Baroness Verma is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. She gives an account of her recent visit to India in which she visited five cities in six days meeting parliamentarians, state legislators, business people and students to discuss climate change, clean energy and women’s empowerment.
Throughout my visit I was struck by three things:
First, the importance of the relationship on energy and climate change. India’s population, currently 1.25 billion, could be 1.6 billion by 2040. The huge strides India is taking to reduce poverty mean that more Indians than ever before are enjoying a better quality of life and are able to afford air conditioning, televisions, computers, motorbikes and cars. This reduction in poverty is a wonderful thing which should be celebrated. But it also poses a challenge: how to provide the increased energy required by a growing and prospering India, without increasing the risks of the most severe impacts of climate change.
The energy choices India makes today will dictate how much impact India will have in reducing global carbon emissions and tackling widespread and dangerous climate change. So it is in our interests to engage with India as it makes these choices. It was good to see first-hand what this engagement means in practice, this includes helping legislators to understand what climate change will mean at a local level, deepening government to government relationships, establishing networks to support business to business collaboration, and working closely with Indian institutions to provide support to some of the poorest in society. A particular highlight was my visit to see the DFID funded TERI work on business models for the dissemination of clean cookstoves and solar lanterns. I was delighted to meet the women entrepreneurs who were providing the services and those who were benefitting from the programme to hear about the co-benefits of the more efficient and cleaner stoves to their health, income and even the cleanliness of their household.
Second, I was struck by the positive amount of activity already underway to combat climate change. The Government of India published its National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008, which identified eight “national missions” to combat climate change. These include the national solar mission to install 20GW of grid connected solar power by 2022 and the national mission on enhanced energy efficiency, which by 2012 had resulted in an estimated 11GW of avoided power capacity. Additionally, many states have developed state action plans on climate change which mandate action at a state level around renewable energy, off-grid clean energy, smart grids and a host of other new technologies. Indian policy-makers, business people and researchers are taking real action on climate change – and the UK is working with them as they do so.
Closer collaboration between India and the UK could be extremely valuable. India is a huge and rapidly growing market. Even in the current economic environment its economy is still growing at over 5% a year, and in the medium term it should return to sustained stronger growth
Thirdly, in my interactions with Indian businesses, I was struck by their appetite for Indian-UK collaboration on developing clean energy systems and energy efficiency technologies. Closer collaboration between India and the UK could be extremely valuable. India is a huge and rapidly growing market. Even in the current economic environment its economy is still growing at over 5% a year, and in the medium term it should return to sustained stronger growth. Again and again when I spoke to Indian business people in different parts of the country they highlighted their interest in collaborating with UK companies. Building that collaboration not only makes sense from an economic point of view, creating jobs and growth in UK and India, it also makes sense from a climate change point of view, building cleaner and more sustainable businesses in the UK and India. The UK and India’s economies are a natural fit when it comes to clean energy and sustainable business. We should build on our already strong relationship for the benefit of all our peoples.
A new report has revealed that more than 32 million people were forced to evacuate their homes due to natural disasters in 2012. This was more than double the number of 2011, and is thought to be linked to changing global weather patterns. Worst impacted was India, which saw six point nine million people displaced in one region alone by flooding.
In total more than 80 percent of global displacement over the last five years has happened in Asia, linked to both geographic factors, as well as lack of infrastructural development and lack of disaster preparedness in many areas.
Other regions in Asia where displacement occurred were Pakistan, which also suffered severe flooding. North Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia were also severely impacted by tropical storms.
In total more than 80 percent of global displacement over the last five years has happened in Asia
However it wasn’t just developing nations which were affected. Affluent states such as the USA and Japan also ranked high on the lists for displaced communities. 900-thousand people were forced to flee their homes in America last year, mostly due to Hurricane Sandy. In Japan in 2011, thousands opted to flee as a result of the fallout from the triple disaster of an earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident in the North East of the country.
According to Clare Spurrell, chief spokesperson for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, “In 2012, we saw twice as many people being displaced by natural disasters as compared to the year before. So that was 32.4 million who were newly displaced in 2012. And this is by rapid onset disasters, such as floods, storms, wildfires and earthquakes.”
She noted that these events are becoming more frequent in many countries, stating that, “In the last five years three quarters of the countries, which reported disaster displacement, were affected by multiple displacement events. So this means that millions of people throughout the world are often being displaced again and again and again in this context.”
In another slap in the face for climate change deniers, a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Wednesday has proven that forecasts of global temperature increases over the past 15 years have been extremely accurate.
