Author: Nivedita Khandekar

About Nivedita Khandekar

Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter: @nivedita_Him

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Indian army helps battle climate change

Soldiers of the Eco Task Force are playing a key role in forest, soil and water conservation to help India meet emissions reduction targets set at the Paris climate summit.

NEW DELHI, 30 May, 2016 – As part of its effort to improve forest cover and so soak up climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, the government in India has an unlikely partner – the Indian Army.

At the UN climate conference in Paris last December, India made enlarging and improving its forest cover a central part of its pledge on fighting climate change.

One of the many agencies – apart from the forest department – the government has recruited to carry out the work of forest improvement is a part of the Indian army known as the Eco Task Force (ETF).

According to India’s Ministry of Defence, units of the ETF have, over the last 30 years, already planted 65 million trees across the country. The ETF is also involved in rehabilitating degraded forests, conserving soils and managing water resources.

Forests act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up quantities of climate-changing carbon dioxide. When forests are destroyed, that stored CO2 is released into the atmosphere, adding to emissions of greenhouse gases and further exacerbating the problem of climate change.

Carbon sink

The total amount of CO2-equivalent at present stored in India’s forests is estimated to be more than 7 billion tonnes. As part of its commitment to meeting the targets put forward in Paris to fight climate change, India plans to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Carbon dioxide equivalency is a simplified way to put emissions of various greenhouse gases on a common footing by expressing them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming effect (usually over a century).

Latest statistics contained in the India State of Forest Report 2015 indicate that the country has a total of just over 7 million square kilometres of forest cover – more than 21% of its geographical area. The government says it plans to increase this figure to 33%.

The area has seen a complete transformation,
with degraded forest land now returned
to an area of rich biodiversity”

The ETF is involved in a variety of projects, such as efforts to reclaim forest land polluted by illegal mining activities on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital.

In the forests of the lower Himalayas near Mussoorie, in the state of Uttarakhand, it is attempting to rehabilitate severely degraded areas of woodland, and near Tezpur in the north-eastern state of Assam – part of the country that has experienced various insurgency outbreaks – it is trying to stop settlers encroaching on protected forest areas.

Assignments follow a similar pattern. In the first year, there is ground preparation and trees are planted. In the second year, a tree count is carried out and dead saplings are replaced. At the end of five years of monitoring developments, the area is handed over to the forest department.

At one ETF site in the Himalayan foothills in the north-east of the country, near the border separating the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, patches of forest are spread across a landscape dotted mainly with paddy fields and small clusters of houses. Villagers cut trees for firewood, and have also cleared stretches of forest for farming.

But, thanks to the efforts of a battalion of ETF soldiers, the area has seen a complete transformation, with degraded forest land now returned to an area of rich biodiversity.

Land parcels

“The area allotted is not a continuous stretch of land but small land parcels across the district handed over to us one after another,” says Colonel K S Jaggi, the battalion commander.

The land parcels vary in size and condition. The government’s forest department is consulted throughout the rehabilitation process – selecting species to be planted, helping raise awareness among local villagers of the importance of forest conservation, and dealing with flooding and other problems. Forest department personnel also help train the army units in forest conservation and management.

The ETF battalions were established in the early 1980s as part of a scheme to tackle forest problems, particularly in more remote areas, or in parts of the country with law and order problems.

The scheme – jointly implemented by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change – was the idea of Dr Norman Borlaug, the American Nobel laureate and biologist who is often referred to as the father of the green revolution. The scheme was later taken up by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar, an independent journalist based in New Delhi, India, writes on environmental, developmental and climate change-related issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter @nivedita_Him

Soldiers of the Eco Task Force are playing a key role in forest, soil and water conservation to help India meet emissions reduction targets set at the Paris climate summit.

NEW DELHI, 30 May, 2016 – As part of its effort to improve forest cover and so soak up climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, the government in India has an unlikely partner – the Indian Army.

At the UN climate conference in Paris last December, India made enlarging and improving its forest cover a central part of its pledge on fighting climate change.

One of the many agencies – apart from the forest department – the government has recruited to carry out the work of forest improvement is a part of the Indian army known as the Eco Task Force (ETF).

According to India’s Ministry of Defence, units of the ETF have, over the last 30 years, already planted 65 million trees across the country. The ETF is also involved in rehabilitating degraded forests, conserving soils and managing water resources.

Forests act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up quantities of climate-changing carbon dioxide. When forests are destroyed, that stored CO2 is released into the atmosphere, adding to emissions of greenhouse gases and further exacerbating the problem of climate change.

Carbon sink

The total amount of CO2-equivalent at present stored in India’s forests is estimated to be more than 7 billion tonnes. As part of its commitment to meeting the targets put forward in Paris to fight climate change, India plans to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Carbon dioxide equivalency is a simplified way to put emissions of various greenhouse gases on a common footing by expressing them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming effect (usually over a century).

Latest statistics contained in the India State of Forest Report 2015 indicate that the country has a total of just over 7 million square kilometres of forest cover – more than 21% of its geographical area. The government says it plans to increase this figure to 33%.

The area has seen a complete transformation,
with degraded forest land now returned
to an area of rich biodiversity”

The ETF is involved in a variety of projects, such as efforts to reclaim forest land polluted by illegal mining activities on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital.

In the forests of the lower Himalayas near Mussoorie, in the state of Uttarakhand, it is attempting to rehabilitate severely degraded areas of woodland, and near Tezpur in the north-eastern state of Assam – part of the country that has experienced various insurgency outbreaks – it is trying to stop settlers encroaching on protected forest areas.

Assignments follow a similar pattern. In the first year, there is ground preparation and trees are planted. In the second year, a tree count is carried out and dead saplings are replaced. At the end of five years of monitoring developments, the area is handed over to the forest department.

At one ETF site in the Himalayan foothills in the north-east of the country, near the border separating the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, patches of forest are spread across a landscape dotted mainly with paddy fields and small clusters of houses. Villagers cut trees for firewood, and have also cleared stretches of forest for farming.

But, thanks to the efforts of a battalion of ETF soldiers, the area has seen a complete transformation, with degraded forest land now returned to an area of rich biodiversity.

Land parcels

“The area allotted is not a continuous stretch of land but small land parcels across the district handed over to us one after another,” says Colonel K S Jaggi, the battalion commander.

The land parcels vary in size and condition. The government’s forest department is consulted throughout the rehabilitation process – selecting species to be planted, helping raise awareness among local villagers of the importance of forest conservation, and dealing with flooding and other problems. Forest department personnel also help train the army units in forest conservation and management.

The ETF battalions were established in the early 1980s as part of a scheme to tackle forest problems, particularly in more remote areas, or in parts of the country with law and order problems.

The scheme – jointly implemented by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change – was the idea of Dr Norman Borlaug, the American Nobel laureate and biologist who is often referred to as the father of the green revolution. The scheme was later taken up by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar, an independent journalist based in New Delhi, India, writes on environmental, developmental and climate change-related issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter @nivedita_Him
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Sun’s lifeline for remote Indian hospitals

An experiment using solar panels to provide electric power so that blood banks can be run in rural areas could save many thousands of lives across India.

