Climate Change

Climate Warriors Get Assertive At COP 27

It seems that Climate Change is now gaining real traction and importance for the common people more and more, but our politicians are not ready to take any notice of these changes, which are going to have immeasurable negative impact on the lives of billions of people across the globe.

Besides calls for wealthier nations to provide compensation to underdeveloped countries to cover the costs of severe damage and losses, citizens of some countries have also initiated legal proceedings against their governments for inadequately addressing the climate change fallouts.

The month of November saw two environment-related incidents taking place. First, at the latest COP summit at Sharm El Shiekh in Egypt, termed as ‘Africa’s COP’, the voice of the most-vulnerable and most-affected countries was heard with an agreement to establish a loss and damage facility.

However, progress is still snail-paced in terms of raising ambitions to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Leaders attempted to keep that goal alive at the Egypt conference, but did not increase calls to reduce carbon emissions.

November also saw hundreds of activists, including Greta Thunberg, marching through the streets of Stockholm to a court to file a lawsuit against the Swedish government for what they claim is insufficient climate action.

Lawsuit by Swedish citizens

Over 600 young activists signed an 87-page document, which would serve as the foundation for the lawsuit, which was filed in the Stockholm District Court.

They want the court to rule that the country’s climate policies violate the human rights of its citizens. According to Anton Foley, spokesman for the youth-led initiative Aurora, which prepared and filed the lawsuit, Sweden has never treated the climate crisis as a crisis. Sweden is failing to fulfil its responsibilities and is breaking the law.

Earlier, in one of the most high-profile cases, Germany’s highest court ruled last year that the government’s climate targets must be adjusted to avoid undue burden on the young.

The German government responded by pushing back its target for net zero emissions by five years to 2045 and laying out more ambitious near and medium-term steps to achieve that goal.

What emerges from this is that people all across the world are increasingly becoming aware of the damages wrought by the Climate Change, and also understanding that who is the main culprit for unleashing this catastrophe, in pursuance of greed and lucre.

What is loss and damage?

The Alliance of Small Island States at international climate negotiations in Geneva in 1991, first introduced the concept of loss and damage, but it was not seriously considered again until 2013 at the COP-19 climate conference in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was created with the aim of enhancing knowledge of the issue and finding ways to approach it. There has been little progress since then.

The Glasgow COP, last year rejected a proposal made by members of the G-77 group of over a hundred developing countries and China for a formal loss and damage financial facility. Instead, in a bureaucratic manner, the Glasgow Dialogue was established for further discussion on the issue and it’s funding.

Critics have described the dialogue as “an excuse to delay further action.” It seems as if the rich countries are dragging their feet on financing any such endeavour.

While historically, between 1751 and 2017, the United States, the European countries and the UK were responsible for 47% of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions, as compared to just 6% from the entire African and South American continents. Yet, the culprits have been slow to make financial contributions to ease the impact on the most affected countries.

In 2010, Global North nations agreed to pledge $100 billion (€101 billion) annually by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

But according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which tracks funding, in 2020 wealthy countries pledged just over $83 billion. That was a 4% increase on the previous year, but it still falls short of the agreed amount.

What’s the impediment?

Though in principle, developed nations acknowledge the need to address loss and damage, some amongst them argue for financing through existing climate funds, insurance schemes and humanitarian aid. Their reluctance is reflected in the European Union’s briefing, for example, which said that it was “open to discussing L&D (loss and damage) as a topic but hesitant about creating a dedicated L&D fund.”

Former British PM and WHO ambassador for global health financing, Gordon Brown has realistically opined that the announcement of the new initiative – the global loss and damage fund – to right historical wrongs by compensating climate-hit developing countries, might be a good feel factor but the real question is whether the developed world will really loosen its purse strings?

This breakthrough, he says, brought back memories of another initiative, the £100 billion a year agreed at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit to help poor countries mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.

Brown says further that that money has never fully materialised. If 13 years’ experience of the £100 billion fund that never was is anything to go by, eulogies of praise will soon turn into allegations of betrayal. Far from the loss and damage fund narrowing the credibility gap on climate action, it is likely to bridge nothing if money fails to flow from rich to poor.

What is needed, however, is not less but more aid to help developing countries tackle the dramatic consequences of an unprecedented series of crises. Indeed, developing countries, unlike advanced economies, had no fiscal, monetary, or social space at the onset of these crises, to raise the issue.

