1. India will insist on action, clear framework at COP27
Environment Minister says that clarity will be sought on climate finance and technology transfer from developed countries, while more support will be offered to developing countries
India will insist on “action” and a clear pathway that developed countries must follow to deliver long-promised finance to developing countries for adapting to climate change threats, Bhupender Yadav, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said on Thursday, ahead of the 27th edition of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Sharm-El-Shaikh, Egypt that begins on November 7.
“This ought to be a COP for action. We will seek clarity on climate finance, technology transfer and clear definitions of what constitutes climate finance. There are several claims made on funds being given by the West but loans and grants must be clearly differentiated. We will make a strong case for this, this time,” Mr. Yadav told reporters.
Several world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, are likely to attend the two-week-long summit. However, it is unclear if Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend. A world leaders’ summit is expected on November 7.
Close to $100 billion annually has been promised to developing countries since 2008 for adapting and mitigating climate change but only a fraction has actually been made available, India and several other countries have maintained through the years.
India would also support initiatives that provide technical assistance to developing countries for averting, and minimising loss and damage due to the impacts of climate change, and insist on an institutional network to realise these.
There will be an India pavilion in Sharm-El-Sheikh themed on LIFE (Lifestyle for Environment), a theme frequently articulated by Mr. Modi.
UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC)
The UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change) is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Where did it Originate?
- The UNFCCC, signed in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as the Earth Summit, the Rio Summit or the Rio Conference
- The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994.
- The Convention has near universal membership (197 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- The original secretariat was in Geneva. Since 1996, the secretariat has been located in Bonn, Germany.
Objective of UNFCCC
- According to Article 2, the Convention’s ultimate objective is “to achieve, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
- This objective is qualified in that it “should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”.
UNFCCC’s Institutional Arrangements
- The Conference of the Parties (COP)
- Article 7.2 defines the COP as the “supreme body” of the Convention, as it is its highest decision-making authority. The climate change process revolves around the annual sessions of the COP.
- COP President and Bureau
- The office of the COP President normally rotates among the five United Nations regional groups. The President is usually the environment minister of his or her home country. S/he is elected by acclamation immediately after the opening of a COP session. Their role is to facilitate the work of the COP and promote agreements among Parties.
- The work of the COP and each subsidiary body is guided by an elected Bureau. To ensure continuity, it serves not only during sessions, but between sessions as well.
- Subsidiary Bodies (SBs)
- The Convention establishes two permanent subsidiary bodies (SBs), namely the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), by Article 9, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), by Article 10. These bodies advise the COP.
- The SBSTA’s task is to provide the COP “with timely advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention”.
- The SBI’s task is to assist the COP “in the assessment and review of the effective implementation of the Convention”
- The Secretariat
- The secretariat, also known as the Climate Change Secretariat, services the COP, the SBs, the Bureau and other bodies established by the COP.
- Other Bodies
- Other bodies have been set up by the COP to undertake specific tasks. These bodies report back to the COP when they complete their work
- COP 1 established two ad hoc groups to conduct negotiations on specific issues.
- COP 11 established the “Dialogue” to exchange experiences and analyse strategic approaches for long-term cooperative action to address climate change.