NEW DELHI, 15 April, 2016 − The perennial problem of power cuts in India makes the storing of blood for transfusions virtually impossible in rural areas, forcing seriously ill patients to travel many miles for treatment. But now an experiment with solar power in a remote Himalayan hospital has changed that.

The erratic electricity supply in the Ziro Valley’s Hapoli general hospital, in the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India, meant that its blood bank could not operate as its stock needs to be kept at a constant 2°C to 6°C.

The hospital, at an altitude of 5,357 feet, is about five-hour drive away from the state capital, Itanagar. The area is heavily dependent on the central grid as it does not produce enough of its own power, and many areas in the mountains are still without any electricity supply.

But with India rapidly increasing the use of solar power to meet its climate change commitments, costs are coming down, so Hapoli hospital decided to experiment to see if it could use solar electricity to get a stable supply to store blood and also to carry out the necessary tests to screen for diseases.

Medical facilities

The blood bank was started in October last year with a private sponsor for a five-kilowatt solar power system. It provided enough power to make blood tests and storage possible, and the idea is now being extended within this hospital and in many other more remote medical facilities across India.

Dr Joram Khopey, the blood bank officer at Hapoli hospital, says: “Screening tests for transfusion-transmissible infections − especially HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, syphilis and malarial parasites − are carried out before blood is okayed for transfusion. The results take three days and, with no refrigeration, it would not be possible to store the collected blood units for future use.”

Before the blood bank started, patients were referred to a tertiary care hospital if they needed blood, and that meant at least half a day’s journey. So many went directly to hospitals in bigger towns in the neighbouring state.

“Solar energy can be a good option to run those blood banks waiting for power. We can now aim for more blood banks across the country”

With the solar-powered facility, the local population can now look forward to not having to send patients − including pregnant women needing Caesarian sections − to faraway places because of the lack of blood stocks.

Not that the idea caught on instantly. Only four people came forward at a blood donation camp held last December. But more volunteered later and, by January, a total of 14 units of blood were received. Five of these were used in transfusions, so the project was deemed a success.

Dr K Horming, medical superintendent at Hapoli hospital, says: “The government has now sanctioned solar panels for 10 kilowatt power generation for the hospital’s delivery, emergency, immunisation, occupational therapy, and the nurses’ rooms.”

In addition, the Arunachal Pradesh state government has incorporated plans for solar-powered blood banks for its two general hospitals and 13 district hospitals. “We have already sanctioned funds for it in the 2016-17 budget,” says Ramesh Negi, Arunachal Pradesh’s chief secretary.

Good option

Of the 650 districts in India, about 60 do not have a blood bank because of lack of electricity or human resources. But that will now change.

Dr Apurba Ghosh, secretary general of the Federation of Blood Donor Organisations of India, says: “Solar energy can be a good option to run those blood banks waiting for power among these 60 districts. We can now aim for more blood banks across the country.”

India has 2,760 recognised blood banks for a population of approximately 1.25 billion, and most of the blood banks are in urban or metropolitan centres.

Mobile solar panels can also be used for cooling blood in donation camps held in rural areas.

The Indian government has endorsed this idea. Dr Manisha Srivastava, a member of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Technical Resource Group on blood transfusion, says: “This will be really useful for remote areas, which have a perennial power shortage.

“The blood storage centres in the plains will be run on solar energy (using portable photovoltaic panels), and for those in the hills there can be a combination of solar and ice-lined boxes.” – Climate News Network

An experiment using solar panels to provide electric power so that blood banks can be run in rural areas could save many thousands of lives across India.

NEW DELHI, 15 April, 2016 − The perennial problem of power cuts in India makes the storing of blood for transfusions virtually impossible in rural areas, forcing seriously ill patients to travel many miles for treatment. But now an experiment with solar power in a remote Himalayan hospital has changed that.

The erratic electricity supply in the Ziro Valley’s Hapoli general hospital, in the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India, meant that its blood bank could not operate as its stock needs to be kept at a constant 2°C to 6°C.

The hospital, at an altitude of 5,357 feet, is about five-hour drive away from the state capital, Itanagar. The area is heavily dependent on the central grid as it does not produce enough of its own power, and many areas in the mountains are still without any electricity supply.

But with India rapidly increasing the use of solar power to meet its climate change commitments, costs are coming down, so Hapoli hospital decided to experiment to see if it could use solar electricity to get a stable supply to store blood and also to carry out the necessary tests to screen for diseases.

Medical facilities

The blood bank was started in October last year with a private sponsor for a five-kilowatt solar power system. It provided enough power to make blood tests and storage possible, and the idea is now being extended within this hospital and in many other more remote medical facilities across India.

Dr Joram Khopey, the blood bank officer at Hapoli hospital, says: “Screening tests for transfusion-transmissible infections − especially HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, syphilis and malarial parasites − are carried out before blood is okayed for transfusion. The results take three days and, with no refrigeration, it would not be possible to store the collected blood units for future use.”

Before the blood bank started, patients were referred to a tertiary care hospital if they needed blood, and that meant at least half a day’s journey. So many went directly to hospitals in bigger towns in the neighbouring state.

“Solar energy can be a good option to run those blood banks waiting for power. We can now aim for more blood banks across the country”

With the solar-powered facility, the local population can now look forward to not having to send patients − including pregnant women needing Caesarian sections − to faraway places because of the lack of blood stocks.

Not that the idea caught on instantly. Only four people came forward at a blood donation camp held last December. But more volunteered later and, by January, a total of 14 units of blood were received. Five of these were used in transfusions, so the project was deemed a success.

Dr K Horming, medical superintendent at Hapoli hospital, says: “The government has now sanctioned solar panels for 10 kilowatt power generation for the hospital’s delivery, emergency, immunisation, occupational therapy, and the nurses’ rooms.”

In addition, the Arunachal Pradesh state government has incorporated plans for solar-powered blood banks for its two general hospitals and 13 district hospitals. “We have already sanctioned funds for it in the 2016-17 budget,” says Ramesh Negi, Arunachal Pradesh’s chief secretary.

Good option

Of the 650 districts in India, about 60 do not have a blood bank because of lack of electricity or human resources. But that will now change.

Dr Apurba Ghosh, secretary general of the Federation of Blood Donor Organisations of India, says: “Solar energy can be a good option to run those blood banks waiting for power among these 60 districts. We can now aim for more blood banks across the country.”

India has 2,760 recognised blood banks for a population of approximately 1.25 billion, and most of the blood banks are in urban or metropolitan centres.

Mobile solar panels can also be used for cooling blood in donation camps held in rural areas.

The Indian government has endorsed this idea. Dr Manisha Srivastava, a member of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Technical Resource Group on blood transfusion, says: “This will be really useful for remote areas, which have a perennial power shortage.

“The blood storage centres in the plains will be run on solar energy (using portable photovoltaic panels), and for those in the hills there can be a combination of solar and ice-lined boxes.” – Climate News Network

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Solar club builds up powerful alliance 

Indian and French leaders fulfil pledges made at the Paris climate talks to help 122 solar-rich nations reach their potential in renewable energy production.

New Delhi, 27 January, 2016 − The foundation stone of a new solar power club of 122 nations has been laid in Gurgaon, India, by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the French President, François Hollande − cementing an agreement the two leaders made at the Paris climate talks last December.

