Review of national targets must for climate action: Pachauri

Dr. R K Pachauri, Chairman of Inter governmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). Photo: Prashant Nakwe  

While India and other countries have been opposing a review of their national contributions to tackle climate change, chairperson of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr. R. K. Pachauri is firm that unless there is a process of review in place, the direction the world is taking to tackle climate change will not be clear. A periodic review of targets and achievements is a must, he said in an interview to The Hindu on Tuesday.

On the Lima climate talks, he said, “Given the slow pace of the progress in the past, I don’t think we could have expected too much more. Of course this also means that there is a lot to do before Paris — one thing I found satisfying is the fact that all the delegates were quite focused on the findings of the IPCC and these were referred to continuously by several people and we feel happy that at least the level of awareness on the findings has been quite widespread. Frankly that’s the only basis on which you can generate ambition to do something.”

It is important between now and the new treaty in Paris and beyond, to focus on the need to keep reviewing what countries were doing in relation to what needs to be done and what is optimal from the scientific point of view. “One thing is clear if we don’t act fast enough then the costs of taking action later on will be very high and in some cases even the technological options that are required may be infeasible. It may not be possible to come up with the sharp reduction that is required simply because technology, infrastructure and methodologies may not be feasible,” he pointed out.

The 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit to be held in February will also provide a platform to discuss this review, he said. “Since by then a lot of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)s will be in, we should be able to come up with a reliable picture of where we are going — EU, US and China have already announced their targets — for the others one could make assumptions and see where we are with the two degree target,” he said.

Carbon budget

“One of the important findings of the fifth assessment report of the IPCC was the carbon budget and this concept is important for us to see whether we are going to remain within the two degree limit — if not, we

have to be prepared for a higher temperature increase,” Dr. Pachauri explained. “Once again that reinforces the need for a regular review — so we can see how we are headed and how will we carve up that carbon space — once we have all the INDCS we can aggregate them see now the world will move ahead.” The IPCC will carry out a review of the INDCS, but that will be unofficial since it is up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

He said the review part is very important. “How else do you link what is being achieved or what is expected to be achieved with what will be scientifically appropriate?” he asked.  He called for a set of measures by which you ensure complete transparency on a scientific basis. 

On India’s stand against ex-ante review of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)s, he said, “I don’t know why we should  be so sensitive about this and what is the logic behind it. The common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) don’t get washed away because you have a review system and the review doesn’t necessarily go against maintaining that principle. If you want science to be the guiding driver of action, then you are not going to be able to find out if you are on the right track or the path that you are going on will lead to roadblocks unless you carry out a proper review.”

The IPCC has already said that the targets set at Cancun were not enough to limit global temperature rise  to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. By the need of the century that the world will have to move to zero or negative emissions. The IPCC will decide on the sixth assessment report in February where there is a meeting of the panel.

India’s actions and contributions

One area where India really needs to get its act together and highlight it in negotiations as well is on increase in solar capacity, and hopefully, that is happening and will happen, Dr. Pachauri said. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission had laid down the target of 20,000 MW which has been raised to 100,000 MW and it’s a move in the right direction to ensure energy security, he added.

Adaptation neglected

Dr. Pachauri said adaptation measures to deal with changing climate were neglected not only at the international level, but also at the national level. “The immediate priority is to make adaptation an important part of the development agenda, this will depend on the assessment of impacts of the future and it involves a significant amount of scientific work. You have to pick up global climate models and downscale them to locations where you want to assess adaptation options and that’s a fairly extensive exercise,” he said. “I don’t think we have identified the need for it,” he regretted.

“If you want to take in hand adaptation measures, then you have to assess the impacts in fairly robust and  precise terms,” he added. “Most countries haven’t done enough on adaptation and while the experience is growing, the world was certainly nowhere near assessing what will minimise risks of climate change. Since adaptation will have to be largely carried out at the local level, it was vital to involve local communities,  governments and institutions.”

“Therefore, we aren’t at that stage where we are preparing local governments effectively to deal with the problem. It will take a major effort across the length and breadth of the country. Much more needs to be done,” he said. 

While finances from the Green Climate Fund would help, the government can start off with what it can do at the local level, he remarked. “We are not doing all the little things that matter — it’s a complex and sustained exercise that needs to be carried out — we will have to identify most effective functionary in the local government, and every state should develop its own ways of functioning.”

While communities are adapting to climate change, the pace of climate change is accelerating due to human impacts and even those communities which have practiced adaptation will find it difficult because they would have reached certain thresholds and tipping points beyond which adaptation will be difficult, he said. Globally mitigation is essential because there is a point beyond which adaptation won’t work, he said. “We have a tradition of adapting to changes, it is not difficult to build on conventional knowledge but we have to be clever for whom and where we are making investments in the future,” he pointed out.

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