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Time to Fight Climate Change is Now

Climate Change is Here

October 3, 2016

Urban and Rural parts of India will face repeated drought and floods, this was said in several reports of IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  We have all see in recent years that some times Mumbai, Chennai, some time it is Kedarnath, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar get caught in sudden floods. The whole climate cycle has become erratic. The whole world is suffering from it. Global capital of drought is Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, that is why they were also called by a famous Hindu Journalist the suicide capital of the world, with highest numbers of farmers suicides. Since 1992 when first Earth Summit happened in Rio to fight Climate Change and Save our Plant from Climate Change, we have little to count on except for few treaties failed or yet to be ratified. KYOTO protocol and Clean Development Mechanism or related market mechanisms collapsed in 2011, during recession in Europe.

After the earth summit in 1992, the 192 governments of the world agreed to do something in 2004 for Climate Change, In February 2005 Kyoto Protocol got in to effect. By 2010-11 it emerged as a mechanism that cannot drive large scale reduction in reduction of Green House Gases, mainly Carbon Di Oxide (CO2) at the level or scale needed to limits its rising concentration in the atmosphere. As a result CO2 concentrations have risen to its highest level of 400ppm, making the entire human population subjected to unprecedented forces of nature which most people on most continents have seen or experienced. The resulting genocide is not too easy for any individual government of any country to control either. Most countries also do not have enough resources to even provide relief to millions of people subjected to the forces of floods, droughts, hurricanes, typhoons, forest fires. Paris Climate Agreement is the only hope on the horizon. Questions are already being raised whether it will be enough to save earth.

IPCC kept on issuing the reports regularly and warning the world for urgent action to change the path of development to the one which emits less CO2 in to the atmosphere. For an unbiased first hand understanding, you may like to read the entire IPCC report or see some of the highlights given here. Human influence on the climate change is clear, and recent man made CO2 emissions are the highest in the history. Recent climate changes have had the widespread impacts on human and natural systems. CO2 emissions have exceeded 35Gt/year in recent years, taking the cumulative CO2 emissions to over 2000Gt/year. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed. The amount of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. These are caused by man made CO2 emissions. These have led to extreme events like decrease in cold extremes, increase in warm temperature extreme, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of region. In the 2016 monsoon is normal in India but highly erratic at the same time. There was at least one week, when, in 242 districts in India out of 629, rainfall exceeded 200% of the normal this year. Many areas went from drought to flood.

Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since 1950. IPCC report has warned that continued emissions of CO2 will cause further warming, and long lasting changes increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts on people. Limiting Climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in Green House Gas emissions like CO2. Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for human beings. Risks are higher for disadvantaged people. Risks are same for such people in all countries irrespective of the development stage. CO2 reductions will be more cost effective if an integrated approach is used that combines measures to reduce energy use with decarbonize of energy supply. Luckily for us India as a country has taken this cost effective route. On one hand Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Power is driving Industries to use less energy through Perform Achieve and Trade Scheme for the largest coal consumers in the country. On the other hand Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, is also driving 100 GW of Solar mission. Both of these are expected to make India one of the cleanest countries on CO2 emitted per capita basis, in spite of a huge population. India at 1.64 tons/year/person is 73% lower than China, which is at 6.18 tons/year/capita. That sounds great but may not be good enough for a country that plans to lead the world in this century & save the planet. 

We definitely need to debate, answer the key questions listed here and act on them in any manner we can. We have borrowed the planet from our next generation.

How much time do we have to act and save the planet? One decade is all we have to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. We already have crossed 1 degree Centigrade of Global Warming and 1.5 degrees is considered the limit, within which our planet is expected to remain livable.  Quoting from Sandy Dechert's recent article, even though the countries pledged in Paris Climate Agreement for a path that would limit, global warming by 2100, to 2 degree centigrade, the planet is actually on a 2.7 degrees path right now. 

What will governments need to do? Both reduction of CO2 emissions and saving millions hit by Climate change is government responsibility. Government Policies drive a lot of investment and global cooperation on such issues. Policy makers need to listen to the scientists community and increase the efforts behind all programs and missions that reduce national CO2 emissions. What is also critical for the survival of the planet is to ensure that such missions, policies and laws get implemented or enforced. In absence of strictly enforced compliance by private sector and public sector entities to such policies and laws, we are leaving the poor and weaker sections again to the vagaries of the floods and climate change. I will share some examples here to illustrate what would be more effective. There are 3 Mechanisms or Missions in India which are driving India to become a cleaner nation and a role model to the developing world. Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO), Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Rules 2012 & Solar Mission. We will get back to issues of adaptation later. Let us see how effective are these missions & what could make them more effective.

Renewable Power Purchase Obligations: State electricity regulators obligates/ requires Obligated Entities in each state to comply to Renewable Power Purchase Obligations (RPPO) as determined by State Electricity Regulatory Commission ( The Regulator). In absence of compliance an Obligated Entity or Power Distribution company could purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from those who have surplus on exchanges like Indian Energy Exchange IEX. This RPPO mechanism is expected to clean up the Electricity Distribution Systems and make them cleaner with time. As an example APERC has obligated a total of 22.5% electricity in Andhra to come from Renewable sources by FY 2021-22. However as can be seen from the Indian Energy Exchange IEX this market mechanism has failed and less than 1% of the RECs are getting sold in the market. This is mainly due to lack of any meaningful penalty on the Obligated Entities in the event of its lack of compliance. If all social stake holders start to believe that social losses of 650,000 Crores due to floods and droughts are caused by non compliance of RPPO by obligated entities, We need to create a mechanism of penalty and market which pays for such losses, without having to leave the public to suffer and commit suicides.

Is Paris Agreement enough? Paris Agreement has entered in to force today on 5th of October 2016, as 72 out of 197 Parties to the Convention (UNFCCC) have ratified, accounting for 56.75% of the Global Green House Gases (GHG ) Emissions. This is a very important landmark after February 2005, when KYOTO Protocol got in to effect. We all need to see how this will work and whether Paris Agreement actually has the ability to save our planet from floods, droughts, hurricanes and cyclones. A further analysis of the same will be followed.

What corporate and multinational companies (MNCs) need to do? Considering the historic failures of market mechanisms and non stop warming of the planet, it would appear that large global companies, corporate and Multi National Companies (MNCs) as global citizens of this planet, need to shoulder the responsibility and clean up the planet more than they pollute. This is also required by the constitution of India and upheld by Supreme Court in a verdict wrt RPO. 

What individuals need to do & Can do.