The idea of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which promises a massive increase in investment in solar power in the tropics, started with the coming together of countries between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn that have 300-plus days of sunshine a year.

For all of them, solar power is potentially the cheapest form of generating electricity. And the plan is to provide electricity to millions of people who do not have access to power at present, while at the same time preventing the building of dozens of power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Foundation stone

The ISA will be an inter-governmental body on the lines of the UN, with headquarters in India. This building will be on a five-acre plot of land at the National Institute of Solar Energy campus at Gurgaon, Haryana.

At the laying of the foundation stone, the two heads of state – President Hollande was in New Delhi as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day Parade yesterday – reiterated their commitment to the development of solar energy.

Modi has already proved to be a solar enthusiast, with more than 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity in India − the equivalent of five of the largest type of coal-fired plants.

He says: “If fossil fuel is used, it adds to global warming. If not used, the world would plunge into darkness. But the entire world says we need to reduce the temperature. The need is for alternative, sustainable and affordable energy.

“One of the ways to reduce temperature here is to use the sun’s temperature. We need to use one form of energy to fight the negative effects of another form of energy.”

Hollande praised the idea of the Alliance, which he described as “India’s gift to the world for combating climate change”. He said it “came from a country where, for millennia, yoga practitioners have greeted the sun every morning so that it shares its energy with the Earth.

“The challenge now is to raise at a global level the €1,200 billion in investment required to develop this energy by 2030. The aim is for 1,000 gigawatts to be installed over the next 10 years.”

“India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold”

Hollande also listed the expectations from the Solar Alliance: pooling the demand for high potential countries to bring down financial costs; harmonising and opening up the solar markets to reduce the cost of investment; and, most important, enabling the necessary technology transfer between developed and developing countries.

The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India each announced a $1 million donation to finance the new ISA headquarters and towards its running costs for five years.

Over the same period, the French Development Agency will allocate €300 million to developing solar energy in order to finance the initial projects.

Emission intensity

Continuing development of solar is important for India, which has 17% of the world population and is the third largest polluter, after the US and China.

India’s climate plan, published last year, promised to reduce the emission intensity of the country’s gross domestic product by 33%-35 % by 2030 from 2005 levels. It is aiming at 40% cumulative power from renewables by 2030, including a target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.

So how are these developments and plans expected to change India’s energy mix?

Dr Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, explains: “India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold.

“This means that there will be proportionately faster deployment of non-fossil (including solar) energy than coal or gas-based power. This transformation will be reflected in reduced emissions (against business as usual scenarios) and reduced emissions intensity of GDP.” – Climate News Network

Indian and French leaders fulfil pledges made at the Paris climate talks to help 122 solar-rich nations reach their potential in renewable energy production.

New Delhi, 27 January, 2016 − The foundation stone of a new solar power club of 122 nations has been laid in Gurgaon, India, by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the French President, François Hollande − cementing an agreement the two leaders made at the Paris climate talks last December.

The idea of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which promises a massive increase in investment in solar power in the tropics, started with the coming together of countries between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn that have 300-plus days of sunshine a year.

For all of them, solar power is potentially the cheapest form of generating electricity. And the plan is to provide electricity to millions of people who do not have access to power at present, while at the same time preventing the building of dozens of power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Foundation stone

The ISA will be an inter-governmental body on the lines of the UN, with headquarters in India. This building will be on a five-acre plot of land at the National Institute of Solar Energy campus at Gurgaon, Haryana.

At the laying of the foundation stone, the two heads of state – President Hollande was in New Delhi as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day Parade yesterday – reiterated their commitment to the development of solar energy.

Modi has already proved to be a solar enthusiast, with more than 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity in India − the equivalent of five of the largest type of coal-fired plants.

He says: “If fossil fuel is used, it adds to global warming. If not used, the world would plunge into darkness. But the entire world says we need to reduce the temperature. The need is for alternative, sustainable and affordable energy.

“One of the ways to reduce temperature here is to use the sun’s temperature. We need to use one form of energy to fight the negative effects of another form of energy.”

Hollande praised the idea of the Alliance, which he described as “India’s gift to the world for combating climate change”. He said it “came from a country where, for millennia, yoga practitioners have greeted the sun every morning so that it shares its energy with the Earth.

“The challenge now is to raise at a global level the €1,200 billion in investment required to develop this energy by 2030. The aim is for 1,000 gigawatts to be installed over the next 10 years.”

“India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold”

Hollande also listed the expectations from the Solar Alliance: pooling the demand for high potential countries to bring down financial costs; harmonising and opening up the solar markets to reduce the cost of investment; and, most important, enabling the necessary technology transfer between developed and developing countries.

The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India each announced a $1 million donation to finance the new ISA headquarters and towards its running costs for five years.

Over the same period, the French Development Agency will allocate €300 million to developing solar energy in order to finance the initial projects.

Emission intensity

Continuing development of solar is important for India, which has 17% of the world population and is the third largest polluter, after the US and China.

India’s climate plan, published last year, promised to reduce the emission intensity of the country’s gross domestic product by 33%-35 % by 2030 from 2005 levels. It is aiming at 40% cumulative power from renewables by 2030, including a target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.

So how are these developments and plans expected to change India’s energy mix?

Dr Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, explains: “India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold.

“This means that there will be proportionately faster deployment of non-fossil (including solar) energy than coal or gas-based power. This transformation will be reflected in reduced emissions (against business as usual scenarios) and reduced emissions intensity of GDP.” – Climate News Network

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India faces trillion-dollar climate squeeze

COP21: Tackling the often devastating impacts of climate change is a challenge that India says will require a massive injection of funding between now and 2030.

NEW DELHI, 8 December, 2015 – The floods that have devastated the state of Tamil Nadu are a stark reminder that while India’s priority is development, it also needs to spend prodigious sums on adaptation to climate change.

A study by the country’s own experts shows that there are 800 million people living in areas where the temperature has already risen by 2°C, and where increasingly serious flooding is now a fact of life.

The report published in New Delhi came as India was announcing at the COP21 climate summit in Paris that it is launching the International Solar Alliance, a club of 120 countries aiming to boost the use of solar power

Even if this initiative succeeds, experts point out that India would still need more than US$1 trillion between now and 2030 to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Extreme events

The report says: “Government spending on developing capacity and adaptation in India has grown consistently over the last decade, and a mammoth US$91.8 billion was spent on adaptation in 2013-14 alone. This spending would have to reach US$360 billion (at 2005 prices) by 2030. The loss and damage from extreme events were estimated additionally at US$5-6 billion per annum.”

The study identifies India’s preliminary financial, technology and knowledge gaps in adaptation to climate change. It was jointly conducted by the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water thinktank.

As many as 800 million people living across 450 districts of India are currently experiencing significant increases in annual mean temperatures, exceeding warming of 2°C, the study said.

They warned: “India as a whole will experience 1°-1.5°C in mean annual temperatures from 2016 to 2045, which can have profound implications for agriculture and crop production. Extreme precipitation can result in flooding and significant damage to infrastructure.”

Before the Paris summit, India continually stressed the “polluter pays” principle, arguing that the industrialised countries that caused climate change should help the developing countries to adapt financially.

