Tag Archives: guest lecture

A peek into the mise en scène of climate diplomacy

APOORVA S

“Paris Agreement is not ambitious enough since it has only given effect to soft obligations,” says Mr. Raman Mehta, an expert on climate change. 

In his special lecture with Public Policy students of the batch 2016-18, Mr. Mehta spoke on “The Science of Climate Change: Feeding into the politics of Climate Change and Paris Agreement” on 10th and 11th of January 2017. He gives a glimpse into the seriousness of the Indian government in integrating climate change concerns into development strategies, plans, and programs.

In the past, Mr. Raman Mehta has worked on the issues of forests and wildlife at The Indian Institute of Public Administration, Department of International Development at the British High Commission, on conservation and management of protected areas at World Wide Fund for Nature – India, on developmental issues, climate change, social inclusion and public policy at ActionAid – India. He is currently the Policy head at Vasudha Foundation. He works on demystifying the different facets of sustainable development and climate change through umpteen number of research work and participation  at international conferences.

The following article is the gist of the author’s own  research paper submitted for the course Political Economy of India addressing the question of “why Paris Accord will fail to address climate emergency”, it is supplemented with insights from Mr. Mehta’s lecture.

The design of climate pledge

Paris Accord glorifies the bottom-to-top approach giving the freedom for all the countries to design their own INDC’s (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) justifying on how the contribution is fair towards achieving the objective of the UN’s Climate Convention and delineate the approach regarding the calculation of the Green House Gas emissions. Each country can show a different base year from which emissions will be reduced obliterating the historical responsibility of the largest producers of industrial carbon emissions from leading the cause. The developing countries feel this is the cheating point or, the flimsy deal. However, the pledge being decided by countries themselves is somehow intended to guarantee that the governments are unlikely to violate it. This point of view, indicates that the format of INDC’s hovers between top-down and bottom-up, with the UN monitoring their seriousness (Yeo 2015). The threshold required to give legal force to the agreement was achieved on 5th October 2016 when countries accounting for 55 per cent of global GHG emissions deposited their instrument of ratification. Speaking on this, Mr. Raman Mehta observed that only certain clauses which deal with the reporting of GHG emissions are legally binding in the Paris Agreement. Hence, except for the progressive nature of INDC’s, there seem to be no other pressure points.

The call for climate justice

Food security is a common sensitive challenge. Deficit rainfall and natural disasters worsen poverty and hunger as vulnerable economies bear the brunt of climate change rapidly. More socio-economic issues directly related to the climate changes are encountered on a day-to-day basis which is irrevocable in nature. India reformulated the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ by adding ‘respective capabilities’ (CBDR – RC) calling it the bedrock of collective enterprise. This is to clearly indicate that equitable carbon and development space are straightforward requirements of developing countries. The commitment to combat climate change by the developing countries is limited in many ways, since their development is invariably tied to a proportional increase in GHG emissions. This is true so far as history indicates. However, in certain sectors like transport, China and India are decoupling by building metro rails in their busiest cities to bring forth affordable and zero carbon emissions in the mass public transport sector.

Unaddressed climate migration and environmental refugees

The Paris Agreement missed the crucial aspect of providing relief and alternative to those who are affected by climate change induced migration, which is expanding every day. The section on climate-refugees
‘Loss and Damage’ makes recommendations for setting up a task force for addressing climate migration. However, the task force has no binding authority and its operations, functions, funding sources are not clear because of which the problem of migration will not be considered as the first priority. The ‘Loss and Damage’ is, therefore, a mere deliberation process under the Warsaw Conference of 2013. Furthermore, the draft of Paris Agreement which contained provisions for Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility intended to secure emergency relief, target organised migration and planned relocation of displaced people, compensating for those displaced does not feature in the final text of the Accord.

Concern regarding the climate finance

The most contentious issue of the climate change agreement is regarding the investment – the funding and disbursement processes for efficient technology transfer to enable green transition and carbon peaking of developing economies. The developed countries are hesitant with this responsibility and are often unclear and silent on the ways to enable the processes like sources of funding, terms of funding, purpose of funding, the agencies (public sector or private sector) of funding and the kind of funding. Very often the use of political ambiguous language of ‘financial compensation’ and the ‘rehabilitation’ is spoken about extensively. Mr. Raman Mehta reflects on the fact that ‘compensation paradigm’ of the Paris Agreement has caused immense pressure and anxiousness among the developed countries which is inhibiting the cooperation for a seamless flow of finance from the developed to the developing countries. This diluted mindset is a threat and a menace as it can stall the process of implementation of clean energy systems, which are undoubtedly expensive, leading to disproportionate burden on the developing countries.