One key priority for the global community should be not only to increase aid but also to make it much greener to help developing countries tackle the challenge of climate adaptation in an effective manner. Green aid encompasses financial and technical assistance to governments and direct investments in projects in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

The author can be contacted on www.asadmirza.in

Delhi Air Pollution

The Poor And The Voiceless Are Worst Affected By Pollution

Aliza Firoz, pursuing bachelors in history at the Jamia Millia Islamia, says small baby steps towards a clean environment can make a big difference

Like all things in the realm of our life, even pollution and its impact are not equal in Delhi and its neighbourhood. The poor, daily wagers, working women, construction workers, rickshaw-pullers, cyclists, they all suffer the most, including their children. The rich can remain safe in enclosed spaces, they can travel inside their cars with windows shut. Many of them own two or more cars, diesel-guzzling SUVs, several air-conditioners and huge refrigerators, adding hugely to the pollution in the air. Most of the rich simply don’t care for the environment.

The main thing is to be sensitive and learn to act small, take small steps, in our personal and social life. Why use crackers and blow up hugely expensive ‘laris’ worth thousands while filling the air we breathe with poison!  Even in weddings and birthday parties they are bursting crackers! If India wins a cricket match, they start bursting crackers! They should understand that this can be very harmful and hurtful for human beings and animals, including the ailing, the old, little children. They should understand that animals can’t even speak about their anxiety and pain, amidst this loud and noisy celebrations. Can’t we see how the sparrows, the birds, are terrorised by the sound of the crackers?

There should be a conscious effort by everyone, all of us, to follow certain principles and rules for the sake of the larger collective; only preaching and not taking action will not do. There should be social consciousness which can make us behave and act in a certain responsible manner.

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Why not go for environment-friendly crackers, for instance? Why not choose car pools with your friends – from the same class and status if that is what they are comfortable with – instead of one car for one person? Why use loudspeakers when you can operate without them? Why not make small water pools to immerse the idols after the festivals, instead of polluting water bodies and rivers?  Try using earthen pots to cool water instead of refrigerators, for instance. Or, don’t add to passive smoking.

We must take care of basic things. We should learn to be minimalist in terms of our daily life. We should not create and make huge amount of waste, including non-biodegradable plastic, and learn recycling, or using the waste for productive purposes. When you cut a packet of milk and leave that little piece on the ground, it might take thousands of years for that piece to dissolve. We should draw inspiration from ‘Ikigai’, the Japanese form of minimalist living, and drive satisfaction from it.

Recently, I saw a former woman IAS topper burning a cracker; she got hurt. The video became viral. She is a role model, a bureaucrat, why should she glorify crackers? Besides, sadly, she got badly hurt too, like many children do when they burst crackers.

I repeat, small steps, the smallest actions, make a big difference. Only then change happens. ‘Boond, boond se banta sagar…’

As told to Amit Sengupta

Can Glasgow Summit COPe With Climate Crisis?

A UN-sponsored marathon conference to tackle the global climate crisis is due to being the British city of Glasgow, the coming Sunday (31 October) and will continue till 12 November. The world leaders will meet in the so-called last-ditch effort to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, besides considering plans to how to stop burning fossil fuels, stabilise global temperatures and share money to adapt to increasingly extreme weather.

The global leaders signed up the Paris Agreement in 2015 — with a supposedly non-binding target to keep warming well below 2 C above pre-industrial temperatures, and ideally 1.5 C — yet most of the participating countries continue to burn fossil fuels and chop down trees at rates incompatible with that goal.

With the effects of climate change visible in both rich and poor countries alike, the leaders are meeting for what analysts expect to be the most meaningful conference since that pledge. Climate change has shot up the political agenda amid deadly weather extremes and mass public protest, and leaders of several polluting countries have pledged to decarbonise their economies by the middle of the century.

Summit’s Agenda

The world leaders got to choose how fast their country will cut emissions Under the Paris Agreement, besides agreeing to update their action plans for doing so every five years. But in reality just weeks before the summit, big emitters like China, India and Saudi Arabia are yet to submit new plans.

Reportedly UK, which is co-hosting the summit with Italy, has pressured countries to submit new plans and is pushing for concrete deals that would help reach those targets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on world leaders to deliver bold commitments on “coal, cars, cash and trees.”

The UK is pushing for a treaty that would “consign coal to history” and has proposed a deadline of 2040 to stop selling combustion engine cars. It also wants to put more money into stopping deforestation.

According to the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) COP26 will work towards four goals: Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise assured finance to help developing and under-developed countries to attain emission cuts, and work together to deliver to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

On the really big question of keeping the 1.5C temperature threshold within reach, the likelihood is that a significant gap will remain even after Glasgow. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, those countries that have used fossil fuels the most over the past two centuries – the US and from Europe – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the short term. The larger developing nations that are now the biggest source of CO2 – chiefly China – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the longer term.

The environmentalist and experts say that we can very easily understand the colossal and disastrous results of the climate change, if we can observe the following four weather changes, which have been caused by the increasing global temperature due to the emission of CO2 and other poisonous gases like methane into the atmosphere: Hotter and longer heat waves, more persistent droughts, more fuel for wildfires, and more extreme rainfall events are the resultant climate change vagaries.