“India as a whole will experience 1°-1.5°C in mean annual
temperatures from 2016 to 2045, which can have
profound implications for agriculture
and crop production

Adaptation and the money pledged by the rich countries to pay for it are key areas of negotiation during the Paris negotiations. The richer countries are reluctant to help countries such as India, which they say are generating large incomes of their own. They say they would prefer to help the poorest nations.

But both Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment and climate change minister, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi say that developed countries have to come forward to provide new and additional financial resources for technology transfer to plug India’s adaptation gap.

The launch of the International Solar Alliance – with the Indian government paying to set up its secretariat in India – will help to disarm some of the country’s critics. But many are aware that India also wants to exploit its coal reserves, and rich countries continue to urge the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases to cut down further on emissions.

National plans

However, India’s central government has trouble administering such a vast and complex country. Because of the federal structure, a lot of the measures aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change effects − such as in disaster management − hinge on the actions of India’s 36 states and union territories.

The importance of devolving national plans to state levels was pointed out by Chandra Bhushan, deputy director at the Centre for Science and Environment, a major thinktank based in New Delhi.

He said: “Linkage between national and state action plans is too poor. The state action plans were prepared on the basis of the National Action Plan of 2008, which does not reflect enough topics, such as renewables and forestry management.”

The former director of the Geological Survey of India, VK Joshi, drove home the point by using as an example his home state, Uttar Pradesh, which has two major rivers − the Ganga, partially glacier-fed, and the Gomati, which relies on groundwater.

He said: “Even when the state government can and should, there is no check on groundwater withdrawal. The rainfall pattern in Uttar Pradesh is already erratic because of the changing climate and tomorrow there would be no water to recharge the ground table. What happens to the huge population then?” – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a New Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues.
    Email: 
    nivedita_him@rediffmail.com Twitter: @nivedita_Him

COP21: Tackling the often devastating impacts of climate change is a challenge that India says will require a massive injection of funding between now and 2030.

NEW DELHI, 8 December, 2015 – The floods that have devastated the state of Tamil Nadu are a stark reminder that while India’s priority is development, it also needs to spend prodigious sums on adaptation to climate change.

A study by the country’s own experts shows that there are 800 million people living in areas where the temperature has already risen by 2°C, and where increasingly serious flooding is now a fact of life.

The report published in New Delhi came as India was announcing at the COP21 climate summit in Paris that it is launching the International Solar Alliance, a club of 120 countries aiming to boost the use of solar power

Even if this initiative succeeds, experts point out that India would still need more than US$1 trillion between now and 2030 to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Extreme events

The report says: “Government spending on developing capacity and adaptation in India has grown consistently over the last decade, and a mammoth US$91.8 billion was spent on adaptation in 2013-14 alone. This spending would have to reach US$360 billion (at 2005 prices) by 2030. The loss and damage from extreme events were estimated additionally at US$5-6 billion per annum.”

The study identifies India’s preliminary financial, technology and knowledge gaps in adaptation to climate change. It was jointly conducted by the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water thinktank.

As many as 800 million people living across 450 districts of India are currently experiencing significant increases in annual mean temperatures, exceeding warming of 2°C, the study said.

They warned: “India as a whole will experience 1°-1.5°C in mean annual temperatures from 2016 to 2045, which can have profound implications for agriculture and crop production. Extreme precipitation can result in flooding and significant damage to infrastructure.”

Before the Paris summit, India continually stressed the “polluter pays” principle, arguing that the industrialised countries that caused climate change should help the developing countries to adapt financially.

“India as a whole will experience 1°-1.5°C in mean annual
temperatures from 2016 to 2045, which can have
profound implications for agriculture
and crop production

Adaptation and the money pledged by the rich countries to pay for it are key areas of negotiation during the Paris negotiations. The richer countries are reluctant to help countries such as India, which they say are generating large incomes of their own. They say they would prefer to help the poorest nations.

But both Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment and climate change minister, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi say that developed countries have to come forward to provide new and additional financial resources for technology transfer to plug India’s adaptation gap.

The launch of the International Solar Alliance – with the Indian government paying to set up its secretariat in India – will help to disarm some of the country’s critics. But many are aware that India also wants to exploit its coal reserves, and rich countries continue to urge the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases to cut down further on emissions.

National plans

However, India’s central government has trouble administering such a vast and complex country. Because of the federal structure, a lot of the measures aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change effects − such as in disaster management − hinge on the actions of India’s 36 states and union territories.

The importance of devolving national plans to state levels was pointed out by Chandra Bhushan, deputy director at the Centre for Science and Environment, a major thinktank based in New Delhi.

He said: “Linkage between national and state action plans is too poor. The state action plans were prepared on the basis of the National Action Plan of 2008, which does not reflect enough topics, such as renewables and forestry management.”

The former director of the Geological Survey of India, VK Joshi, drove home the point by using as an example his home state, Uttar Pradesh, which has two major rivers − the Ganga, partially glacier-fed, and the Gomati, which relies on groundwater.

He said: “Even when the state government can and should, there is no check on groundwater withdrawal. The rainfall pattern in Uttar Pradesh is already erratic because of the changing climate and tomorrow there would be no water to recharge the ground table. What happens to the huge population then?” – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a New Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues.
    Email: 
    nivedita_him@rediffmail.com Twitter: @nivedita_Him
*

Forests move centre stage in India’s climate plan

India, the world’s third-largest polluter, is planning to balance development with environment protection as it tackles climate change.

NEW DELHI, 23 September, 2015 – India is to put forests at the centre of its plans to mitigate the worst effects of climate change by encouraging more “green cover” and reducing the carbon intensity of its development.

India comes behind China and the United States in the most polluting countries’ list and defends its record by saying that emissions per capita are far below most developed countries’, and its priority is still to lift millions of citizens out of poverty.

However, the country has 13 of the 20 most-polluted cities on the planet, according to the World Health Organisation, and for that reason alone it needs to cut down on fossil fuel use.

The government is expected to announce its long-awaited national plan to reduce emissions ahead of the 1 October deadline set by the United NationsThese plans, known in UN jargon as Intended Nationally Determined  Contributions (INDCs), must be produced by all countries so that scientists can assess whether their sum total is enough to keep the world from overheating by 2°C – the limit agreed by politicians to prevent dangerous climate change.

Promising a “new prescription” from India to reduce greenhouse gases, Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister for environment, forests and climate change, said the country’s plans would go ahead whatever the outcome of the UN’s climate talks.

He expressed disappointment that the recent preparatory talks in Bonn had not made more progress ahead of the summit in Paris in December which is designed to produce an international agreement to reduce world emissions beyond 2020.

Dual strategy

He said: “We want to clean our air, our water, our environment, so we are addressing a  challenge which takes care of our climate change mitigation and adaptation measures as well.

“India has already started reducing emission intensity, reducing the energy intensity of development, increasing energy efficiency and also increasing the forest cover (to take more carbon out of the atmosphere). We are also having more renewables.”

One of the important subsidiary agreements on the agenda of the climate talks is about preserving the world’s forests, and India is putting great emphasis on this. Called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), it allows for replanting existing forests and preserving them from logging to be counted as part of a countrys efforts to reduce its emissions.

