Climate is changing in the whole world. One of the causes is the way the world is developing .The world is developing because we have to produce for more numbers, also because our per capita consumption needs to rise.This development results in emission of greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change.Climate change can pose several problems like sub-mergence of islands under water, untimely and excessive rains and floods, deficit rainfall and drought in other parts.It can make agriculture vulnerable to vagaries of nature and is bound to affect life and health.This kind of development is not sustainable.Keeping the above in view,the UNO decided to keep one sustainable goal(SDG) devoted to climate change.This is goal number 13 :Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
What urgent action can we take to combat climate change and its impacts.There are two types of action, one is the action to eliminate the causes of climate change,the other is the action to reduce or mitigate the effects or impacts of climate change.We shall take them up one by one .
The causes of climate change lie in increasing consumption levels and increasing human population.Thirdly the way we are developing , or producing goods and services for our consumption so as to lead a better quality of life.The important factors responsible for climate change are:1.Greenhouse gases.
3.Land Use Change.
The way we are developing can be green , eco-friendly or it can be such as to destroy ecology and environment around us.For example, electricity can be produced in a green way as Solar energy , and it can be produced in a polluting way as Thermal energy.If we opt for Solar energy , or Wind energy or Nuclear energy, we can have less global warming and less climate change.But why don’t we do this way?The first is that Sloar energy per unit is much more costly than Thermal energy. Why should any buyer buy Solar energy when cheaper energy is available?If there are no buyers, why should any producer prodce Solar energy when there are no buyers?This brings in the role of Public Policy , which can be formulated in such a way as to encourage both producers and consumers.One way is to grant subsidy to producers or consumers or both so that they produce and consume Solar energy as compared to thermal energy , despite Sloar enegy production costs per unit being higher.The second part of policy should be to make public in general aware of the beneficial effects of Solar energy on climate change.
India’s share of CO2 in the total emissions in the world is very insignificant in per capita terms.The per capita emission of an Indian citizen is 1.2 tons of Carbon dioxide where his counterpart in USA is contributing 20.6 tons as per UNDP Human Development Report 2007-2008.The per capita emissions of UK and Japan are 8 and of USA 17 times higher than that of India.India’s contribution to the world total is only is only 4.6% when compared to USA’s contribution of 20.9% followed by 17.3% of China.(Statistics related to Climate change in India , Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation , Government of India , Nov,2013.)
You may ask , if it were so simple , why it has not been done so far? Why is it that most of our energy still comes from thermal sources(which use fossil fuels) and very little fron Solar sources.The reason is the failure of public policy and governance , technology and vested interests embedded in thermal energy sources.It is here that the role of UNO as a voice of the world comes in picture.It has to impress on its member states to adopt the SDGs and also achieve these goals.Before SDGs were approved for 2030 , we had MDGs(Millenium Development Goals) for 2015.But the performance in MDGs was not satisfactory, again due to political and other reasons.SDGs were approved by the UN General Aassembly in 2015.
The stand of India on SDGs has been to accept and support them .But if we are really serious to achieve SDGs , we need to not only bring our policies in line with these goals , but also improve the working of governments , both at centre and at states level so that a conducive environment is built in the whole country for achievement of these goals.
The key word is Urgent.Do we see any urgency to combat climate change? Is there any evidence in place that the Union government and various State governments are showing any urgency in combating climate change?It is too early to say.But there are some really critical areas which need reforms if this combat has to to be taken forward.One critical area is to create a mechanism for educating all the concerned departments on the need to take steps to combat climate change.This itself is a very big challenge.Where are the people who have the knowledge about climate change ,and how to put them in place for education the departments? Secondly , there is a need to develop capacities and skills of the civil servants to formulate evidence based policies.This in turn requires political leaders who themselves see the need for policies based on evidence , and not on political expediency or ideology.This begs a big question as to how to get such political leaders.At present , we produce political leaders who believe in vote banks , casteism , nepotism , and encourage only those policies which can bring them votes.Such short sighted political leaders will never be able to bring out policies aimed at combating climate change and its impacts .
Finally ,it is the effort made by every citizen for combating climate change that matters the most.In our daily lives,we need to consume less, buy eco-friendly products, plant and encourage planting of trees,contribute in every possible way to make the deal on climate change a success.This will ensure a cleaner and healthier world with a promise of sustainable development with better control on climate change and its impact.
(This article was published in the February issue of the magazine Tree Take ,Lucknow,U.P.,India)