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Climate action becomes a casualty as countries chase development

Climate action becomes a casualty as countries chase development

London-based think tank InfluenceMap, using a carbon major database, recently has revealed that state-owned coal, oil and gas companies produced more in seven years after Paris than what they produced seven years before.

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Last Updated : 12 May 2024, 21:49 IST
Last Updated : 12 May 2024, 21:49 IST
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Heavy rains returned to the UAE just two weeks after the record downpours (154 cm in 24 hours) on April 19, 2024, which shut road and air traffic and also threw life out of gear.

May 2 lightning storms with high winds swept across UAE, with over 50 mm of rainfall in some areas before 8 am repeating the misery for the people.

In another part of the world, unprecedented rains in South Brazil and consequent flooding have claimed nearly 60 lives. In the same period, Jammu and Kashmir experienced heavy rainfall, with flooding and landslides bringing misery to the people.

In contrast to this, forest fires have been ravaging Uttarakhand for over two weeks; and despite Air Force choppers being pressed into service to collect water from Nainital lake and dump them over the burning forests, the fire has remained uncontrolled. It has already claimed nearly a dozen lives.

Reports suggest that there have been nearly 1,200 incidents of forest fires since November 1, 2023 in Uttarakhand affecting thousands of hectares of forests. High day temperature, absence of pre-monsoon showers and spread of chir-pine needles and cones on the floor of the forests are the main reasons why flames remain uncontrolled. Only some rain showers can bring the situation under control.

After nearly five and a half months of dry spell, Bengaluru received pre-monsoon showers this month. This has caused the death of 125 lakes out of the 800 we have in the urban district and the BMRDA area. Heat waves have also caused a surge in power consumption. Further, the general elections have increased the demand for petrol, jet fuel and cooking gas, leading to greenhouse gas emissions and warming.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD), in its regular forecast, has warned above normal temperatures during April, May and June in large parts of India. Rainfall in this period is also forecasted to be scanty, despite the El Nino effect tending towards neutralisation.

Usually, La Nina conditions favourable for wet climate are forecasted to set in late June/July this year and, accordingly, IMD has predicted a normal monsoon. Many parts of the country are reeling under severe heat waves, impacting the turnout of voters at booths in the general election.

A recent report titled “State of climate in Asia” by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has pointed out that the “accelerated pace of retreating of glaciers in the high mountain Asia region and Himalayas has increased risks of natural hazards like glacial lakes outbursts and floods in ecologically fragile areas”. 

Earlier, the WMO’s report in March this year indicated that 2023 has been hottest on record by 1.45 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature, which is nearing the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold fixed at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. For India, 2023 was the second warmest year on record behind 2016.

Further, the records on other climate indicators like greenhouse gas levels, ocean heat, sea-level rise, Antarctica’s sea-ice loss and glacier retreat have also been broken. The report added that the trend has continued in the first two months of the current year, too.

Each country has pledged its nationally determined contribution (NDC) post Paris Climate accord for transition to renewable energy to reduce emissions. India’s NDC pledged 450 GW renewable energy capacities by 2030.

But the progress was crippled in prime harvesting areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat when the Supreme Court in 2019 imposed a ban on power transmission lines in 90,000 sq km area to protect the Great Indian Bustard. Considering the alarm bells over the heating of the planet, the court has lifted the ban recently in a 77,000 sq km area.

London-based think tank InfluenceMap, using a carbon major database, recently has revealed that state-owned coal, oil and gas companies produced more in seven years after Paris than what they produced seven years before.

It also revealed that more than 70% of global fossil fuel and cement industries that contributed emissions are traced back to state entities. China coal with 14% emissions is at the top, while coal India with 1.5% is in the 10th spot.

Rich countries have not taken any step to comply with the long-pending commitment of raising $100 billion to help poor countries fight the impact. Today, global south and island nations are more vulnerable and some are at risk of being submerged in sea and wiped out from the world map, if the warming is consistently in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

On China’s objection and India’s support, ‘phasing out’ fossil fuel consumption was rejected at Glasgow; instead, it was resolved to ‘phase down’. The next two conferences also failed to adopt ‘phase out’.

Since then, China’s annual coal consumption is 4 billion tonnes, while India’s maximum has been 1.1 billion tonnes. Climate action has lost priority in the race for development. Until we achieve speed and scale of energy transition, development must be consciously slowed. 

The US, European Union and China must pause the expansion of coal, oil and gas production. The UK decided to end the production of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030, but looking into pre-poll surveys and fearing their prospects in elections later this year, the cap has been extended till 2035. Leaders are busy satisfying their domestic constituencies and sacrificing climate action. 

The US has also taken a historic climate regulation to ensure that most of the passenger cars and light trucks sold in the US by 2032 would be hybrid, but the country is not on track to achieve it on schedule. In terms of GHG emissions, if half the vehicles are electric by 2032, it will have the potential to cut 7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 30 years.

At present, the US’ annual emission of carbon dioxide equivalent is 8 gigatonnes. The US administration is required to be more sincere, otherwise net zero by 2050 would only be a dream. President Joe Biden’s announcement is also going to be an issue for the 2024 presidential election. Whether the ambitious target set by Biden will receive support from Donald Trump remains to be seen. World leaders must resolve to pause the development till fossil fuel consumption is completely substituted by renewable energy.

(The writer is retired head of forest force in Karnataka)

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