“Our national plan will give you a new prescription from India on this issue. We will grow our forests, we will raise our forests, we will raise our carbon sinks … we will raise our benefits. We want to have more green cover,” Javadekar told the Climate News Network.

“I have a definite plan for the next 15 years. The forest quality will improve. We will improve it with people’s participation, with innovation, with technology, with many things.”

Suspicious

Despite his enthusiasm and promise of public participation, environment groups are suspicious of the proposed guidelines from the environment ministry (MoEF) stipulating that 40 % of “identified” degraded forests could be leased to private companies for plantations.

Pravin Mote and Debjit Nandi of the All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) claimed the “ambitious corporatised plantation programme” will be used to greenwash India’s emphasis on coal mining and the continuing use of coal as the primary source of electricity.

“The proposed private plantations can also be used in the dubious game of domestic carbon trading. This will feature as a REDD+ activity because it will help restock the depleting carbon stores in degraded forests.

“But in reality, the plantations will disempower and dispossess people, not only through land grab but also by promoting new mining throughout our forests,” the Forum said in a statement.

India has undertaken to reduce its emission intensity by 20-25% by 2020 compared with 15 years ago. In December 2014 it launched its ambitious solar power programme which aims to provide 100 GW by 2022. It also has plans to harness other renewables, including wind.

Incurious

Javadekar claimed not a single country had asked when India’s emissions would peak, although China is committed to 2030 and with the US has agreed that both will converge at 14 tons of CO2 per capita.  

He said India would not have reached even two tonnes per capita by 2030, and emissions per head would always be less than the average in the developed world, which needed to do more on finance and technology for the poorer countries.

But environmental activists claim that India can always do much more. “Without disturbing its developmental interests, India can always increase its emission trajectory and maintain its leadership position for the developing countries,” said Ajay K. Jha, coordinator of the countrys Beyond Copenhagen Collective

And a new study, Assessing the missed benefits of countries’ national contributions, by the NewClimate Institute, says that with an increased emission reduction target India can save much more on fossil fuel, cut premature deaths caused by pollution,  and create green jobs.

Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), said: “If India is supported by rich countries to act in line with its full potential, then it can continue to build on its emerging plan to secure a sustainable development pathway for the country that lifts its most vulnerable out of poverty.” – Climate News Network

India, the world’s third-largest polluter, is planning to balance development with environment protection as it tackles climate change.

NEW DELHI, 23 September, 2015 – India is to put forests at the centre of its plans to mitigate the worst effects of climate change by encouraging more “green cover” and reducing the carbon intensity of its development.

India comes behind China and the United States in the most polluting countries’ list and defends its record by saying that emissions per capita are far below most developed countries’, and its priority is still to lift millions of citizens out of poverty.

However, the country has 13 of the 20 most-polluted cities on the planet, according to the World Health Organisation, and for that reason alone it needs to cut down on fossil fuel use.

The government is expected to announce its long-awaited national plan to reduce emissions ahead of the 1 October deadline set by the United NationsThese plans, known in UN jargon as Intended Nationally Determined  Contributions (INDCs), must be produced by all countries so that scientists can assess whether their sum total is enough to keep the world from overheating by 2°C – the limit agreed by politicians to prevent dangerous climate change.

Promising a “new prescription” from India to reduce greenhouse gases, Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister for environment, forests and climate change, said the country’s plans would go ahead whatever the outcome of the UN’s climate talks.

He expressed disappointment that the recent preparatory talks in Bonn had not made more progress ahead of the summit in Paris in December which is designed to produce an international agreement to reduce world emissions beyond 2020.

Dual strategy

He said: “We want to clean our air, our water, our environment, so we are addressing a  challenge which takes care of our climate change mitigation and adaptation measures as well.

“India has already started reducing emission intensity, reducing the energy intensity of development, increasing energy efficiency and also increasing the forest cover (to take more carbon out of the atmosphere). We are also having more renewables.”

One of the important subsidiary agreements on the agenda of the climate talks is about preserving the world’s forests, and India is putting great emphasis on this. Called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), it allows for replanting existing forests and preserving them from logging to be counted as part of a countrys efforts to reduce its emissions.

“Our national plan will give you a new prescription from India on this issue. We will grow our forests, we will raise our forests, we will raise our carbon sinks … we will raise our benefits. We want to have more green cover,” Javadekar told the Climate News Network.

“I have a definite plan for the next 15 years. The forest quality will improve. We will improve it with people’s participation, with innovation, with technology, with many things.”

Suspicious

Despite his enthusiasm and promise of public participation, environment groups are suspicious of the proposed guidelines from the environment ministry (MoEF) stipulating that 40 % of “identified” degraded forests could be leased to private companies for plantations.

Pravin Mote and Debjit Nandi of the All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) claimed the “ambitious corporatised plantation programme” will be used to greenwash India’s emphasis on coal mining and the continuing use of coal as the primary source of electricity.

“The proposed private plantations can also be used in the dubious game of domestic carbon trading. This will feature as a REDD+ activity because it will help restock the depleting carbon stores in degraded forests.

“But in reality, the plantations will disempower and dispossess people, not only through land grab but also by promoting new mining throughout our forests,” the Forum said in a statement.

India has undertaken to reduce its emission intensity by 20-25% by 2020 compared with 15 years ago. In December 2014 it launched its ambitious solar power programme which aims to provide 100 GW by 2022. It also has plans to harness other renewables, including wind.

Incurious

Javadekar claimed not a single country had asked when India’s emissions would peak, although China is committed to 2030 and with the US has agreed that both will converge at 14 tons of CO2 per capita.  

He said India would not have reached even two tonnes per capita by 2030, and emissions per head would always be less than the average in the developed world, which needed to do more on finance and technology for the poorer countries.

But environmental activists claim that India can always do much more. “Without disturbing its developmental interests, India can always increase its emission trajectory and maintain its leadership position for the developing countries,” said Ajay K. Jha, coordinator of the countrys Beyond Copenhagen Collective

And a new study, Assessing the missed benefits of countries’ national contributions, by the NewClimate Institute, says that with an increased emission reduction target India can save much more on fossil fuel, cut premature deaths caused by pollution,  and create green jobs.

Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), said: “If India is supported by rich countries to act in line with its full potential, then it can continue to build on its emerging plan to secure a sustainable development pathway for the country that lifts its most vulnerable out of poverty.” – Climate News Network

*

Too few specialists to track loss of Himalayan glaciers

Millions of people rely on meltwater from the Himalayas, but lack of expertise and manpower is hampering the study of climate change impacts. DELHI, 11 July, 2015 − Studying ice loss in the vast, inhospitable region of the Himalayas can be a very tricky business as most glaciers are found above 12,000 feet. While much of the data is derived from satellite surveys, reliable field data is also vital − but skill shortages mean that only four of the approximately 9,500 glaciers spread across the Indian section of the Himalayas are being studied in detail. Gathering field data involves a combination of skills that include high-altitude mountaineering. Weather restricts such work to about four months of the year, and there is also the constant danger of avalanches. The mighty Gangotri glacier, in the far northwest of the country, is one of the four glaciers monitored in detail by field researchers.

