Climate negotiations need an innovative approach

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Climate negotiations need an innovative approach

Friday, 15 October 2021 | VK Bahuguna

Climate negotiations need an innovative approach

Over the past several decades, key indicators of the climate system are changing at rates unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years

The climate change negotiations are held periodically under the banner of United Nations Forum for Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) among participating countries through Conferences of Parties (CoP). The next CoP is the 26th and scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November. Former British Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma, chairperson for CoP 26, has exhorted the countries to agree for ambitious emission reduction targets that will lead to net zero emission by 2050. He had red-flagged the sixth report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPC) report published in 2021. World leaders will arrive in Glasgow like a jamboree and with several thousand negotiators, Government and business representatives in tow for twelve days of talks.

One of the important features of this year’s CoP will be taking stock of the Nationally Determined Contributions of the countries they were asked to bring after five years since the Paris agreement. One of the issues will be to see how the countries are going to fare in controlling the rise in atmospheric temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius. The participants in CoP 26 will have to agree to step-up phasing out coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables. Apart from mobilising finances for climate change adaptations, it will be necessary to build warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

The sixth report of IPC indicates longer term changes in the Earth’s climate. The report clearly proves that during 2015 to 2021 each subsequent year has been hotter than the previous one and 2021 is proving to be the sixth hottest year ever recorded. The report states that global warming has constantly increased during the previous four decades compared to the 80 years before. The report vividly describes the human activities responsible for this rise in temperature and consequent climatic vagaries being notices every year with increasing intensity resulting in acute hardship to the poor and disadvantaged sections of the world population.

It would be interesting to quote the sixth assessment report of the IPC for larger public demonstration and stern warning to the policy makers. It says: “Observed changes in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere provide unequivocal evidence of a world that has warmed. Over the past several decades, key indicators of the climate system are increasingly at levels unseen in centuries to millennia, and are changing at rates unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years.”

Specifically, global mean surface temperature has increased by 1.09 C between the pre-industrial baseline period 1850-1900 and the most recent decade of 2011-20. This was more likely than not the warmest in roughly 125,000 years. Similarly, the rainfall pattern will change to extremities in volume and intensity resulting in excessive rainfall within few days and then prolong draughts in all over the world. As for sea ice, between the decades of 1979-88 and 2010-19, the average monthly August-October Arctic sea ice area shrunk by around one quarter with a loss of around two million square kilometres of ice.

In a nutshell, this assessment of IPC is a grim reminder for the world leaders to have a time-bound action plan for the next five to 10 years to achieve the targets set by the Paris agreement for 2030. In this regard, the United States after returning to the negotiating table, must shoulder the responsibility to lead the developed world.

The negotiators must draw lessons from ‘Carbix’ a company co-founded by an Indian, Vinit Dighe, and J. Sammy in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA. They develop reactors to harness carbon dioxide from emission streams generated by waste to energy plants, geo-thermal plants, water desalination and natural gas plants. They target cement manufacturing which alone contribute to eight percent carbon emission. They use the emissions to produce minerals like calcium carbonate and limestone while at the same time remaining carbon negative.

It is like catching the emissions and converting them into valuable minerals. There is a huge scope for a permanent carbon sequestration market. It would be appropriate if Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav invites the Indian innovator who is breaking new ground on climate change mitigation to have a tie-up with Indian industries to produce minerals out of emissions. India could then be a world leader not only in climate change innovation but also effectively control pollutants and use pollution as a raw material for mineral production.

(The writer is Chairman, Centre for Resource Management and Environment. The views expressed are personal.)

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