Timeline of Important Events
|1979||First World Climate Conference (WCC)|
|1990||In November IPCC and second WCC call for global treaty on climate change and in December UN General Assembly Negotiations on a Framework Convention Begin.|
|1992||The text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is adopted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.|
|1994||UNFCCC enters into force|
|1995||COP 1 (Berlin, Germany)|
|1996||August The UNFCCC secretariat relocates from Geneva to its current home in Bonn(Germany), paving the way for the city to become an international sustainability hub and home to 18 UN organizations.|
|1997||COP 3 (Kyoto, Japan) Kyoto Protocol adopted- The Protocol legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets.|
|1998||Buenos Aires Plan of Action|
|2001||COP 6-2(second part of 6th COP) The COP 6-2 took place from 16 to 27 July 2001 in Bonn, Germany.A major breakthrough is achieved at the second part of the sixth Conference of the Parties meeting in Bonn, with governments reaching a broad political agreement on the operational rulebook for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.|
|2001||COP 7 (Marrakesh, Morocco) Resulted in the Marrakesh Accords, setting the stage for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. This formalized the agreement on operational rules for International Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation along with a compliance regime and accounting procedures.|
|2002||COP 8 (New Delhi, India) Delhi Declaration. The Delhi Declaration focuses on the development needs of the poorest countries and the need for technology transfer for mitigating climate change.|
|2005||(February 16) Entry of Kyoto Protocol into force with the Russian Federation ratification to the Kyoto Protocol, sealing its entry into force.|
|2005||COP11/CMP1 (December) The first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP 1) takes place in Montreal.|
|2006||In January the Clean Development Mechanism, a key mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, opens for business. The CDM is one of the Flexible Mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol that provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs) which may be traded in emissions trading schemes.|
|2007||COP13 Parties agreed on the Bali Road Map and Bali action plan, which charted the way towards a post-2012 outcome. The Plan has five main categories: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing.|
|2008||COP 14, Poznan (Poland) The launch of the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol andThe Poznan Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer.|
|2009||COP15 (Copenhagen) Copenhagen Accord drafted. Developed countries pledge up to USD 30 billion in fast-start finance for the period 2010-2012.|
|2010||COP 16 (Cancun) Resulted in the Cancun Agreements, a comprehensive package by governments to assist developing nations in dealing with climate change.The Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and the Cancun Adaptation Framework are established.|
|2011||COP 17 (Durban) Governments commit to a new universal climate change agreement by 2015 for the period beyond 2020.(Resulted in the Paris Agreement of 2015)|
|2012||COP18/CMP8 (Doha) The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol is adopted.COP18 also launched a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.|
|2013||COP19/CMP9 (Warsaw) Key decisions adopted include:Further advancing the Green Climate Fund and Long-Term Finance,The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus and the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.|
|2015||COP 21 (Paris) Paris Agreement adopted. It aims:To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavor to limit” them even more, to 1.5CRich countries should help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.The agreement requires rich nations to maintain a $100bn a year funding pledge beyond 2020.|
|2016||COP22 (Marrakech) A crucial outcome of the Marrakech climate conference wasTo move forward on writing the rule book of the Paris Agreement.Launched the Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action.|
|2017||COP23, Bonn (Germany) Countries continued to negotiate the finer details of how the agreement will work from 2020 onwards.First set of negotiations since the US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, announced its intention earlier this year to withdraw from the Paris deal.It was the first COP to be hosted by a small-island developing state with Fiji taking up the presidency, even though it was being held in Bonn.|
|2018||COP 24, Katowice (Poland) It finalized a “rulebook” to operationalise the 2015 Paris Agreement.The rulebook covers climate financing facilities and the actions to be taken as per Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).|
|2019||COP25, Madrid (Spain) There were no concrete plans regarding the growing climatic urgency.|
|2021||COP 26, Glasgow (UK) New Global and Country Targets: The Glasgow Summit has urged countries to consider strengthening their 2030 targets by COP27 to be held in Egypt.The summit targeted global warming not to exceed +1.5°C and got about 140 countries to announce target dates for bringing emissions down to net zero.India has also joined the consensus and announced its net-zero target of 2070.India also suggested a middle path calling for a “phase-down” of coal-based power.A potentially important development which emerged out of COP26 (but outside the COP process) is the Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda endorsed by 42 countries (including India).Also, a mechanism is being put in place to achieve the target of climate financing USD 100 billion by 2023.|
|2022||COP 27 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt To be held from 6 to 18 November 2022|
What are the Shortcomings within UNFCCC?
- Non-inclusive: Most scientists agree the most dangerous environmental air pollutants today are microscopic particulates that come from car engines and combustion-based power plants, but these pollutants are largely ignored by the Kyoto Protocol.
- Slow progress: It took a long time for COP to bring Russia to agree into participating in the Kyoto Protocol. (until 2005)
- UNFCCC failed to persuade USA to ratify the Kyoto protocol thereby keeping one of the largest emitter of greenhouse gases away from commitments.
- Unsustainable targets: The world reached at almost 1degree Celsius warming post industrialization and the Paris contributions are not enough to maintain 2 degree Celsius levels.
- Unsatisfactory Response: Many countries argued for a tougher target of 1.5C – including leaders of low-lying countries that face unsustainable sea levels rises in a warming world.
- Financial Constraints: The agreement requires rich nations to maintain a $100bn a year funding pledge beyond 2020, which is not enough as highlighted by several pacific island countries.
- Non-binding agreement: The US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, citing, that the deal punished” the US and would cost millions of American jobs”, has created new barriers and more pressure on rest of the nations in achieving the targets of Paris agreement.