Rapidly disintegrating

Recent studies indicate that the Gangotri, one of the Himalayas’ largest glaciers and a primary source of the Ganges, is rapidly disintegrating. Nearly 30 kilometres long and between 0.5 and 2.5km wide, it is at present retreating by between 12 and 13 metres a year. To analyse the impacts of climate change, and to predict what will happen in the future in glacial regions, it is necessary to carry out what glaciologists refer to as surveys of mass balance – analysing the relative difference between the accumulation and melting of ice and snow on a glacier over a given period. Collecting and interpreting data – from satellite imagery and from field surveys – is highly specialised. And Indian institutions say a big knowledge gap has developed, with only limited field data being collected and a lack of trained personnel available to interpret the results of remote sensing and other data. A determined effort is now being made by several institutions to produce more trained glaciologists.

“There is evidence of changing climatic patterns leading to changing water flow patterns that could have serious impacts”

The Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology is undertaking a project with the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation to train young scientists in glaciology as part of a Himalayan climate change and adaptation programme. The Indian Space Research Organisation, which has been collecting satellite data on glaciers for many years, has a fully-fledged climate change department that is becoming more involved in monitoring glacier size and mass balance data. The Divecha Centre for Climate Change, part of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, is also combining studies of glaciology and climate change. The generally accepted view is that the majority of glaciers in the Himalayas – an area often referred to as “The Third Pole”, due to its vast ice mass – are in retreat.

Reliable conclusions

Yet in some areas, such as the Karakoram Range in the west of the Himalayas, satellite data indicates that glaciers are advancing. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional organisation based in Nepal and specialising in the Himalayas/Hindu Kush region, says much more field work is needed to draw reliable conclusions about the extent of glacial loss across the Himalayas. It points to data collected in Nepal and to studies in China that clearly show a decrease in glacial area. At the same time, fragmentation means that more smaller glaciers are being created. The world should be concerned about glacial melt in the Himalayas, ICIMOD says, because “there is evidence of changing climatic patterns leading to changing water flow patterns that could have serious impacts”. − Climate News Network

Millions of people rely on meltwater from the Himalayas, but lack of expertise and manpower is hampering the study of climate change impacts. DELHI, 11 July, 2015 − Studying ice loss in the vast, inhospitable region of the Himalayas can be a very tricky business as most glaciers are found above 12,000 feet. While much of the data is derived from satellite surveys, reliable field data is also vital − but skill shortages mean that only four of the approximately 9,500 glaciers spread across the Indian section of the Himalayas are being studied in detail. Gathering field data involves a combination of skills that include high-altitude mountaineering. Weather restricts such work to about four months of the year, and there is also the constant danger of avalanches. The mighty Gangotri glacier, in the far northwest of the country, is one of the four glaciers monitored in detail by field researchers.

Rapidly disintegrating

Recent studies indicate that the Gangotri, one of the Himalayas’ largest glaciers and a primary source of the Ganges, is rapidly disintegrating. Nearly 30 kilometres long and between 0.5 and 2.5km wide, it is at present retreating by between 12 and 13 metres a year. To analyse the impacts of climate change, and to predict what will happen in the future in glacial regions, it is necessary to carry out what glaciologists refer to as surveys of mass balance – analysing the relative difference between the accumulation and melting of ice and snow on a glacier over a given period. Collecting and interpreting data – from satellite imagery and from field surveys – is highly specialised. And Indian institutions say a big knowledge gap has developed, with only limited field data being collected and a lack of trained personnel available to interpret the results of remote sensing and other data. A determined effort is now being made by several institutions to produce more trained glaciologists.

“There is evidence of changing climatic patterns leading to changing water flow patterns that could have serious impacts”

The Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology is undertaking a project with the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation to train young scientists in glaciology as part of a Himalayan climate change and adaptation programme. The Indian Space Research Organisation, which has been collecting satellite data on glaciers for many years, has a fully-fledged climate change department that is becoming more involved in monitoring glacier size and mass balance data. The Divecha Centre for Climate Change, part of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, is also combining studies of glaciology and climate change. The generally accepted view is that the majority of glaciers in the Himalayas – an area often referred to as “The Third Pole”, due to its vast ice mass – are in retreat.

Reliable conclusions

Yet in some areas, such as the Karakoram Range in the west of the Himalayas, satellite data indicates that glaciers are advancing. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional organisation based in Nepal and specialising in the Himalayas/Hindu Kush region, says much more field work is needed to draw reliable conclusions about the extent of glacial loss across the Himalayas. It points to data collected in Nepal and to studies in China that clearly show a decrease in glacial area. At the same time, fragmentation means that more smaller glaciers are being created. The world should be concerned about glacial melt in the Himalayas, ICIMOD says, because “there is evidence of changing climatic patterns leading to changing water flow patterns that could have serious impacts”. − Climate News Network

*

India gives nothing away in climate talks with US

There is no sign from President Obama’s visit that India will be pressured into making any immediate plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. NEW DELHI, 27 January, 2015 − Hopes that India and the US might announce ambitious plans to co-operate in tackling climate change have proved wide of the mark. A meeting here between the visiting US president, Barack Obama, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, showed India determined to follow an independent line − although Modi said it does intend to increase its use of renewable energy. Mod did not offer any hint of a reduction in coal use. And on possible targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, he said nothing beyond agreeing to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, while insisting that India demands equal treatment in cutting GHGs. India is the third largest GHG emitter, after China and the US, but generates only two tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita, compared with 20 tonnes in the US and eight in China.

Limited liability

The two leaders smoothed the way for further Indian use of nuclear power, outlining a deal to limit the legal liability of US suppliers in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe. Referring to the recent agreement between the US and China to work together on CO2 cuts, Modi said: “The agreement that has been concluded between the US and China does not impose pressure on us; India is an independent country. But climate change and global warning itself is huge pressure.” Analysts here point out that there has been little time yet for Modi and Obama to develop a strong working relationship, and that it could be premature to dismiss the outcome of this meeting as disappointing.

“The agreement . . . between the US and China does not impose pressure on us; India is an independent country.”

Before last month’s UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, India said it had put in place several action plans for achieving Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are key elements of the bold climate agreement that many governments hope will be signed at the next round of talks in Paris in December. India continues to maintain that its INDCs will be announced “at an appropriate time with specific contributions”. Last week, Modi called for a paradigm shift in global attitudes towards climate change – from “carbon credits” towards “green credits”. He urged nations with the greatest solar energy potential to join India in innovation and research to reduce the cost of the technology and make it more accessible. “Instead of focusing on emissions and cuts alone, the focus should shift to what we have done for clean energy generation, energy conservation and energy efficiency, and what more can be done in these areas,” he said. Modi and Obama announced action to advance India’s transition to a low-carbon economy, and India reiterated its goal of increasing its solar target to 100 gigawatts by 2022, which the US said it would support.