The common thread for the all the countries

Helvetas06So far as the extreme weather changes are concerned and maintaining the balance between inclusive economic growth and social development, the policy matrix in developing countries is stratified with priorities of Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to eradicate poverty and ‘leave no one behind’.

India’s two major international efforts in launching the International Solar Alliance to form a group of 107 sunshine countries to enable them to switch to a low-carbon path by solar power utilization and ratifying the Paris Agreement on 2nd October 2016 on the International Non-Violence Day expresses its aspiration to tackle climate change with a forethought to internalize the principles of Mahatma Gandhi in all its endeavours. However, the local urban environment in India tells a different story in the efforts to switch to low-carbon path. In the year 2000, New Delhi mandated the use of CNG in all public vehicles to mitigate vehicular air pollution showing improvement in air quality, yet in the past two years Delhi is among the top cities in the world highly affected by air pollution. The lack of constant innovation, preparedness for urbanization, awareness about the growth of personal vehicles, lack of pollution checks on the industries in rapidly growing cities and biomass burning have negated the gains of focused policies on curbing sectoral air pollution. India must, therefore, invest in comprehensive planning, legislation and finance the grassroots level of governance on recycling, renewable energy, critical infrastructure and technology, encourage community-centric territorial planning that control rural-urban continuum. 

        Mr. Raman Mehta explained how the process of climate change leads to dangerous feedback loops – increased number of warm and cold days accompanied by extreme weather fluctuations, heavy precipitation and submergence of deltaic regions and islands, mass displacement of ice sheet and melting of glaciers such as the recent breaking of massive ice block in Antarctica and the rift that grew by 18 kilometers. He further said, this has put a focus on the need to look for innovative mitigation measures more intensely than the adaptation measures, as the latter is finite and limited.

It is often understood that climate change is only part of the problem but there are other factors like human-led land use changes and deforestation that pose immediate and deeper problems affecting daily life. Humanitarian crisis related to civil unrest like migration and military conflict influenced by climate change are becoming more prominent, such as the ongoing Syrian crisis which illustrates the culmination of agricultural drought, with political failure and willpower to mitigate the challenges of dwindling resources (Shank and Wirzba 2013). Therefore, wide-spread negotiations continue to be focused on climate change on the principle of equity and shared vision. These have in the past lead to formulation of initiatives like international emissions trading, clean development mechanism, joint implementation. More recently, carbon capture sequestration has emerged as a niche effort in energy sustainability. The cornerstone is to invoke global solidarity in action plans without the vested business and diplomacy of trying to pressurize the finance receiving nations to manipulate their national economic policies. Policy decisions which require adequate assessment of nature’s resilience capacity, conserving forest wealth, disaster management and rural livelihood security are immediately required to be chartered out with expertise and institutional capacities indigenous to each economy.

(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at apoorvas@nls.ac.in)

References

Yeo, Sophie. 2015. “Explainer: What Are ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’?”. Carbonbrief.Org. https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-what-are-intended-nationally-determined-contributions.

Shank, Michael, and Emily Wirzba. 2013. “How Climate Change Sparked The Crisis In Syria”. Usnews.Com. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/09/13/syrias-crisis-was-sparked-by-global-warming-and-drought.

Live Mint (e-paper). 2017. “Massive Antarctic Ice Shelf Ready To Break Apart”. http://www.livemint.com/Science/Co2Gpz7ccx7v2yX7l0BuQN/Massive-Antarctic-ice-shelf-ready-to-break-apart.html.

“Renewable Technology Is The Future: Raman Mehta | State Knowledge Management Centre On Climate Change”. 2014. Climatechangeportal.Mp.Gov.In. http://www.climatechangeportal.mp.gov.in/en/news-events/interviews/renewable-technology-future-raman-mehta.

“Lack Of Clarity On Legal Nature Of Paris Deal A Concern For India | ORF”. 2015. ORF. http://www.orfonline.org/research/lack-of-clarity-on-legal-nature-of-paris-deal-a-concern-for-india/.

Featured images source:

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/climate-refugee.htm

http://www.welthungerhilfe.de/en/sustainable-development-goals.html

The Religion of kindness

APOORVA S

We are often confronted with questions like ‘What will save the world? What is the purpose of life? What is the source of happiness? Which Dharma to follow? What will seal our fate as humanity is outreaching its own limitations in the Twenty-first century?’