- As part of the US withdrawal, USA has stopped the payment of the extra $2bn that had been promised in to the Green Climate Fund.
- No enforcement mechanism: Under the Paris agreement, each country determines, plans, and reports its own efforts to mitigate global warming. The only penalty for non-compliance is a so-called “name and shame” — or “name and encourage” — system whereby countries that fall out of compliance are called out and encouraged to improve.
What are the Achievements of UNFCCC?
- Kyoto protocol only required wealthy nations to cut emissions, which was a bone of contention; however this anomaly was corrected with the signing of Paris agreement in 2015.
- UNFCCC initiatives helped create Public awareness regarding climate change, which is much higher today than in the late 90s.
- Although climate science in the late 90s was certainly strong enough—to negotiate an international treaty, it is hard to deny that the scientific understanding of the climate crisis has improved considerably over the past two decades in which UNFCCC played a significant role.
- UNFCCC has enabled planning and implementation of concrete adaptation activities under the National Adaptations Programme of Action (NAPAs) and the Nairobi work programme.
- UNFCCC helped create innovative ideas in mitigating climate change like the Clean Development mechanism (CDM) under which developing country’s projects that reduce emissions earn credits that can be sold to countries or companies with a commitment to reduce emissions.
- Since the establishment of UNFCCC national governments have encouraged and increased cooperation on the development and transfer of technology.
- UNFCCC efforts support the developing countries in combating climate change by providing a platform for finance, technology transfers, discussions, global partnerships, etc.
2. Decline in pre-primary enrolments continued in 2021-22, says govt. report
It shows 30% fewer students were admitted in these classes as compared to pre-pandemic period; numbers dwindled in primary classes too; total number of schools and teachers also saw a drop
The number of children entering pre-primary classes in 2021-2022 saw a further decline, resulting in 30% fewer students in this school section as compared to pre-Covid as younger students with less access to remote learning continue to bear the biggest brunt of learning loss during the pandemic, according to a report released by the Ministry of Education.
A total of 94.95 lakh students entered pre-primary classes in 2021-2022, registering a drop of 10% as compared to the previous year when 1.06 crore children enrolled in these classes. However, in 2020-2021, there was already a decline of 21% enrolment in pre-primary classes as compared to 1.35 crore the year before due to school closures and classrooms moving online, according to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus report on school education.
Enrolment in primary classes, which include classes 1 to 5, also saw a drop for the first time, falling from 12.20 lakh in 2020-2021 to 12.18 lakh in 2021-2022. However, the total number of students from primary to higher secondary increased by 19 lakh to 25.57 crore.
Also for the first time since the pandemic, the report records a decline in number of schools due to closures as well as a lack of teachers. There were 20,000 fewer schools in 2021-2022 as the total number of schools dropped from 15.09 lakh to 14.89 lakh.
There were also 1.89 lakh or 1.98% fewer teachers as their number reduced from 96.96 lakh in 2020-2021 to 95.07 lakh in 2021-2022.
Computer facilities were available in 44.75% of schools, while Internet access was available only in 33.9% of schools. However, their availability has improved as compared to pre-Covid when only 38.5% of schools had computers and 22.3% had Internet facilities.
3. October services PMI signals uptick on improved demand
Services firms hinted at stronger gains in new business and increased hiring amid strengthening demand last month, S&P Global India’s monthly survey of business activity in the sector shows
India’s services sector activities witnessed an upturn in October on the back of stronger gains in new business and increased hiring amid strengthening demand, a monthly survey showed.
The seasonally adjusted S&P Global India Services PMI Business Activity Index for October rose to 55.1, from September’s six-month low of 54.3, pointing to a quicker and marked rate of growth.
The headline figure was above the neutral 50 threshold for the fifteenth straight month. .
“The October results show us that service providers had no trouble securing new work in October, despite lifting their charges again,” said Pollyanna De Lima, Economics Associate Director at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Hence, the sector remained firmly inside expansion territory as business activity and payroll numbers were raised to support strengthening demand,” she added.
The domestic market was the main source of new business gains, as foreign sales decreased further at the start of the third quarter. “Monthly deteriorations in international demand have been registered since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020,” S&P Global noted.
Optimistic growth projections also boosted job creation in October, with 30% of survey members forecasting higher volumes of business activity by October 2023. Overall, confidence was at its highest level in just a little less than eight years.
Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI)
The Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is an economic indicator derived from the monthly survey of the private sector companies. PMI aims in providing information regarding the current and future conditions of a business to the decision-makers, analysts and investors of the company. This article provides information on the 3 major organisations that generates this economic indicator, process involved in generating PMI, calculation method, and the its use in economy.
Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) – Economic Indicator Generated by 3 Organisations
There are three principal producers of Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) namely
- Institute for Supply Management (ISM) – Established in 1915, Headquartered in Arizona, USA
- Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM) – Established in 1972, Located in Singapore
- IHS Markit Group – Located in London. IHS was established in 1959, Markit merged with IHS in 2016.
PMI values and its components play a major role in providing useful insight into the economic activity of a business to the decision-makers, market analysts, and investors.
How does PMI Work?
Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is released and compiled by ISM every month. The PMI value is based on the survey that is conducted monthly and is sent to the senior executives of over 400 companies under 19 primary industries that are weighted by their contribution to U.S. GDP.
Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) focuses mainly on the five major Survey Areas:
- New orders
- Inventory levels
- Supplier deliveries
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) weighs all of these five surveys equally. The headline PMI is a number which ranges from 0 to 100. If a PMI is above 50, it represents an expansion when compared with the previous month.
If the PMI value falls below 50, it indicates a contraction while a PMI value of 50 indicates no change.
PMI – Calculation
Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) can be calculated using the following formula:
Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) = [P1 * 1] + [P2 * 0.5] + [P3 * 0]
In the above formula, P1 is equal to the percentage of answers that are reporting an improvement.
P2 represents the percentage of answers with no change whereas, P3 is the percentage of answers having a deterioration.
Role of PMI in Economy
PMI plays an important role in the economy of the country as it is an essential decision-making tool for both the manager and the suppliers. PMI provides information regarding the current and future conditions of a business to the decision-makers, analysts and investors of the company. Some of the major roles played by PMI are as follows:
- The suppliers follow the PMI values of a particular company for the estimation of the amount of future demand for the desired products. The Purchasing Manager’s Index also allows the supplier to know how much inventory its customers have on hand and as a result, it can affect the production amount generated by its clients.
- The information provided by the PMI on supply and demand may affect the prices charged by the suppliers. The manufacturer can accept a price increase from its suppliers during an increase in the growth rate of new orders. While, if the new orders are declining, the manufacturer has to lower its prices and demand a lower cost for the parts it purchases.
- The PMI can be used by a company in planning the annual budget, managing staffing levels and also in forecasting cash flow.
- Purchasing Manager’s Indexes are also used by the investors as a leading indicator of economic conditions. PMI plays a major role in providing useful insight into the economic activity of a business which includes the GDP, Industrial Production, and Employment.
PMI value plays a major role in developing the economic condition of a company.
4. Editorial-1: China’s 20th Party Congress over, the road ahead
China’s 20th Party Congress concluded with hardly any surprises, and a predetermined script was implemented without any hitch. Xi Jinping was anointed President for an unprecedented third term, and all six of his acolytes made it to the powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Li Qiang is widely expected to take over as Prime Minister from Li Keqiang, who was unceremoniously dropped from the standing committee. Mr. Xi’s words while introducing the new leadership — that they would not be daunted by ‘high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms’ — reflected the prevailing mood at the Congress.
‘Core’ status reinforced
The outcome can be summed up in the following words — maintaining the Party’s grip on power trumps all other considerations. Mr. Xi’s ‘core’ status has been further reinforced, and he is now set to eclipse Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, placing him next only to Mao. Mr. Xi’s Thought on ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ will be the Chinese Communist Party/Communist Party of China (CCP)’s guiding philosophy for the future. National security would be the key factor dictating all aspects of governance. A common theme that permeated the proceedings was affirmation of the CCP’s historical mission. There was only a single narrative, crafted in a manner that extolled Mr. Xi’s role in revitalisation of the CCP, further enhancing his cult status. Unequivocally rejected was an earlier Xi thesis of a ‘Community of Common Destiny’ which has been replaced by the belief that international public opinion was currently anti-China and also included an incitement to overthrow the existing Communist regime. To counter such disruptive philosophies, it had become necessary for the CCP to emphasise ideological coherence and internal discipline. This would help to avoid the danger of a ‘Soviet style collapse’ caused by ideological laxity, corruption, divisions within the party and attempts by outsiders to foment unrest.