Ambitious agreement

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said they had “stressed the importance of working together and with other countries to conclude an ambitious climate agreement in Paris in 2015”. Anu Jogesh, a senior research associate with the Centre for Policy Research’s Climate Initiative, said: “There was a lot of buzz in policy circles and the media that there might be some kind of announcement, not on emission cuts per se but on renewable energy. However, apart from the nuclear agreement, little else has emerged.” Answering fears that India might become a ready market for US companies, Dr Pradipto Ghosh, Distinguished Fellow at the Energy and Resource Institute, said: “The large scale will inevitably bring down costs and companies will offer competitive prices, and also bring in more reliability, efficiency and product quality.” − Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter: @nivedita_Him

There is no sign from President Obama’s visit that India will be pressured into making any immediate plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. NEW DELHI, 27 January, 2015 − Hopes that India and the US might announce ambitious plans to co-operate in tackling climate change have proved wide of the mark. A meeting here between the visiting US president, Barack Obama, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, showed India determined to follow an independent line − although Modi said it does intend to increase its use of renewable energy. Mod did not offer any hint of a reduction in coal use. And on possible targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, he said nothing beyond agreeing to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, while insisting that India demands equal treatment in cutting GHGs. India is the third largest GHG emitter, after China and the US, but generates only two tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita, compared with 20 tonnes in the US and eight in China.

Limited liability

The two leaders smoothed the way for further Indian use of nuclear power, outlining a deal to limit the legal liability of US suppliers in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe. Referring to the recent agreement between the US and China to work together on CO2 cuts, Modi said: “The agreement that has been concluded between the US and China does not impose pressure on us; India is an independent country. But climate change and global warning itself is huge pressure.” Analysts here point out that there has been little time yet for Modi and Obama to develop a strong working relationship, and that it could be premature to dismiss the outcome of this meeting as disappointing.

“The agreement . . . between the US and China does not impose pressure on us; India is an independent country.”

Before last month’s UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, India said it had put in place several action plans for achieving Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are key elements of the bold climate agreement that many governments hope will be signed at the next round of talks in Paris in December. India continues to maintain that its INDCs will be announced “at an appropriate time with specific contributions”. Last week, Modi called for a paradigm shift in global attitudes towards climate change – from “carbon credits” towards “green credits”. He urged nations with the greatest solar energy potential to join India in innovation and research to reduce the cost of the technology and make it more accessible. “Instead of focusing on emissions and cuts alone, the focus should shift to what we have done for clean energy generation, energy conservation and energy efficiency, and what more can be done in these areas,” he said. Modi and Obama announced action to advance India’s transition to a low-carbon economy, and India reiterated its goal of increasing its solar target to 100 gigawatts by 2022, which the US said it would support.

Ambitious agreement

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said they had “stressed the importance of working together and with other countries to conclude an ambitious climate agreement in Paris in 2015”. Anu Jogesh, a senior research associate with the Centre for Policy Research’s Climate Initiative, said: “There was a lot of buzz in policy circles and the media that there might be some kind of announcement, not on emission cuts per se but on renewable energy. However, apart from the nuclear agreement, little else has emerged.” Answering fears that India might become a ready market for US companies, Dr Pradipto Ghosh, Distinguished Fellow at the Energy and Resource Institute, said: “The large scale will inevitably bring down costs and companies will offer competitive prices, and also bring in more reliability, efficiency and product quality.” − Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter: @nivedita_Him
*

India claims plan for new energy mix is a game-changer

While the political spotlight focused on the  world’s two biggest polluters − China and the US − in the run-up to the Lima climate talks, pressure is mounting on India to set emissions targets to help prevent the planet overheating.

NEW DELHI, 10 December, 2014 − India’s contribution to global carbon emissions was only 7% last year, yet there are fears being expressed in the western world that rapid population growth and development will mean this vast country will soon be a major polluter − like its neighbour, China. For the world, it is a continued worry that if the country soon to have the largest population in the world develops − as China has − by burning coal, climate change will surely get out of control. No commitments on climate change have so far been made by India, as it waits to see what the developed countries offer to prove they are serious about aid, technology transfer, and targets to reduce their own emissions.

Carbon tax

But while priority in India has been given to development − particularly providing electricity for the millions who live without it − and tackling poverty, the newly-elected government has made a promising start on recognising the importance of climate change. It has a new energy policy centred on an ambitious increase in solar power capacity − from the current 20,000 megawatts to 100,000 MW in five years. There is a Rupees 5 billion ($80 million) budget this year alone for “ultra mega” solar projects. And a carbon tax on coal has also been doubled for the purpose of subsidising solar and other renewables. Prakash Javadekar, India’s Environment, Forests and Climate Change minister, said before heading for the UN climate change conference being held in Lima, Peru: “This game-changer energy mix will give us enhanced energy efficiency and save 50 million tonnes of coal. That’s a huge contribution to the world, and will affect our emissions. We will walk the clean water, clean air, clean power path.”

“Both solar and coal power will increase, but that is our energy mix”

There have been reports about a possible announcement next month – when US president Barack Obama visits New Delhi − of the year in which India intends its greenhouse gas emissions to peak. However, Javadekar refused to set a timeline, despite the apparent pressure after the US-China joint declaration that the US will reduce emissions by 2025 and China’s will peak by 2030. All countries are supposed to inform the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by March 2015 of their action plans for emission reductions. Javadekar said India is putting in place several action plans for achieving the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions as part of the 2015 agreement. But he made clear that the “peaking year” will not be the benchmark set at Lima; it will be “India’s contribution” − and will be much more than expected. India, which is expected to surpass China’s current 1.3 billion population by 2030, has always defended its position, as its emissions are less than 2 tonnes per capita, compared with about 7.2 tonnes in China and 16.4 tonnes in the US. “Our growth cannot be compromised,” Javadekar said. “We have the right to develop, and our priority is to eliminate poverty and meet the aspirations.”

Objections raised

Asked how India will address objections raised by developed countries to it digging more dirty coal, despite its ambitious solar programme, Javadekar insisted: “We are not going on the ‘business as usual’ path − although we are entitled to it. Both solar and coal power will increase, but that is our energy mix. We are doing our own actions under domestic legislations.” There is a rift at the Lima talks between the developed and the developing countries on the issue of capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund under the 2015 Paris agreement, and this has already seen the G77 group of nations banding together. Sunita Narain, director general of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment thinktank, referred to this in talking about the “politics of climate change”, and how the global south is being short-changed by the global north. She said climate change talks are about achieving clean economic growth, but, 25 years after talks began, the world is “still procrastinating and finding excuses not to act”. – Climate News Network

Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter: @nivedita_Him

While the political spotlight focused on the  world’s two biggest polluters − China and the US − in the run-up to the Lima climate talks, pressure is mounting on India to set emissions targets to help prevent the planet overheating.

NEW DELHI, 10 December, 2014 − India’s contribution to global carbon emissions was only 7% last year, yet there are fears being expressed in the western world that rapid population growth and development will mean this vast country will soon be a major polluter − like its neighbour, China. For the world, it is a continued worry that if the country soon to have the largest population in the world develops − as China has − by burning coal, climate change will surely get out of control. No commitments on climate change have so far been made by India, as it waits to see what the developed countries offer to prove they are serious about aid, technology transfer, and targets to reduce their own emissions.