The new research says that the early years of the new millennium were warmer than expected. In recent times the temperature has been closer to the predicted level. The paper proves that commentators who say that the global warming is less severe and threatening than predicted are wrong. These parties had wrongly interpreted the comparative slowdown in warming since the early 2000s as sign that the worst was over.
The quibbling over the Kyoto Protocol has shown governments the world over are not taking the threat seriously enough, and thus endangering the planet and its inhabitants. It is time the citizens of the world took things in their own hands.
The environment has been a universal factor on the socio-religious agenda of all ancient civilisations. This is reflected in nature worship being the common denominator of all ancient races – be it the worship of sun among the Mayans in South America or trees and animals among the Harrapans in the Indian subcontinent. A tale from the Mahabharata talks about the symbiotic relationship between lions and jungles. The gist is that if there are no lions in the jungles, the woodcutters will cut them down, while if there are no jungles it would be difficult for the lions to survive the hunters. Man and environment have a similar relationship. The hunters and woodcutters in this case are eco threats like depletion of the ozone layer and the build up of gasses in the atmosphere which cause the global warming that could spell doom for Mother Earth.
The environment has been a universal factor on the socio-religious agenda of all ancient civilisations.
Should environment always pay the price for economic development? Not if the right balance is struck. Stringent enforcement of environmental norms by governments can be an answer. But in this era of deregulation and liberalisation the Big Brother syndrome is an anachronism. With comprehensive policing having its pros and cons- the nation may not gain green cover but the personal coffers of the officials may get greener, especially in the developing countries – making an individual eco-conscious is a better bet.
Environmental damage has been a modern deadly sin the world over. Illegal tree felling, MNCs dumping hazardous wastes in Third World countries or even the US Army practising in jungles of the Philippines with host of other nations are all sides of the same coin. The governments refusing to learn from the destruction inflicted by extreme weather events which are aggravated by climate change, such as Typhoon Bopha and Hurricane Sandy are also at fault.
As always the onus of survival rests with the society. Education should begin at home, in fact, right from the childhood. Small things such as not wasting food, water and paper, switching off electricity when not needed, etc., if ingrained from childhood would go a long way in making the world greener. But for this to succeed, adults will have to practice what they preach. The world is racing towards the tipping point where if we don’t stop global warming now we may be condemning future generations and Mother Earth to assured destruction.
Ashutosh is a senior business journalist who mastered the skills of the trade at the top India business daily, The Economic Times. He played a key role in the launch of Deccan Chronicle group’s business newspaper, ‘Financial Chronicle’.
With the existing global carbon market in chaos, there is an urgent need for China and India to take the lead in the renewable energy market.
he concept of carbon trading is an increasingly hot topic of conversation in boardrooms, summits, and industries all over the world. Carbon Markets or Carbon Trading (where the carbon market trades emissions under cap-and-trade schemes or with credits that pay for or offset GHG reductions) doesn’t just have economic implications. It affects everyone who is vunerable to the repercussions of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. It is not a national issue, it’s an international one.
At the recent climate change summit in Doha, Qatar last month, there was a general consensus among world leaders that Europe and the USA were no longer leaders in the carbon market (owing to the global recession and Eurozone crisis, among other things) and that it was time for Asian powerhouses such as China and India to step up and take control.
The existing carbon market is based on the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol or Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows lesser developed countries to receive financial resources (in technical terms, obtain carbon credits) from developed nations to invest in cleaner and greener technologies. This means that at present, only developed countries are making compulsory emission cuts either locally or by paying developing countries to do them for cheaper.
But with China and India now standing as the world’s two largest holders of carbon credits, it makes more sense for these two countries to launch their own domestic carbon markets. Last year, global carbon credit trading was estimated at $5 billion, with India’s contribution alone at approximately $1 billion. India and China now have surplus credit to offer other developing countries that have a deficit, and are likely to emerge as the biggest sellers of carbon credits in the next decade, making Asia the new world power where carbon trading is concerned. This would also benefit local, rural industries who at present are unable to afford the high costs of carbon trading with European and American markets.
It won’t be a very difficult task, since the ground rules for carbon trading are already available. But what needs to be modified are factors such as high entry costs and prolonged approval times, which often drive investors away from carbon markets. With the existing system of trading nearing collapse, the time is right for Asia to step up to the game and lead a new expansion. If successful, the changes could be comparable to the nineties software boom in Asia.
For more on the future of carbon trading in Asia, read our interview tomorrow with Kishore Butani, owner of CARBONyatra in India, developor of India’s first Carbon Footprint Calculator.