In the realm of geo-politics, the Congress declared that the objective is to effectively reduce the authority and the power of the United States. This was especially true of China’s neighbourhood, essentially the Indo-Pacific. Also to be eschewed by China were the vague and contradictory goals of the past, made at a time when China sought to make rapid progress in several directions.
Implicit in the proceedings was the belief that China was being deliberately denied access, and the ability, to import certain vital technological items, and in this regard, of being a victim of major international conspiracies. Earlier pragmatism was replaced by concerns about western pressures to derail China’s progress.
The Party Congress is indicative of the fact that Mr. Xi is much more than a mere party ‘restorer’, and that he adheres to the belief that the CCP’s role is central to Chinese society and critical to determining China’s role in world affairs. Belief in the CCP’s historical mission was crucial to avoid the kind of catastrophic mistakes made by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, leading to its demise .
In terms of China’s world view, the Party Congress reiterated that the goal is to make China a modern socialist power by 2035, boost per capita income to middle income levels, and modernise the armed forces. By 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Peoples’ Republic of China, China is determined to lead the world in terms of composite national strength and international influence. It was also evident that Mr. Xi enjoys wide, if not overwhelming, support within the Party elite, enabling him to infuse a renewed sense of purpose alongside tightening of controls over it. While many Chinese do not want to set the clock back, there are quite a few, however, who resent Mr. Xi’s overweening emphasis on the criticality of the Communist Party in every sphere, as also disruption of the traditional power structure. Hence, it may not be all plain sailing in the period ahead.
Implications for the world
What does the Party Congress herald for the world, including India? Notwithstanding the repeated use of certain words such as security and military, what China is likely to do in the post-Party Congress period remains an enigma. Mr. Xi today exercises more power and authority, is perhaps better positioned in the hierarchy than anyone before, and is supported by a cabal of leaders who have no independent base. He has unfettered authority — Head of the Party, Head of the State and Chairman, Central Military Commission. The issue is about how he proposes to use this in the five years ahead.
Conventional wisdom would be that Mr. Xi would flex his muscles almost immediately, to achieve certain predetermined ends. Nevertheless, given Mr. Xi’s makeup and background, one should not expect him to act irrationally. Mr. Xi is a Maoist in a certain sense but he is no Mao, and is unlikely to indulge in the kind of errors committed by Mao such as The Great Leap Forward and the break-up with the Soviet Union. His target is to make China Great again by 2049. Hence, he is likely to act with more than a degree of caution, avoiding taking actions in haste and upsetting the target of achieving greatness by 2049. China has many peaks to conquer in the next 25 years before it achieves greatness, and Mr. Xi’s calculation would be not to endanger the 2049 target by taking premature action or through his grandstanding.
Hence, one can expect that notwithstanding the level of rhetoric and assertions that this is a dangerous phase, China is unlikely to take any premature step to take over Taiwan, and thereby risk a wider conflict with the U.S. and the rest of the world at this point. Mr. Xi is far more likely to devote attention to internal matters within China, since unity within the Communist Party remains ephemeral; while dissent has been stamped out for the present, more consolidation would be necessary.
The state of China’s economy is also likely to be a matter of prime concern to the Party leadership, including Mr. Xi. Dealing with the clouds on the horizon, including efforts to isolate China and the imposition of new restrictions on trade, especially China’s access to leading technologies such as semi-conductor technology, available elsewhere in the world would have higher priority. Consequently, one might well see China stepping back from its present confrontational posture with the U.S. and several other countries, and adopting a more conciliatory approach in the near future. There are, of course, certain red lines — any attempt at provocation within the ‘First Island Chain’, or encouraging Taiwan to seek independence or break away from China — are certain to lead to a conflict, irrespective of how it would adversely affect China’s 2049 plans and objectives.
For Japan and India
While China may adopt a more benign attitude towards much of the rest of the world, India and Japan will figure at the top of the list of countries on China’s agenda with which a confrontation is possible, to ensure that they acknowledge China’s leadership in Asia. In India’s case, while further skirmishes between the two countries along the several thousand kilometres of the undefined land border is to be expected, China is unlikely to embark on an open conflict with it anywhere else in the Indian Ocean region. This could alter, if India were to pursue a more aggressive policy in support of the West’s ‘open seas policy’ in waters in China’s vicinity.
India is, however, likely to be a principal target of Chinese wrath in the next few years. As India’s economic fortunes steadily improve even as China’s declines, the perceptional conflict will become more intense. Moreover, if India is seen as a major recipient of western technology, the kind being denied to China, China would make it a point to use its economic, rather than military muscle, to deter India’s progress. For China to achieve greatness by 2049, subduing India economically, and reducing its image in the eyes of the world would be critically important.
5. Editorial-2: Vanuatu’s big plea does little to arrest climate change
There is a strong belief in some quarters that the next climate conference, just days away in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt this year (COP27) may not discuss climate change mitigation largely on account of the ongoing energy stress in Europe. It is felt that the Russia-Ukraine crisis and resulting global energy supply shortages have dented everyone’s ability to reduce emissions. This may be a legitimate view but the discussion on coal in the United Nations General Assembly, in September, points to an opposite possibility. The President of Vanuatu, a small Pacific Island, wanted the General Assembly to adopt a universal Non-Proliferation Treaty to ban the use of fossil fuels across the world.
Usually, such a call by a nation whose contribution to the global energy supplies and emissions is negligible would have gone unnoticed. But Vanuatu represents a strong and vocal group of small island-developing states whose voice is heard with attention and empathy in the UN. More so, when it is a matter that will affect the global discourse on climate change.
The small island group has gone around seeking endorsements from various quarters — governments, the corporate world and civil society. Interestingly, the Mayor of Kolkata, capital of one of the largest coal producing States in India, has lent his voice of support.
A similar call on coal use
Vanuatu’s plea comes in the wake of a similar call for phaseout of coal which was made last year at the Glasgow climate conference. After strong protest by the Indian interlocutors, the language of the decision at Glasgow was toned down from phaseout to phase down of unabated coal power and inefficient fuel subsidies. When India argued that a phaseout was unfair to countries that were heavily dependent on coal power in the medium term, there was consternation among climate enthusiasts. Given this background, the Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS) may be preparing the ground to make the fossil fuel elimination a part of national climate plans at COP 27.
Some people ask why India, which agreed to the phasedown in Glasgow, would object to a non-proliferation treaty even when it offers a flexible timeline for a phasedown. The reason may have well to do with the fact that a call to end fossil fuels through a mandate in the UN has very different implications than when it is presented under the UN Climate Change Convention. A UN mandate of this nature is divorced from the legal responsibility of the polluting countries to reduce their emissions on the basis of responsibility, capability and national circumstances, as required by the Climate Change Convention. It also makes no provisions for technological and financial innovations that are necessary to ensure the transition.
A few months ago, a similar attempt had been made in the UN to treat the matter of climate change as that of global security and request the UN Security Council to resolve it. This was dropped because of the opposition of most of the global south, which saw in this an attempt to address climate change not through international cooperation and consensus but by imposing the wish of a select few on others.
Coal phasedown is not the only way to reduce global emissions. Coal is the mainstay of primary energy supply in many countries such as India and forms the basic and essential component of their energy system. On the other hand, a substantial share of rising global emissions is accounted for by the unsustainable levels of consumption of natural resources and lavish lifestyles led by the consumers in developed economies. Even in the developing economies, some sections of society are responsible for this lavish and irresponsible behaviour. A plan to drastically reduce coal fired power would in fact do very little to arrest the problem of climate change globally but may create insurmountable difficulties in securing the progress of developing economies towards key sustainable development goals. If the transition to a world of lower emissions has to be sustainable, it must also be just and equitable. It must ensure equal access to energy and secure energy supplies to all, not just to a few. While the developed economies have full access to alternative sources of energy, because of their strength in terms of technology and resources, the developing nations are handicapped. Therefore, a just transition needs to be built on the promise that green energy and a green future will be available to all. It is in this context that the call for Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the UN Secretary-General, jointly in India recently, assumes importance. Consumers in countries that consume at an unsustainable pace and contribute to rising emissions have a much greater responsibility to clean up the planet and support the growth of green energy.
The world today is suffering from the adverse effects of climate change which have devastated homes and the livelihoods of large populations in various parts of the vulnerable world. Addressing these impacts and preparing the world for an uncertain future should be the priority. Unfortunately for the developing world, the coal question always takes away prime time in such conferences. It is high time that building climate-resilient infrastructure in the developing and growing countries is given as much importance as phasing down coal and investment in energy innovations and alternative technologies.