Carbon tax

But while priority in India has been given to development − particularly providing electricity for the millions who live without it − and tackling poverty, the newly-elected government has made a promising start on recognising the importance of climate change. It has a new energy policy centred on an ambitious increase in solar power capacity − from the current 20,000 megawatts to 100,000 MW in five years. There is a Rupees 5 billion ($80 million) budget this year alone for “ultra mega” solar projects. And a carbon tax on coal has also been doubled for the purpose of subsidising solar and other renewables. Prakash Javadekar, India’s Environment, Forests and Climate Change minister, said before heading for the UN climate change conference being held in Lima, Peru: “This game-changer energy mix will give us enhanced energy efficiency and save 50 million tonnes of coal. That’s a huge contribution to the world, and will affect our emissions. We will walk the clean water, clean air, clean power path.”

“Both solar and coal power will increase, but that is our energy mix”

There have been reports about a possible announcement next month – when US president Barack Obama visits New Delhi − of the year in which India intends its greenhouse gas emissions to peak. However, Javadekar refused to set a timeline, despite the apparent pressure after the US-China joint declaration that the US will reduce emissions by 2025 and China’s will peak by 2030. All countries are supposed to inform the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by March 2015 of their action plans for emission reductions. Javadekar said India is putting in place several action plans for achieving the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions as part of the 2015 agreement. But he made clear that the “peaking year” will not be the benchmark set at Lima; it will be “India’s contribution” − and will be much more than expected. India, which is expected to surpass China’s current 1.3 billion population by 2030, has always defended its position, as its emissions are less than 2 tonnes per capita, compared with about 7.2 tonnes in China and 16.4 tonnes in the US. “Our growth cannot be compromised,” Javadekar said. “We have the right to develop, and our priority is to eliminate poverty and meet the aspirations.”

Objections raised

Asked how India will address objections raised by developed countries to it digging more dirty coal, despite its ambitious solar programme, Javadekar insisted: “We are not going on the ‘business as usual’ path − although we are entitled to it. Both solar and coal power will increase, but that is our energy mix. We are doing our own actions under domestic legislations.” There is a rift at the Lima talks between the developed and the developing countries on the issue of capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund under the 2015 Paris agreement, and this has already seen the G77 group of nations banding together. Sunita Narain, director general of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment thinktank, referred to this in talking about the “politics of climate change”, and how the global south is being short-changed by the global north. She said climate change talks are about achieving clean economic growth, but, 25 years after talks began, the world is “still procrastinating and finding excuses not to act”. – Climate News Network

Nivedita Khandekar is a Delhi-based independent journalist who writes on environmental, developmental and climate change issues. Email: nivedita_him@rediffmail.com; Twitter: @nivedita_Him

*

South Asia slow to act on water threats

A study of the five countries sharing and relying on the Indian sub-continent’s great rivers shows that Bangladesh is the only one that is taking climate change seriously. NEW DELHI, 7 July, 2014: Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian sub-continent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change. A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia, explores domestic water management and transboundary water issues in five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population. Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs − worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policy-makers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector. Observing that water is “highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture”, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address transboundary water relations.

Few agreements

“In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,” the report says. “Those transboundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.”. Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts.

“The majority . . .  expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention”

While many respondents across the region felt that other immediate concerns were more pressing, the majority of those interviewed expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention,” said Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report. For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero. In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation. However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents − currently available only in English − in local languages.. And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country. “Inadequate water storage leaving farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather suggest an urgent need for appropriate investment in such facilities in order to not just increase agriculture production, but also to ensure farmers have an option to adjust to changing climate,” the report says.

Food security

Climate change could also have a big impact on the transboundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, “driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period”. Interviewees from Nepal perceived climate change as a “future threat”, in comparison with immediate challenges and the need to increase access to water and electricity. Most respondents felt that Nepal’s approach was “inadequate” and pointed out the gap between national plans and local implementation. Pakistani respondents believed their country’s approach to climate change lacked “urgency”. They particularly pointed out that a Ministry of Climate Change had recently been reduced to a mere division of another ministry, and had had its funding slashed by 62%.

Brink of cataclysm

The report quoted a climate change expert working with the Pakistan government, who said his country stood on the brink of an environmental cataclysm, with the seasonal monsoon shifting away from traditional catchment areas towards Afghanistan. “This trend, reinforced by climate change, [has]increased the likelihood of extraordinary rainfall patterns, cloudbursts, and flash floods,” he said. The researchers’ recommendations Include: improving domestic water management, and rainwater harvesting; enhancing data collection, data sharing and discussions between the five countries, particularly in relation to floods and droughts, and the management of watersheds and river basins; easing water demand through less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods. They also stress that existing treaties should be revisited, ensuring that they address technological advances, environmental factors and climate change. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a journalist based in New Delhi, focusing on environmental and developmental issues. She has worked at the Press Trust of India, India’s premier news agency, and the Hindustan Times, one of the leading national daily newspapers in India. Her journalistic achievements include a national award for environmental reporting, an award for reporting on health issues, and a Rural Reporting Fellowship.

A study of the five countries sharing and relying on the Indian sub-continent’s great rivers shows that Bangladesh is the only one that is taking climate change seriously. NEW DELHI, 7 July, 2014: Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian sub-continent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change. A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia, explores domestic water management and transboundary water issues in five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population. Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs − worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policy-makers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector. Observing that water is “highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture”, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address transboundary water relations.

Few agreements

“In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,” the report says. “Those transboundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.”. Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts.

“The majority . . .  expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention”

While many respondents across the region felt that other immediate concerns were more pressing, the majority of those interviewed expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention,” said Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report. For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero. In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation. However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents − currently available only in English − in local languages.. And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country. “Inadequate water storage leaving farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather suggest an urgent need for appropriate investment in such facilities in order to not just increase agriculture production, but also to ensure farmers have an option to adjust to changing climate,” the report says.

Food security

Climate change could also have a big impact on the transboundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, “driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period”. Interviewees from Nepal perceived climate change as a “future threat”, in comparison with immediate challenges and the need to increase access to water and electricity. Most respondents felt that Nepal’s approach was “inadequate” and pointed out the gap between national plans and local implementation. Pakistani respondents believed their country’s approach to climate change lacked “urgency”. They particularly pointed out that a Ministry of Climate Change had recently been reduced to a mere division of another ministry, and had had its funding slashed by 62%.

Brink of cataclysm

The report quoted a climate change expert working with the Pakistan government, who said his country stood on the brink of an environmental cataclysm, with the seasonal monsoon shifting away from traditional catchment areas towards Afghanistan. “This trend, reinforced by climate change, [has]increased the likelihood of extraordinary rainfall patterns, cloudbursts, and flash floods,” he said. The researchers’ recommendations Include: improving domestic water management, and rainwater harvesting; enhancing data collection, data sharing and discussions between the five countries, particularly in relation to floods and droughts, and the management of watersheds and river basins; easing water demand through less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods. They also stress that existing treaties should be revisited, ensuring that they address technological advances, environmental factors and climate change. – Climate News Network

  • Nivedita Khandekar is a journalist based in New Delhi, focusing on environmental and developmental issues. She has worked at the Press Trust of India, India’s premier news agency, and the Hindustan Times, one of the leading national daily newspapers in India. Her journalistic achievements include a national award for environmental reporting, an award for reporting on health issues, and a Rural Reporting Fellowship.