Covid's climate setback

Even as the fight against global warming suffers a grave setback across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, India has done well to keep an eye on its commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. Setting up a high-level inter-ministerial committee to coordinate implementation of various climate-related programmes, even when the country is still struggling to rehabilitate its economy, is an evidence of this. The panel has been asked to revitalise the carbon market in India and serve as its national authority (regulator). This can be viewed as a fresh bid to use market as a means to incentivise emission reductions and generate funds for investment in clean technologies.

The success of the move would, however, depend upon the merits of the guidelines set by the panel for market mechanism, carbon pricing and other related issues. The country’s top corporate houses have already signed, voluntarily, a joint declaration on climate change, vowing to take the needed steps to achieve carbon neutrality at the earliest. A thriving carbon market can make their task easy. Several other noteworthy policy initiatives are also in place to help fulfil the country’s self-determined obligations under the Paris deal. These include transition to superior vehicular fuels, emphasis on generation and use of renewable energy, enforcement of stricter emission norms, focus on energy efficiency and expansion of green cover to act as carbon sink.

Little wonder, therefore, that India has retained its position in the top 10 in the latest global Climate Change Performance Index compiled by a group of non-profit organisations and released in Germany on Monday. In contrast, the world’s biggest polluter, China, figures at number 33 and the largest historical polluter, the US, at almost the bottom. The climate Transparency Annual Review of the G-20 countries has also included India among the few nations that might meet their emission reduction obligations. Most countries are “woefully underprepared” to achieve the set targets, maintains this report placed on the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Significantly, these reports acknowledge the fact that the anti-global warming drives of most countries have been hampered by the Covid-19 crisis. The need to quicken the recovery of the pandemic-battered economies has forced many governments to go in for relatively cheaper, even if energy-inefficient and environment-unfriendly, remedies for economic ills.

It now seems almost certain that the Paris pact’s prime objective of containing the rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius — preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius — above the pre-industrial level is unlikely to be fully served. The pessimism on this count draws strength from the temperature data released by the World Meteorological Organisation last week. It shows that the global mean temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius and is getting closer to the 1.5 degrees cap set under the Paris accord for the end of the century. At this rate, the actual rise in global temperature might exceed 3 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. The earth’s warming of this scale is bound to cause devastating surge in sea level, submerging many coastal areas and small island countries, besides increasing the frequency of extreme weather events in several regions, including India. It is, therefore, imperative for all nations to revisit their climate strategies and take result-oriented steps to meet their Paris agreement pledges.


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