Event Reports

Climate change: India should take more crop protection measures


India should prepare its adaptability measures to address the effects of climate-change like hurricanes, floods and draughts by incorporating more crop protection measures as the nation is highly dependent on agriculture, according to Mr. N R Krishnan, former Environment Secretary, Government of India.

Initiating an interaction on “India and the Paris Climate Agreement” at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation, Mr Krishnan pointed out that another major effect of climate-change for India is the reality of rising sea levels resulting in the submergence of low-lying coastal areas. This is very important for India as it has a long coastline. Thus adaptability to climate is as important as mitigating the effects of climate-change.

Expressing optimism over the Paris Agreement, he said that “history is made by those who commit and nations have committed at Paris”. He also said that in order to fully understand the recent Paris Climate Agreement, there is a need to first understand the climate agreements that had preceded it.

After the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in Rio de Janeiro, it took 33 years, till 2015, for a concrete agreement to be arrived at. It took longer than the SALT agreement. In the long history of 21 conferences that took place before the final agreement was arrived at, there had been several milestones that had shaped the agreement.

In 1992 during the Framework Convention, it was agreed that the earth was warming up and it was giving rise to climate-change. It was feared that earth temperatures would rise by two degree Celsius that would lead to catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate.

In the 1995 Berlin mandate, it was agreed that since the activities of developed nations is what had led to the global warming, and hence they should take the lead in controlling the emissions of green house gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and chlorofluorocarbon that were released extensively into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial revolution. Hence it was agreed in the Berlin Mandate that developing countries like India, China and South Africa need not undertake obligations to control emissions as it was their time to grow economically.

Subsequently, in the Geneva conference it was agreed that by 2020 the developed countries should reduce emissions by 20 percent to what they were emitting in 1990. It was in Geneva that the Association of Small Island States insisted the developed countries to cut down emissions by 30 percent as these nations are most vulnerable to sea-level rise, the speaker recalled.

US Congress bar

The US was very keen to join any international effort to reduce global warming, but in 1997 during the presidency of the Bill Clinton, the US Congress passed a resolution that the nation should not enter into any agreement that would affect their economy. The resolution also stipulated that the US should not enter into agreement that did not put similar binding obligations on developing nations. The main motive behind this American resolution was to keep the economic rise of China and India on check, Mr Krishnan said.

In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the participating countries were to decide the obligations that developed nations must take to reduce their emissions through targeted reductions between 2008 and 2012. The US delegation led by former Vice-President Al Gore was very keen to enter the Kyoto Protocol but the American Senate turned down the proposal. The biggest failure of Kyoto protocol was that the world’s biggest emitter, namely the US, did not commit to controlling climate-change emissions.

In the 2007 Bali conference, a major consensus was arrived at: that in addition to the developing nations, the developed nations should also undertake active measures to combat climate-change. International standards for measurements and verification mechanisms for reducing emissions were also formulated in Bali, which made it a major breakthrough in the climate change agreements.

Obama initiatives

In the 2008, the new US President Barrack Obama was very keen to make the US a leading country to combat climate-change. In 2009, at the Copenhagen climate change summit, Obama insisted that all nations should take voluntary and meaningful commitments to control global-warming.

The list included India and China as these two rising economies were expected to burn large amounts of fossil fuels. Till 2009, the two nations were reluctant to reduce the emissions as it would hamper their economic growth but in the Copenhagen summit, they agreed to voluntary reductions in their emission-levels. This was another major breakthrough in the climate change agreements.

When the American President visited Beijing in 2013, the two nations decided to put away their differences and to commit themselves to reducing emissions. China agreed to reduce emissions even more than what it had already committed in Copenhagen. Because of this there was greater pressure on India to reduce its emissions further.

When President Obama visited New Delhi in 2014, India entered into climate agreement which was a favourable agreement. The signing of separate agreements with the US by India and China brought about positive influence in the Lima Climate Change Conference held in December 2014.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change in 1990 had given a very grim picture on the impact of climate- change, especially on the small island states. The IPCC report has stated that unless the world managed to contain the rising temperature by 2 degree Celsius, or better by 1.5 degree Celsius, small island states would eventually submerge.

However, the international community led by the US orchestrated the world diplomacy to show India and China as deal-breakers than dea-makers, which was very unfortunate. Because of this the small island states accused India and China of not taking sufficient measures to control emissions.

Now the ultimate target that has been set in Paris is to contain the global rise in temperatures by 1.5 degree Celsius so that the earth’s oceans can absorb the heat generated by the emissions of green house gases. However, even with all the commitments made in Paris, the temperature is very likely to go beyond 2.7 degree Celsius that will cause a lot of pressure on humanity. According to the Paris plan, by 2020, the emissions should reduce progressively in all nations and by 2050 the world should reduce 50 percent of carbon emissions by reducing the dependence of fossil fuels and replacing it by cleaner sources of energy.

Restrictions on growth

Mr Krishnan said the biggest problem of India with the climate change talks is with regard to taking the equal burden for reducing the emissions as it is the developed nations whose large-scale emissions in the past has been the main cause of global warming that is threatening the world today. Currently, nations like India are economically developing and restrictions on growth are being imposed in the name combating climate change. India had suggested that the developed nations shouldered the extra burden on reducing emissions and give chance for the developing nations to grow.

India has always insisted that the developed nations must take the responsibility of mitigating climate change while the developing nations should take measures to adapt to the effects of climate change, Krishnan said. Mitigation and adaptation measures required massive funding. Majority of energy-efficient technologies, to help cut down on fossil fuel usage, are currently with the developed nations. They should come forward to share the same with developing countries under cheap transfer of technology regimes.

The year 2005 had been taken as the base year for measuring the reduction in emissions. India has committed that it will take measures so that by the year 2030 forty percent of the total energy production will be from clean sources. Also India has planned for planting of more trees and expands its forest area to absorb the carbon dioxide considerably.

India being a tropical country has also high input solar radiation that can be further developed to maximize the production solar energy and on the other hand there has been limited scope for the further development of hydro electricity as India has already exploited its maximum hydro energy resources and further development hydro energy capacity is being hampered by the NGOs and activists due to displacement of people.

On global scale the there has been lot of hesitance in many nations for switching into renewable sources of energy as they are more expensive and currently the global oil market the prices of oil have extensively reduced and are available is in surplus. Also the increasing availability of shale gas in Europe, China, Russia and the US is also attracting the nations to opt for it as low cost energy source rather than expensive renewable sources of energy.  Hence the world must overcome such challenges and commit seriously to control emissions as a long term goal, Mr Krishnan said.

This report is prepared by R. Vignesh, Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai.