protecting the Ozone layer.
  • Developing countries, however, want it to be under UNFCCC’s Kyoto protocol which deal with GHGs- Montreal deal with ozone depleting substances and HFCs is not one of them.
  • The main reason, however, for these preferences is that Unlike the Montreal Protocol, in which each of the 195 signatories is equally responsible for eliminating the banned chemicals, the climate change arrangement puts “differentiated responsibilities” on developed and developing countries.
  • Further, the developing countries like India fear that their domestic industry would be forced to buy patents for the new technology from companies based in developed countries like US at a very high cost to make the transition without adequate financial support.

A) Recent Development

  • India has agreed to negotiate on the amendment to Montreal Protocol. The amendment will bring hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), commonly used as refrigerants and coolants, within the ambit of the Montreal Protocol.
  • Further, India has agreed for a ‘market-share’ based approach for reduction in aviations emissions under ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization)

 

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