Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Climate change and sustainable development

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.
4.Energy Usage.
5.Vehicular Usage.
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)