Meanwhile, an interesting report by the US intelligence agency’s assessment of climate change has come out and as per the report, India and Pakistan are among the 11 highly vulnerable countries in terms of their ability to prepare for as well as respond to the environmental and social impact of climate change. The first-ever US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the issue of climate change has been published, and it adds that India along with China will be crucial in determining the trajectory at which there is a rise in global temperatures. On the other hand, the report has downplayed the role that the Western world has played in the problem of climate change. Further the report has warned that the possibility of geopolitical tensions and the risk to US national security are present due to global warming in the run up to 2040.

Expectations From Summit

In another development before the summit, India has said that it will raise the topic of compensation to developing nations for the losses caused by climate disasters. The Indian environment ministry said that India stands with other low-income and developing nations on the matter and the compensation clause will be negotiated at the upcoming climate summit.

India has reiterated that the countries responsible for climate change should finance what they have committed to and make technology available at an affordable cost. It is also confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will put forward the Indian stand at the summit

Meanwhile, reports say that Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International has warned against efforts by countries and corporations at the forthcoming talks in Glasgow to “green wash” their on-going pollution of the planet.

By doing so, governments would “give that kind of hope and confidence to their people that they got this and that they’re willing to do things that their corporate interests don’t want them to do,” she added.

Morgan pointed to leaked documents showing how countries such as Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are apparently trying to water down an upcoming UN science panel report on global warming as evidence of the way in which some governments’ public support for climate action is undermined by their efforts behind closed doors.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace indicate how those countries wanted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to remove references to the need to shut down coal-fired power stations, reduce meat consumption and focus on actual emissions cuts rather than ways to capture carbon already released into the atmosphere.

Various outcomes of the Glasgow Summit in view of the non-adherence to the goals of the Paris Agreement are being predicted. Yet, barring a complete collapse in the talks, there are likely to be a range of tangible outcomes. It’s expected that more countries will announce they are moving away from using coal for energy, and more nations may probably sign up to curb methane emissions.

There is only a moral pressure to improve your offer, and a degree of embarrassment if a country doesn’t step up to the mark. Glasgow will reveal whether this approach actually works.

As Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena has put it succinctly and wisely in a recent speech, tackling climate requires a great deal of fortitude, imagination, hope and leadership. If western leaders listen, engage and act decisively on what science demands of them, there is still time to make COP26 the success it desperately needs to be.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

Recycles Idols and Photo Frames of Hindu Religious

‘Recycling, Not Discarding, Holy Idols Is True Worship’

Nashik-based advocate Tripti Gaikwad (33) is an eco-warrior who recycles idols and photo frames of Hindu religious figures often immersed in water bodies or abandoned by devotees

I am a religious person. I find it ironical that many believers who worship gods in idol forms and seek their blessings every day, also discard them once they wear out. You can find idols or framed photos of gods or goddesses lying under trees or floating in water bodies. By doing this, we are not only disrespecting our deities but also polluting Mother Nature.

Two years ago, I was watching a flooded river Godavari in Nashik when I saw a man at the bank carrying four large photo frames to be immersed. I reasoned with him not to immerse those frames as it would pollute the water. Instead, I suggested, he can make use of the frames by recycling them. The man relented and took away the frames back with him.

That is when I felt I need to push and formalize this idea to recycle discarded material. I spoke to my friends and we discussed the possible recycling methods and products to be made out of castoff photo frames and idols of holy figures.

Tripti with her team of volunteers at her recycling venture

We worked out that cardboard can be mixed with water and used for gardening. The wood had several uses and the idols could be turned into Plaster of Paris (PoP) for reuse as building material or for making toys. I then drafted a text message and sent it across several groups, asking to not throw away their old photo frames and religious statues as I could put them to good use.

The idea struck well. We immediately started receiving phone calls and the material. To date, over last two years, we have recycled more than 25,000 idols, statues and frames sent to us from across the country.

People from the nearby rural areas take Plaster of Paris from me and are using it as a putti for their houses. With wood we have started making chaff/straw while good quality frames are used to make trendy nests for the birds. We also get idols made of metals like brass, copper, even silver. We sort them and melt them for reuse.

Some of the recycled products at Sampurnam run by Tripti Gaikwad (right)

I am a professional advocate and this is my social project. I have also registered a foundation called Sampurnam Sewa foundation for the purpose and rented a place as our warehouse and workshop. We now are a team of around 20 volunteers who spread the message through social media/ Whatsapp and coordinate for collections.

I would like to mention that I find spiritual strength in my work as I feel I am trying to be in tandem with the earth. We harm nature without realising they these elements are also our gods who nurture us. Any harm to the nature will one day boomerang on us. Just as humans are either cremated or buried so our bodies are decomposed, the gods also want the same for themselves – turn them into soil. That is the true way to show our respect to the revered gods.

As told to Mamta Sharma