Getting real on climate

November 21, 2016 02:05 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:34 am IST

The UN conference on climate change held in Marrakech, with an emphasis on raising the commitment of all countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is particularly significant as it provided an opportunity to communicate concerns about the future climate policy of the U.S. It would be untenable for the U.S., with a quarter of all cumulative fossil fuel emissions, to renege on its promise to assist vulnerable and developing nations with climate funding, technology transfer and capacity-building under Donald Trump’s presidency. As the Marrakech Action Proclamation issued at the close of the conference emphasises, the world needs all countries to work together to close the gap between their intended reduction of carbon emissions and what needs to be done to keep the rise of the global average temperature well below 2°C in this century. The Paris Agreement on climate change was forged on the consensus that man-made climate change does have a scientific basis, that the developed countries are responsible for accumulated emissions, and that future action should focus on shifting all nations to a clean energy path. Not much progress was made at Marrakech on raising the $100 billion a year that is intended to help the poorer nations. Political commitment and resource mobilisation will be crucial to meet targets for mitigation of emissions and adaptation.

India is in a particularly difficult situation as it has the twin challenges of growing its economy to meet the development aspirations of a large population, and cutting emissions. National GHG levels are small per capita, but when added up they put India in the third place, going by data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center in the U.S. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which has provisions to monitor emissions and raise targets based on a review, pressure on India to effect big cuts is bound to increase. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will hear from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018 on what impact an additional warming of 1.5°C could have on the planet and what can be done to ensure it is pegged at this level. The pledges made so far are well short of this target, and even if they are all implemented, a minimum rise of 2.9°C is forecast by the UN Environment Programme. India has no historical responsibility for accumulated GHGs, but smaller, more vulnerable countries such as island states and Bangladesh are demanding action to cut emissions. A strategy that involves all State governments will strengthen the case for international funding, and spur domestic action.

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