The words of the Dalai Lama invoke us into understanding the pursuit of happiness, secular ethics of compassion and forgiveness, and religious harmony for inner and world peace!

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His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore on 15th December 2016.

Most of us know of The Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader who is the face of the non-violent struggle in Tibet for democracy and sovereignty. It was surprising to also see his humorous side, accompanied by a charming smile and mesmerising humility. According to him, kindness is a religion to be followed as a way of life by one and all. He said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”. He spoke of profound values in a simple language and the need for benevolence in our daily lives.  He made it possible for us to be in sync with him throughout and in no time we had become very fond of him.

While narrating the history of Buddhism in Tibet, he acknowledged India for its long history of the religious harmony existing alongside diversity in custom, tradition and language. He reasoned that occasional disturbances are inevitable. Therefore, we must work hard to build unity wherever we go and embody universal human values.

dalai-lama

The Nalanda tradition of Buddha Dharma of India which reached Tibet in the eighth century permits a great deal of investigation and experimentation. It is not followed as a blind faith but rather invites both scholars and followers to ponder over its principles in a scientific manner and either accept or reject them. For this reason, the studies of the monks in the disciplines like psychology, cosmology and physics are welcomed all over the world for its merit in observing rigorous thinking and the art of embodying questioning in their practices. The Buddhist meditation technique of Vipassana, meaning analytical meditation, focuses on inquiry and the need to suppress one’s sense of anger and attachment.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama proposed that the real purpose of life is happiness and the world is in misery today because we give too much emphasis on narrow-minded, superficial differences. He expressed his concern for the current trend in suicides, saying that the modern education system is missing the values and consciousness which are crucial for learning, rather it has induced more anxiety and stress. We must not lose hope, but have a better understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, which is an effective remedy to the problems.

In the political sphere, Dalai Lama pressed that the protection of Tibet and its Buddhist culture is crucial. In 2011, he voluntarily retired from his political role within Tibet, transforming a tradition of four centuries in favour of a more democratic system. In his interaction with National Law School students, when questioned about the principle of non-interference in the affairs of the country, he said that one must always choose a middle path. This is based on the philosophy that we are all human beings, who cannot be blind to the reality nor can we act beyond reason. It is for the same reason that he supports Marxism, as it is concerned with redistribution of wealth but disapproves what Lenin believed in. He issued a call for the youth of the Twenty-first Century to be united in the face of a global crisis which is confronted with a rapid pace of moral decadence like never before. Rising intolerance, attacks on innocents, the spread of greed, money and weapon need to be combated by a resurgence of kindness and virtue – a philosophy of humanism which shall unite, rather than divide us. He ended the note with a strong message saying that the Twenty-first Century should be a peaceful century where violence should be replaced by discussion and exchange, thus leading to a Century of Dialogue!

(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at apoorvas@nls.ac.in)

Energy Policy Research and Advocacy in India

NANDITHA KALIDOSS

 

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“The path to the sustainable energy sources will be long but the world cannot resist the transition”, said Barack Obama in his interview on sustainable development. The National Law University of India has had the privilege to host Prof. Ashok Sreenivas Senior Research Fellow at Prayas (Energy Group), Kothrud, Pune, to deliver a guest lecture on Energy Policy Research and Advocacy in India.

Prof. Ashok has covered extensively on the cause of geopolitical conflicts, the importance of coal industry and the correlation between per capita energy consumption and HDI during the lecture. With heavy investments, long lead times and Social & Environmental implications, it is evident that the energy sector is picking up its momentum across the globe.

What is interesting to know is that while 1/4th of the country’s population uses modern energy, 18 crore households still use natural resources for their livelihood. Thus, he emphasised on the dire need of policy innovation and intervention to understand and solve this energy poverty and demystify the sector.

“The new challenges for policy makers is combining crafts and skills that are tangible and involves multidisciplinary approach”, said Prof. Ashok. As interesting and challenging as the sector is, one of the toughest questions facing traditional energy companies is that the world is moving towards a low-carbon economy while India, as a developing nation, depends heavily on the coal industry for its commercial energy. With loud and clear signals from climate agreements, the focus is on renewable energy and building alternate energy storage capacity and investments in smart power grids. If the coal industry is a harbinger, to survive in the coming decades, is it essential that energy sector re-invents itself or shift away from fossil fuel industry to adapt to a low-carbon world?

(Nanditha Kalidoss is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at kalidoss@nls.ac.in)